Live From London: TV Azteca Handles Bulk of Operations in Mexico

In Mexico, there is football, and then there is everything else. So, after delivering 18 hours of live Olympics programming per day from London for the past two weeks, TV Azteca’s coverage will hit a fevered pitch on Saturday when the Mexico Men’s National Footall Team plays in its first-ever gold-medal match.

“People are very passionate about football in Mexico,” says Pedro Carmona, director of engineering, special events, TV Azteca. “We are doing a whole lot of [coverage] from London — especially around athletics, swimming, boxing, and other [events] — but football is a huge focus for us, of course.”

TV Azteca, which shares the London 2012 rights in Mexico with Televisa, is delivering live daily HD coverage as well as packaged primetime programming to two dedicated channels in Mexico, as well as news and highlights to a third network.

Like many broadcasters at the IBC in London, TV Azteca has minimized its on-site operations and left much of its technical staff and infrastructure at home in Mexico. The small on-site operation serves primarily as a base for aggregating content, assigning metadata, performing minimal production work, and then transmitting the content to Mexico City.

Azteca is taking in the 40 VandA (video-and-audio) feeds provided by OBS, a unilateral camera at Olympic Stadium, 18 on-site ENG teams (three equipped with a LiveU cellular transmission backpack unit), and studio content.

In addition to a small green-screen standup location at the IBC, Azteca has rolled out a full studio at the Park Plaza Hotel (complete with a gorgeous view of Big Ben and Parliament) that is connected to the IBC via fiber.

“The philosophy is very different this year [compared with 2008 in Beijing],” says Carmona. “We produce and do the final tuning in Mexico, and our [IBC facility] basically serves as a big funnel where we gather huge amounts of content, prepare a rough cut, compress it, and send it into Mexico with metadata assigned.”

A total of 12 competitions feature Azteca commentators, while the rest of the network’s live coverage takes the OBS commentary.

Since most of the heavy lifting is done in Mexico, the on-site gear is minimal. The complement includes a handful of EVS servers (two XT3s and two XSs) and Apple Final Cut Pro editing suites along with a Sony MVS8000 switcher.

“There was more equipment [at the IBC] in Beijing, and the workflow was not as efficient as this one,” says Carmona. “We realized, if we already have the muscle in our Mexico facilities, then we would rather use the IBC as a gathering operation and not as a production facility. We are trying to be efficient while still maintaining a high-quality operation, and I think that we are achieving that.”

All this content is sent back to Azteca’s Mexico City broadcast center, where it is played out live to air or ingested into a large EVS farm integrated with Final Cut Pro suites.

During the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last summer, a hurricane struck Mexico, splitting both of the redundant fibers that Azteca was using to transmit its coverage. As a result, the network was forced to deliver the action via satellite, which is no easy task in satellite-infrastructure–challenged South Africa.

At the London Games, Azteca isn’t taking any chances. It is delivering all content across the pond via three Level 3 Vyvx pipes running through the U.S. Two of these lines combine upon arriving in the States and then continue into Mexico on Level 3 fiber. The second path is delivered to Washington, DC, where Aldea Solutions takes care of the last-mile transmission into Mexico.

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