EI Towers’ next-generation broadcast centre raises the game for coverage of Serie A football
The 2022-23 season of Italy’s Serie A football league, which began on 13 August, is broadcasting from Italian communications and broadcast transmission specialist EI Towers’ new International Broadcast Centre (IBC). Built on next-generation IP technology from Imagine Communications, the leading-edge broadcast hub provides centralised contribution and distribution of audio, video and data in Italy and around the world for broadcasters and rightsholders – ensuring significant scalability and operational efficiencies, while delivering the best viewing experience for football fans over multiple platforms.
Fabrizio Falcini, head of systems engineering at EI Towers, said: “Imagine Communications has provided us with signal routing and management for some time, but their Selenio network processor delivers a whole new level of elasticity and scalability that we needed to meet the complex requirements of EI Towers’ mission-critical sports content.”
Located in Lissone, north of Milan, the IBC will collect 12 primary signals and 12 backups from each stadium in the country for all matches in Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa. Graphics, replays and branding will be added at the IBC before being distributed via fibre links to Italian broadcasters. EI Towers also provides international feeds, with commentary in English and Italian, as well as with Arabic language for international satellite and fibre distribution to all rightsholders spread all over the world.
To support the varying facilities at each stadium and the requirements for international and multiplatform distribution from the new IBC, EI Towers needed a hybrid technology platform that could embrace legacy SDI content and IP signal processing using both SMPTE ST2022-6 and ST2110. The platform also needed to support 4K UHD and HDR, as well as 3G-SDI (1080p50), and deliver in different frame rates to meet the needs of international customers. With its broad range of processing functions and unique, open-standard design, Imagine’s Selenio network processor (SNP) matched EI Towers’ requirements.
The 1RU SNP is able to handle conversions between ST2110 and SDI, including 12G-SDI as required; up-, down- and cross-conversion between HD/UHD and SDR/HDR formats; and seamless automatic changeovers to maintain a consistent on-air output. SNP also offers a low-latency, HDR-capable production multiviewer personality, SNP-MV, which enables content from different video formats and HDR systems to be integrated into a consistent display environment – making it ideal for the large network of multiviewers deployed at EI Towers.
Falcini continued: “What impressed us in Imagine’s approach to this project was the open-standard and flexible architecture of the SNP, which we can use for format, resolution and colour space conversion, as well as a bridge between SDI and IP.
“Imagine demonstrated to us that we would be able to reliably manage complex routing and workflows and efficiently meet all our operational requirements – without costly over-provisioning of equipment today and into the future.”
During the Serie A season, the IBC is tasked with providing outputs from simultaneous matches – managing, routing and converting a multitude of signal types – and returning video feeds to the stadium. Each control room requires a different monitor setup, so the ability to drive multiple multiviewers from a single SNP is a huge boost to the system’s practicality and efficiency.
Mathias Eckert, SVP & GM EMEA & APAC at Imagine Communications, said: “We are proud that our technology will support Lega Serie A coverage from EI Towers’ new IBC. Not only will the SNP help provide football fans across multiple geographies and delivery platforms with the best possible viewing experience, it will also enable EI Towers to streamline operations and maximise ROI with a future-proof, open-standard solution that can be easily upgraded as technology continues to evolve.”
The entire asset management, signal processing and distribution network at the IBC, including third-party products, operates under the control of the Magellan Control system, incorporating Magellan Touch, Imagine’s new operator-centric operational control framework, which allows operators to tailor their own control user interface. Imagine also provided a Platinum IP3 router for SDI signals at the input and output.