EURO 2016 Reflections: Strong links serve ITV Sport well between IBC and Paris studio

One of the ITV Sport control rooms used at EURO 2016.

One of the ITV Sport control rooms used at EURO 2016.

During a planning meeting with Gearhouse, Arena and ITV Sport at The London Studios (TLS) before EURO 2016, Paul Bateman, ITV Sport technical consultant, mentioned that there was going to be a link between the IBC (Porte de Versailles) and ITV’s specially built studio for the tournament located in central Paris. This link, which was supplied by Globecast, had a bandwidth of 1 Gb, of which around 100Mb was going to be used for some communication via Riedel trunking. As a result, ITV Sport was keen to investigate the possibility of EVS file-sharing between sites using the remaining bandwidth of this link.

Success in this venture would permit ITV Sport to send additional footage from either the IBC or their editing facility at TLS to the studio without compromising their five baseband video lines between the two sites.

The challenge

“This was an interesting challenge, and so began some preliminary testing to ascertain the most effective way of utilising this bandwidth,” explains Matt Trevor, server engineer, Gearhouse Broadcast. “In theory, if file-sharing is possible, there exists enough reason that IPDirector/Xsquare functionality could also be expanded. Extending an SDTI network is possible; however, the problems this posed in the event of link loss between remote sites would be too disruptive for a live environment. As a result, this method was discarded.”

Trevor goes on to reveal that following discussions about the workflow design with Craig Purchase at EVS UK, it was decided that the desired outcome could be achieved by a Layer 2 link and extending just the Gbe infrastructure so that both sites appeared on the same network. “This would require the two sites to have independent EVS management. If the link is present, a full network can be viewed in IPDirector. However, if the link is disrupted, each site would only be able to view the local machines and crucially no performance hit would be noticeable.”

The next iteration of testing was to simulate the final ITV install at both sites and configure the rigs via a Layer 2 link. Although this was successful, one final challenge remained. “While Globecast was providing the private fibre, ITV’s internal IT department was managing the data that flowed down that fibre,” says Trevor. “This was not a Layer 2 link, but introduced Layer 3. Now two separate sites, on two separate EVS networks had to be independently managed and communicate directly with another network.”

He says that the last two years has seen Gearhouse respond to increasing demand for file-based delivery by embracing switching and routing technology. As a result, several of its clients now have specific switch configurations that are programmed onsite by server engineers.

Process of refinement

“Working with Mike Kosub, senior network engineer for ITV North, an IP address schedule was developed and Gearhouse individually programmed Cisco Catalyst switches to allow the ITV IT infrastructure to route packets between the two EVS VLans. On-site Layer 3 routing in broadcast technology is reasonably rare at present, but is becoming increasingly common,” notes Trevor.

After the final Layer 3 design iteration, the system worked as intended. All XT3s were viewable in IPDirector at either venue, and to make the best use of the available bandwidth the IBC XT3s employed the on-chip-lo-res feature and all near-line assets were made in both hi and lo-res. Trevor continues: “Therefore, browsing was fast enough for multiple IPD users, and assets sent across the network transferred at four to five times, real-time. In practice, this achieved much more than the original brief of transferring files to the ITV studio. Operators at the studio could view all the Ingest XT3s in addition to the Live-X package, and send clips to their editing teams and VFX artist on-site at the studio.”

At the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, ITV Sport had been located under one roof at the IBC, meaning everyone had access to everything. This time at UEFA EURO 2016, however, they were split between the IBC and the studio, but what was delivered was closer to their IBC experience at the 2014 World Cup than originally intended.

Trevor concludes: “Conceptually, the proposed system was quite simple; however, the complications of remote sites, Layer 3 links and robust/redundant EVS integration require non-traditional broadcast skills which Gearhouse has developed and acquired.”

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