Behind the scenes at the new Sky Deutschland broadcast centre
The kick-off the 2017/18 Bundesliga season has put production at full capacity at the new Sky Sport HQ in Unterföhring. Located in the former Riva Television Studios in the neighborhood of Sky Headquarter, the new sports broadcast centre operated by the German pay TV company incorporates: 90 new workplaces; four studios with a total size of 1,700 square metres; 50 kilometres of cable; 1,000 terabytes storage; and up to 76 live signals.
After ten months’ construction time, an intensive testing phase and investments in double million figures, the Sky Sport HQ was officially opened at the end of July. All studio shows and conferences of Sky Sport are being produced at the new broadcast centre. With the live transmissions of the opening round of the national German soccer cup (DFB), Sky reached a record range with 4.5m viewers, which marks a 92 percent increase compared to the previous year.
An eye-catching feature in the 600 sqm large main studio is the 35m long LED wall that will evoke the stadium atmosphere as well as the related emotions. On the 84sqm, millions of LEDs are showing analyses, graphics and highlights from the games. The concept for the modern studio follows a 360-degree approach. Besides the classical desk and the screen there is a news island in the middle of the studio so that further colleagues can be integrated into the show, if something special is going to happen. Furthermore, Sky will create a virtual world with a green box studio.
During the 2017/18 Bundesliga season, 266 of the total number of 306 Bundesliga matches can be seen live at Sky, including all soccer matches on Saturday and Sunday. According to DFL’s new Bundesliga concept, Sportcast equips the top game on Saturday with seven additional cameras such as a spidercam, highspeed cam and a super slo-mo which are part of the base signal which is transmitted to Sky via fibre optics.
Furthermore, the German pay TV provides live broadcasts of all games from the 2nd Bundesliga as well as summaries. In addition, Sky’s free TV channel Sky Sport News HD presents all Bundesliga highlights, including the Friday match.
Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Sky’s new broadcast centre provides a maximum of flexibility for editorial innovations as well as the technical production. A key component that speeds up the workflow at Sky Sport HQ is Riedel’s decentralised real-time network, MediorNet, with 67 MicronN, 47Micron MV and 18 MetroN frames. Installed by Qvest Media as the worldwide largest Mediornet installation, the hybrid solution provides an infrastructure with open interfaces to the IP world so that IP-based workflows can be rebuilt step by step. Except from the router in the playout, there are no conventional broadcast routers at the Sky Sport HQ. The main router is completely replaced by the MediorNet.
The extremely scalable system has more options than a conventional router such as multiviewing and provides the basis for an IP-based networking infrastructure. Due to the fact that not all systems are working completely IP-based, Sky is using IP-based workflows only gradually geared to the requirements of the market. “We are IP-ready and will extend our systems at the appropriate time,” says Alessandro Reitano, vice president sports production, Sky Germany.
As a pioneer for the implementation of new technologies, Sky has already been testing 4K/UHD productions since 2012. Since autumn 2016, individual Bundesliga and Champion League games have been transmitted in 4K/UHD. Due to its fibre optic-based infrastructure, the whole production workflow in the Sky Sport HQ can be upgraded to 4K/UHD. So far, the production in UHD format is still an isolated application but not an integrated workflow. The increase of the UHD output requires a reliable cost basis. Furthermore, it might not be worthwhile for every match to be delivered in UHD. While Sportcast is considering the possibility of producing all Bundesliga games in UHD, the German market for this technology is still developing. Whatever the future, it is clear that Sky will continue to be a primer mover when it comes to UHD.
Sky Sport HQ also opted for cutting-edge technology in terms of audio production. The central audio router is the Lawo Nova73 HD that has a capacity of up to 8,192 inputs/outputs, available via RAVENNA, AES3, MADI and SDH/STM-1 interfaces but all in a compact 10U package. Thanks to the hot-plug capability and online configuration it is even possible to expand and change the system during live broadcasts. Lawo’s STAR² technology provides maximum redundancy and fail-safe operation. Two mc²56xc audio mixing consoles, configured with 48 fades and 192 DSP channels in a compact core for processing and routing, are connected to the Lawo Nova73 HD. Various Lawo DALLIS I/O systems, which are integrated in a RAVENNA network and linked to the central Nova73 HD, are building the linkage to the two large studios and several commentary booths while a Lawo VSM system serves as control and monitoring system.
Sky has already equipped its seven SNGs for the Sports News HD and live production with mc²36 all-in-one consoles from Lawo. “We decided to get mixing consoles from Lawo so that we are prepared for upcoming changes such as remote production, stronger interconnection with the Sky Sport HQ, as well as a further optimization of our workflows,” says Reitano.
In addition to hundreds of Bundesliga matches, the Sky Sport HQ is transmitting live shows from the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whilst the second studio in Sky Sport HQ is used for the 2nd Bundesliga, the national German soccer cup and the UEFA Europa League, the third studio is serving as a conference studio with twelve highlights boxes for the commentators. The Sky Sport HQ will also transmit games from the Handball League, where the German pay TV serves as host broadcaster.
Due to the increasing amount of content that needs to be stored, the media asset management workflows are being integrated into the overall sports production. As a result an editor can also access the MAM when graphics need to be created. “We want the editorial team to take more responsibility because one-stop workflows are reducing the sources of error,” concludes Reitano.