Cloudbass places Axon at the heart of its new OB9 UHD IP HDR truck
The UK-based outside broadcast facilities provider Cloudbass has created a multivendor UHD IP HDR OB vehicle based on the ST2110 standard and has put Axon’s Neuron signal processing technology at its core.
OB9 was officially unveiled this autumn and has already been deployed on major projects for Sky Sports, including the UEFA Football Euro 2020 Qualifiers, and for the RugbyX Tournament on ITV.
“We covered eight major OBs in the truck’s first 40 days, which is a very tall order for a truck build that only commenced in August,” said Cloudbass technical director Michael Beaumont.
OB9, a 20 camera truck built from the ground up with help from systems integrator ES Broadcast, brings together products from many different manufacturers including Arista, Evertz, GVG, Ross, Calrec, Reidel and Sony. It uses Axon technology to integrate these systems into a flexible workflow, suited to live sports coverage which forms the bulk of Cloudbass’ business.
In total, OB9 features 21 Axon Neuron units, each with processing features such as edge synchronisers and converters. Every unit offers 200 Gb/s and 64 1080p signals or 16 UHD channels with up to 80 SDI connectors, all in a single 1RU.
One of the main technical challenges of this project was integrating the ST2110 standard because different manufacturers use different block packing methods to transmit and receive data. Beaumont said Axon’s onsite support team helped identify these challenges during the build phase and worked hard to overcome them.
“Neuron’s processing power means that it can do a lot more in just one box. As a result, we need less hardware and external glue, which reduces the weight of the truck and makes is cheaper and easier to move, without impacting on workflow.
“Axon Neuron accepts streams from any of the kit in the truck no matter what packing method or standard the manufacturer is using, making it by far the most flexible piece on equipment we have,” he said. “By removing the need for lots of external processing, Neuron gives the truck enormous flexibility, which proved particularly invaluable during our first UHD job for Sky Sports Boxing,” said Beaumont.
“Having up/down/cross conversion available to every path allowed me to run the truck internally UHD/3G and down-convert all of the feeds required for the other broadcasters onsite. Without Neuron, the amount of extra external glue required to provide frame-sync, colour correction and Up/Down/Cross conversion on every router input/output would be unimaginable.”
He added that combining Neuron with Axon’s Cerebrum Control and Monitoring software was key to integration and guarantees a high level of control, all in one GUI.
“In our unique IP environment, interoperability of signals works well but controlling all the endpoint devices is still more complex than in traditional systems. Cerebrum helps hide some of the complexities to the operators, and in some cases gives us critical work arounds to issues that are still to be resolved in hardware.
“A great feature of using Cerebrum with the Neuron platform is having the ability to create visual pages that can control and monitor many different signal statuses usually read from multiple devices. This helps our engineers diagnose issues and faults.”
“Without Axon technology this would have been a very different truck,” said Beaumont. “My hope is that, once even more new features for the Neuron are released and IP connectivity becomes standardised on other items of equipment, OB9 will continue to evolve to keep up with new requirements not even dreamt of yet.”