Gearhouse gets ready for action

For the first time in its history, the ATP Masters Series, a big TV event for tennis fans, will be fully HD capable from next year. Digital Studio talks to Gearhouse Broadcast, which is organising the technical facilities for this series.
Analysis, Broadcast Business


ATP Media, the broadcast arm of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Masters series recently awarded Gearhouse Broadcast the contract to handle the technical facilities for its tournament series for the next three years.

The multi-million dollar contract requires Gearhouse Broadcast to provide ATP Media with a comprehensive package of technical, crewing and production facilities that must be delivered consistently across each venue.

The ten tennis tournament series, which is held annually throughout the year in Europe, North America and Asia and culminates in the Tennis Masters Cup requires a huge broadcast setup as over fifty international broadcasters cover the series, thereby, giving the tournament over 200 million viewers worldwide.

"ATP Media's production business continues to grow and cope with new demands on its Host Broadcast production operation," says Steve Plasto, head of content & production at ATP Media, describing the current climate for the series. "HD, content for broadband, tournament websites and additional onsite production are all placing added pressure on the facility. Gearhouse offered a flexible broadcast environment to deliver solutions that will cater to the ever growing thirst for content.

There are a number of technology changes for the series ahead, not least the move to HD. The ATP series which is to take place from March to November next year will be fully HD-capable for the first time in its history.

Gearhouse Broadcast's technical director, Kevin Moorhouse, who is responsible for the company's delivery of the technical facilities explains the key areas of change. "We will create a tapeless workflow using EVS XT2s, thereby, reducing the use of tapes massively and providing a productive work environment.

The non-linear set up will allow everyone access to the material while the broadcast is still recording and thus dramatically improving workflows. "An intrinsic element of the package we provide is the flyaway systems that will be designed to ensure additional facilities can be created cost effectively and with relative ease," continues Moorhouse.

Also new to broadcast is a fibre ring audio system, which reduces the cable used and improves technical quality. It can distribute signals easily to other broadcasters using a computerised system.

The solution will include state-of-the-art flyaway rigs consisting of audio and video routing, distribution, communication, CCU and monitor gallery rigs. These rigs are configured prior to arriving on site and are then integrated with other key elements and installed by specialist project engineers.

The broadcast system consists of four production control rooms, three audio control rooms, one central EVS/VTR area and a MCR/CAR where all the technical equipment is housed. The solution will be capable of delivering the whole production in either HD or SDI standards. Whilst operating in HD, Gearhouse will be able to deliver SDI signals to unilaterals that may require this video standard.

At the heart of the system will be a Pro-Bel 256x256 HD/SDI video router to achieve maximum flexibility and give various control rooms routable inputs to enable them to cut to any court feed or source. Production galleries will use Sony MVS vision mixers and all monitor galleries will use LCD screens with built-in mnemonics and tallies.

An EVS server system will be integrated to improve the workflow and connectivity between the host broadcast, edit suites and unilateral facilities will be provided with the ability to share the same recorded media.

"The philosophy is to build an almost tapeless facility that will allow maximum connectivity between the various areas. This will be achieved by supplying eight EVS XT2 machines, Clean Edit systems, IP Browse systems and an Avid Adrenaline connected to the EVS network via a media converter. The only VTRs in the system would be the two archive machines and possibly record VTR's in a unilateral area," explains Moorhouse.

The audio system will use embedding technology that will render audio routers unnecessary. This means that the addition of extra facilities for unilaterals would only require video feeds as all associated audio signals would be embedded into the video stream. This will allow for up to 16 channels of audio to be embedded onto any video stream.

The systems integrator will also use fibre audio transport technology to improve audio quality and enhance the ability of the Series to connect various areas together and improve distribution of the various audio signals to the host and unilateral clients. These include extra capacity, better audio quality and additional flexibility. Additionally, the audio multicore cable will be replaced with a fibre optic network. The communication system will include a Riedel Artist system, which Gearhouse claims is currently the most advanced communications system available on the market.

"This system is extremely flexible and will allow us to increase the size of the matrix very easily via fibre connections. Communication stations can be run easily to any point within the stadium via fibre, these stations can even be utilised as additional commentary positions if so required," explains Moorhouse. "We have delivered this solution for the past eight years and have an in-depth understanding of the product and production requirements. We are confident that we are well placed to deliver a further three years of successful coverage.

According to the deal, Gearhouse Broadcast will provide a range of services including a consistent set up and supply of broadcast equipment and facilities at every venue; the provision of core crew at every venue with full technical back up and support; organisation of infrastructure including portacabins to house equipment, office modules, power requirements, catering facilities and logistics as well as equipment to meet additional broadcaster requirements.


Typical production format at the ATP series

Each venue will have two-court coverage.

A typical production format includes:

• Sony MVS 8400 vision mixer for Court A production control room.

• Sony MFS 2000 vision mixer for Court B production control room.

• Sony 1500 CCU, Pro-Bel routing, Riedel communications systems, EVS servers, DigiBeta or HD CAM VTRs in the Master Control Room.

• World feed production control with a Sony MFS 2000 Vision Mixer.

• Court A audio control and world feed audio will be achieved using a Yamaha MC7 and Optocore fibre system.

• An EVS server system using eight EVS XT2 machines, Clean Edit systems, IP Browse systems and an Avid Adrenaline connected to the EVS network via a media converter.



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