Case Study: Creating Efficiencies in Remote Production in Tokyo


EMG is one of the world’s leading providers of streaming services and multimedia solutions for sports, entertainment and live events. The group combines unique know-how and experience to master the entire value chain, from image creation to distribution. An important part of our activity lies in the coverage of major sporting events.

Sports broadcasting has always been the engine of technological development: viewers are asking for more cameras and more angles, more reruns, more graphics and more resolution like 4K and UHD HDR. To stay ahead of the curve, we are constantly looking for solutions that add value to production while saving costs and personnel. To do this, we use IP connectivity in particular to centralize control and increase remote access.

To this end, we have developed our fly-pack IP system, which we call diPloy. It is a fully modular production system, integrated into modular racks of various sizes in dedicated 40ft containers, allowing us to bundle the features we want for each particular job. By creating modules at the flight case level, we can physically place the modules where they are needed: some close to the action, others at any distance.

One of the first major uses of diPloy was at a major multi-sport event held in Japan in the summer of 2021. We were responsible for providing much of the technical architecture to the host broadcaster.

The heart of the event was the athletics stadium. This venue hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as a full program of athletics events. To cover all requirements and ensure full redundancy for the opening ceremony, we built a total of eight similar control galleries. These were physically located in the broadcast enclosure, about 500 meters from the stadium itself.

The first requirement was to bring the outputs of cameras and microphones from inside the stadium to the control rooms. This used a diPloy rack in the stadium, to which cameras and microphones were connected. Dark fibers then carried the uncompressed IP signals to the broadcast complex, where they were made available for production, via IP.

The cameras were mostly 4K HDR UHD units, although some POV cameras operated at different resolutions. Connectivity was primarily IP, but diPloy racks could also accept SDI inputs. On the control room side, while much of the switching was in the IP domain, we again used existing replay servers with SDI outputs, which had to be converted to SMPTE ST 2110 IP.

The great workaholic of diPloy
Imagine Communications’ Selenio Network Processor (SNP) is essential for diPloy. The SNP is a powerful and compact device that uses software to provide a variety of features. Each SNP 1RU has four independent processors, each with eight 3G processing paths with easily editable software “personalities” to do what you need anytime.

This includes SDI to IP conversion; upward, downward, and cross conversion and color space transformations; video processing and audio shuffle; multiviewer point and much more. It also provides the interface to the high speed IP connectivity between the units: up to 400 gigabit ethernet over fiber in the current version.

EMG

Imagine’s SNP pilots its multiviewer platform (Image credit: EMG)

As the industry moves to higher resolutions, European broadcasters are now turning to 4K and HDR, while US channels want 1080p HD with High Dynamic Range colors. SNP integrates these conversions so that we can offer different outputs to different streams in a simple and transparent way.

This summer in Tokyo, it was the SNPs who converted the incoming signals and multiplexed them over fiber to deliver them to several galleries, where more SNPs divided the streams for production. It does this completely transparently and with virtually no latency. As far as the crew is concerned, the performance is the same as having SDI cameras plugged into the tailgate of a truck.

Building eight galleries in the stadium that would only be used for a small part of the multisport event would be very inefficient. We therefore used other diPloy racks, also equipped with SNP, to cover events at other sites, to be produced from the stadium.

Road cycling, for example, was based over 100km, but was successfully cut and mixed in one of the stadium’s galleries. SNPs in diPloy racks on site multiplexed all signals over a high bandwidth IP link.

Cycling coverage also involved cameras on motorcycles, helicopters and fixed-wing planes. The receivers of these were positioned for the best over-the-air reception and, if necessary, other SNPs were used to connect the downlinks to the control room. The latency during which the signals were converted, multiplexed and presented to the production mixer was so low that the director was not aware of it.

The future of diPloy
What this event gave us was very demanding and very public proof of the diPloy concept, which successfully separates the source of signals from production capabilities. Far from the quadrennial cycle of major events, this has enormous potential for routine sports coverage.

We have already built a control suite equipped with diPloys in our Dutch factory, and we are working on similar galleries in other major European cities. The aim is to provide centralized production, which will lead to huge savings in budget and environmental impact.

A conventional truck can cover three football games in a week, in a relatively limited geography. But a diPloy control room could cover three football games a day just by routing the right devices.

These games could be anywhere. The same director and the same production crew could cover, say, two Tier 1 football matches on one team: the afternoon game in Manchester; the evening game in Prague. Or a local director could be sitting in front of a production mixer panel at a Czech facility, with the replay server team in Amsterdam and the audio supervisor in London.

This allows us to address the pain points of sports production from a distance. For example, 3 p.m. a winter Saturday could see several football and rugby matches, straining the limited number of outdoor broadcast trucks. Being able to distribute the load over several centralized production facilities means that not only are football and rugby covered, but resources are always available for hockey and handball.

diPloy gives us a much higher equipment usage than if it spent more than 50% of its life off while a truck is driving on European highways. This means that sophisticated production facilities are available at a lower cost, allowing broadcasters to provide high quality coverage for second tier sports and niche events.

We can build production areas that are more comfortable than what can be set up in a truck, with space for the team to relax between matches. Spending more time doing creative work and less time traveling also contributes to staff satisfaction.

A dramatic reduction in the number of people and the amount of kits traveling to remote locations is also a demonstrable reduction in the carbon footprint.

We have a great relationship with Imagine Communications on the SNP. It’s good to work with a supplier who listens to what we’re doing and what we need, and responds positively. We look forward to the implementation of JPEG XS in SNP, which will allow us to get even more signals over a fiber connection with minimal latency.

SNP is a central part of our diPloy architecture – essentially the production Swiss Army Knife, if you will, with various interchangeable personalities in a compact 1RU chassis; diPloy, we believe, is the future of live sports broadcasting.


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