Out of Africa

DPME.com chats with those behind the largest 3D TV broadcast ever.
Interviews, Delivery & Transmission
Mark Grinyer  head of professional services, Sony UK
Mark Grinyer head of professional services, Sony UK
Richard LaBerge executive VP, CMO, SENSIO Technologies
Richard LaBerge executive VP, CMO, SENSIO Technologies
Alan Hird  CEO, Globecast South AfricaCEO, YahLive
Alan Hird CEO, Globecast South AfricaCEO, YahLive
Marc Schneider  director rental projects, Riedel Communications
Marc Schneider director rental projects, Riedel Communications
Ebby John  sales director, Nevion
Ebby John sales director, Nevion

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Broadcast technology firms deployed on the ground at this summer’s World Cup in South Africa discuss their role in the event, the largest 3D TV broadcast operation ever attempted.

Leading the transition
Mark Grinyer head of professional services, Sony UK

Around 25 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa matches were produced using Sony’s 3D professional cameras, which provided coverage of the action unprecedented in depth, vividness and excitement to people around the world.

From 2010, Sony will be incorporating 3D compatibility into a wide range of consumer products such as BRAVIA LCD TVs, Blu-ray Disc recorders and players, VAIO laptops and PlayStation3, to provide a multitude of ways in which 3D content – from 3D movies to stereoscopic 3D games – can be enjoyed in the home.

Without doubt it was the largest live 3D TV audience. Eleven TV networks took the signal globally as well as more than 500 cinemas.

The transition to 3D is underway, and we intend to be leaders in every aspect.

Our sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup allowed us to leverage our 3D technology and premier products with dazzling content to produce a unique and totally compelling viewing experience. 3D viewers around the world felt as though they were inside the stadiums in South Africa, watching the games in person.

All the feedback we’ve had has been very positive. As with all new technologies the key to its success is the availability of content. As more and more 3D content comes available I’m sure 3D TV will take off.

Global network
Richard LaBerge executive VP, CMO, SENSIO Technologies

SENSIO 3D technology, which involved coding live images - enabled soccer fans all over the world to view 25 FIFA World Cup matches live, in 3D and on the big screen. Over the 30 days of the championship, more than 4,500 screenings of the tournament’s most popular games took place in 33 countries.

This milestone event, coordinated in just two months, was made possible by the continued growth of the SENSIO 3D Live Global Network, which already comprises more than 700 theatres. During the World Cup, SENSIO facilitated FIFA’s access to the 3D Live network, working with partners across the globe to manage end-to-end business and technical aspects required for successful delivery.

The World Cup audience was the largest 3D TV audience so far because it was also the first such broadcast. The largest audience to watch live and in 3D, however, was the much larger group of viewers who gathered to watch in cinemas. With an average of 200 seats per screen for 25 games across 475 screens, digital cinemas boasted, by far, the largest audience.

At kickoff, the availability of 3D TV technology still remained quite limited. SENSIO’s 3D Live Global Network, however, gave fans a fast, easy, fun, and inexpensive way to experience the World Cup in immersive 3D. Until the 3D TV market matures further, over another 12 or 18 months, the cinema will remain the best place to watch popular live 3D events.

Huge sporting events with enormous potential audiences are a significant driver for investment and innovation. With the assurance of high ratings and corresponding ad revenues to support these development efforts, media companies can test new technology – and even use it as a marketing tool – during such popular events.

I have no idea if it was a success on the TV side of the business, but I know it was a hit on the cinema side. Audience feedback indicated that live 3D screenings in cinemas provided good image quality and a strong sense of being at the match. The interactivity and communal experience of watching matches added to fans’ excitement and involvement in the game. In any case, the World Cup created momentum behind 3D overall, encouraging content producers to learn more about how 3D is captured and delivered.

As more live events are covered, complementing rising 3D studio production, the increased supply of 3D content will spur growth of the 3D TV market, as will greater, more affordable availability of 3D TV sets for the home.

Serving broadcasters
Alan Hird CEO, Globecast South AfricaCEO, YahLive

Globecast provided a comprehensive array of services to rightsholders and non-rightsholders for worldwide distribution.
For rightsholding broadcasters, Globecast provided dedicated HD and SD uplink and downlink paths as well as fibre links and associated compression from the international broadcast centre (IBC) in Johannesburg to their studios around the world. The company had as many as 19 systems (uplinks, downlinks and fibre systems) operating at the IBC.

A studio and stand-up position with fibre links into the IBC was built and managed by us for one major European broadcaster.

Outside the IBC, we offered HD and SD SNG trucks and flyaways, international and domestic fibre links, studios, camera crews and playout for both domestic and international delivery via satellite and fibre. For contribution of feeds we deployed a fleet of 12 SD and HD SNG uplinks to stadiums, team hotels and training camps in every corner of South Africa.

Globecast also sold more than 300Mhz of satellite capacity (equivalent to more than eight transponders) on the IS709, W7, W3A and Measat satellites and more than 1300MB of fully redundant, networked SDH fibre connectivity (equivalent to more than 6STM1s) over the six-week period.

In partnership with APTN we secured 10 live stand-up positions – including views of the stadiums in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria – for use by worldwide non-rightsholders throughout the tournament. A relatively new service was 3D delivery. Globecast distributed the 3D signals around the world as well as distributing 3D pictures to cinemas within South Africa.

Globecast had the responsibility for delivering the 3D world feed, both internationally and locally, and although there is still some work to be done on the standards of 3D to ensure the best possible quality is delivered to the consumer, we were able to experience first hand the excitement and interest generated by the 3D pictures.

If you count both rightsholders and non-rights holders, Globecast served more than 40 broadcasters. It is difficult to estimate the audience but World Cup pictures delivered by Globecast probably number over a billion.

While a major event is not really the time to be too innovative one could say that Germany 2006 was when HD came of age and South Africa 2010 saw the emergence of 3D. Of course, any innovations that were introduced at the World Cup were extensively tested prior to the tournament.

By and large the coverage of the tournament was a success, particularly when you consider that the World Cup came shortly after a major recession with economies and the industry still feeling the pain.

Large-scale radio
Marc Schneider director rental projects, Riedel Communications

Riedel delivered the digital radio network infrastructure including the central switch, 14 base stations and more than 3,000 mobile radios (TETRA and conventional). In addition it provided 80 Riedel RiFaces, 700 Artist Intercom control panels, 2000 Riedel Artist digital matrix intercom ports, 300 Performer digital partyline beltpacks, 100 RockNet 300 modules, 20 MediorNet Frames, 40 venue based HD over Fiber links, 10 helicopter wireless video links with Riedel Conductor RF telemetry system for the helicopters

Furthermore it made use of some new MediorNet software features at the World Cup. MediorNet was used to transport 20 HD-SDI signals including the world feed between the technical operation centres (TOC) in the stadiums and HD OB trucks outside.

 

Stability and redundancy is always an important factor when planning our installation. The World Cup or the Olympic Games are no exception.

Large-scale events always demand for special solutions. Of course this also includes new innovations and technologies. Nevertheless the focus of the company’s work lies always on reliability and system stability.

As far as I can judge from a German broadcast perspective, the event was a great success. The coverage was really great; we had three major broadcast networks – including the two main public broadcasters – fully involved in this event.

HD the de facto standard
Ebby John sales director, Nevion

Nevion’s role was to provide HD connectivity to the SuperSport studios in Johannesburg, South Africa. As South Africa’s satellite uplink service provider, Telemedia needed a solution that could address SuperSport’s need to transport content between its Teleport and SuperSport’s editing studios.

All the Flashlink modules are designed with low power consumption in mind, and also designed to work without fans so they were well suited to the high South African temperatures and the likelihood of electrical interference, as they can withstand heat up to 55 degrees Celsius.

Flashlink enabled Telemedia to downlink the HD feeds from satellite at their earth station and then send the HD feeds, via Flashlink equipment, over a fibre network to SuperSport studios.

As a direct result of this project’s success, Telemedia has now made this a permanent installation and will partner with Nevion to expand their networks to support most South African broadcasters with uncompressed video transport for distribution and primary contribution links.

With high definition becoming the de facto standard for any high quality video, the demand for bandwidth to carry such video is rapidly increasing. Sports coverage requires high quality video feeds with no visible distortion. Maintaining HD connectivity between studios and broadcasters is critical throughout key events like the Olympics and the World Cup, and this generally leads to an increase in R&D investment as broadcasters make sure their products fit the project.

Broadcasters want solutions that will not only provide the video quality consumers want, but also deliver value by maximising content throughput while ensuring signal integrity, so providers are always going to be looking to improve on their offering.

The TV coverage was very successful as evidenced by the massive global audience.

For us, 3D is not an issue. Nevion is at the forefront of video transport and our products transport the content, whether it is 3D or not. The advent of 3D will surely change the landscape even more as the technology dramatically increases network requirements and bandwidth cost. Broadcasters will need to really embrace and be ready for the new challenges of 3D and other technologies as they start to play larger roles.
 

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