Live from Milan: Inside the Technical Operations Centre at the San Siro

CL Final stadium outside 1UEFA’s Champions League Final Technical Operations Centre (TOC) offered up more post-match feeds to help meet programming needs of rights holders as well as a new fibre hub designed to make connectivity easier for all. EuroMedia was once again on hand to provide technical facilities and support for the Technical Operations Centre which played a key role in monitoring and signal quality of the HD production.

One new component this year was a fibre hub in the compound that connected the studios, flash positions, camera platforms and other areas in San Siro Stadium. The system made its debut in Basel, Switzerland at the Europa League final.

“We have 800 cores of fibre into various places in the venue [where the broadcasters] would want to reach and they are all tested and certified so the broadcasters turn up and don’t have to spend time putting cable in,” said Wayland Twiston Davies, fibre pre-cabling supervisor. “Basically the cable from the trucks go to this facility so that the broadcasters don’t have to drag 550 metres of cable up to the announce platform. They only need to come to us.”

The system includes 52 off-the-shelf fibre termination boxes that each can connect 16 fibres. The boxes are booked through UEFA so rights holders simply have to turn up, plug in, and go.

“We also certify the loss on each circuit at two wavelengths so they can have confidence that it will work the first time without any swaps or concern about broken cores,” said Twiston Davies.

Each cable that runs into the stadium has eight single mode fibre cores and terminates in the venue in a weatherproof box. The cabling was installed by German company Mahlzeit while Twiston Davies Associates tested the cable runs and corrected any faults.

“Only four faults needed to be reworked out of 800 cores so that was extremely small,” added Twiston Davies. “And then the typical loss of cores is only one dB while most rights holders have a loss budget of 8 dBs.”

TOC for UHD: Future points to AIMS

This year’s TOC (and arguably the TOC for a few years to come) reflects a production reality based around HD-SDI signal transport. Ronald Mayvisch, CTO with EuroMedia, spent a few minutes discussing how an IP-based environment could change the way the TOC operates as well as why such a move will be important if the move to UHD becomes a wide-spread reality. For example, the UHD production of the final this past Saturday was not passed through the TOC.

“The problem with trying to operate this TOC in UHD is that we could not have quadruple the amount of signals going back and forth,” he said. “So we would need a lot more cabling and routing as that would all quadruple and IP-based routing will be the only way to do UHD from a practical standpoint.”

And while OB vehicles are beginning to make the move to IP-based infrastructure there is still much work to be done to get them all operating in IP-based signal transport mode. When that day comes the compound will become less about transporting signals and more about connecting networks. That will require some new levels of discipline, like network security to ensure that a given user only has access to the signals they are supposed to have access to as well as overall security from outside entities.

“Also monitoring would change to just monitoring streams instead of pictures,” added Meyvisch.

Solving some of those IP issues is one of the reasons EuroMedia became part of the AIMS IP Alliance. “We joined AIMS to promote the fact that we need an IP standard and the industry needs to work together on an IP standard,” say Meyvisch.

“And to us that is the most important thing as you can’t buy equipment from just one vendor: you need different equipment from different vendors. So if you want to de-centralise the infrastructure in the ways that IP-based signals will allow us to then interoperability is the main issue and why open standards are the only way to get things to work.”

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