Globecast and Imagina France experiment with remote production for French Ligue 1

Remote Production FranceVarious service providers and television channels have already conducted experimental tests involving remote production in France. Most recently it’s been the turn of Globecast and the Mediapro Group (and its Imagina France subsidiary) to present their respective expertise in this area, collaborating on a remote production trial for the Wednesday 30 November match Ligue 1 match between Bastia and Bordeaux.

“We decided to join forces for the occasion in order to show how we can deliver in terms of live remote sports production,” explained Marc Logez, head of marketing Global Contribution at Globecast.

Since 2012, the company has been able to transmit live high quality signals that make remote production possible (key examples being the Summer and Winter Olympics as well as the 2015 Tour de France). For its part, Mediapro has been producing every Spanish Liga match in a central production unit for more than three seasons.

“In Spain we have extensive experience in remote production. The economic gains are very important but that is not all. In fact, a single director can produce several matches back to back, which provides him with an incredible and therefore interesting experience,” added Jérémie Roudaire, general manager of Imagina France.

On Wednesday 30 November, they demonstrated their joint remote production know-how for the Ligue 1 match between Bastia and Bordeaux. Normal coverage was also provided for the beIN Sports channel.

On-site requirements

A total of five cameras were installed in the Bastia Club stadium. In addition to the camera operators, the Corsican team only consisted of a production manager, a sound technician and an encoding operator. The team worked in a relatively compact and light vehicle that included the encoding equipment, audio preamps, intercom and tally systems, as well as the CCU used to control all the equipment remotely.

The main production truck was located near Paris, next to the Qatari-owned channel. It is a Mediapro OB truck used by the French subsidiary to handle the remote production with the usual crew needed to produce a live football event.

The director and the camera operators communicated via Blackmagic Design and RTS intercom systems. A dedicated graphics workstation in the production truck provided the score displays and various other sports graphics.

The video engineer had full control of the colour settings and aperture adjustments for all the cameras deployed in the stadium. Although preamps were used in Corsica for the audio, it was in fact the sound technician in the production truck who subsequently used a Yamaha CL3 console to mix the sound.

Efficient transport solution

The network provided by Orange was a Business Ethernet type connection of 1 Gbps that linked the stadium in Bastia to the main production centre. Camera signals were encoded in JPEG 2000 at 140 Mbps. For comparative purposes two signals were also rendered out in H.264 at 50Mbps. For encoding, a Nimbra Net Insight N680 network platform was used in the stadium, whereas a Net Insight N688 was used for the JPEG 2000 and H.264 decoding in the remote production truck. Each frame was encoded (no B or P- frames).  Other details included total encoding + transport + decoding latencies of roughly 100ms for JPEG2000 and 350ms for H264.

Remote production outlook

It’s been almost three years since remote production tests began on a large scale in France. In Spain, during the same period all of the football championships have been produced in the same way. Could it be a cultural difference in working methods or simply a divergent economic approach that explains the time-gap between the two countries? It’s difficult to say, but one thing is for certain: remote production will continue to expand and grow in France, and probably at a faster pace than one can imagine.

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