Live from the Commonwealth Games: a look inside the IBC

SVG Europe has been onsite at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, deep in the heart of the IBC, which is situated on the banks of the River Clyde at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). Or to be precise, it’s located in the car park of the sprawling SECC Precinct, which also hosts the boxing, gymnastics, judo, netball, wrestling and weightlifting/powerlifting events. Surrounded by Commonwealth flags and satellite dishes and baking in the strong July sun, the Glasgow 2014 IBC is a solid, large portakabin structure that provides a base of operations for Host Broadcaster SVGTV and the Rights Holder Broadcasters (RHB).

As we tour the facility with SVGTV’s project director Andrew Quinn, we pass dedicated areas for RHBs such as Sky New Zealand, Super Sport, Asian Broadcasting Union (ABU), RTM and Astro (Malaysia), CBC, CyBC, ABC Radio and Network 10 from Australia.

“We built a modular IBC to be able to scale it up and down to suit the number of rightsholders,” Quinn explains “We have seven here. All Indian Radio just confirmed booked facilities four weeks ago. We also have some rightsholders sitting back in their home countries [such as TAJ from India and SABC from South Africa], taking multi-channel services and our HB Games Channel services as well.”

The IBC technical infrastructure was actually prebuilt in Sydney, before sea-freighting it to Glasgow for construction.

“We had some late deliveries of technology – like phones, data services and internet,” says Quinn. “It didn’t affect us greatly, but we had to work the extra hours to get things finalised. On the whole it’s come together very well. No-one’s stressed and there are no new grey hairs.”

Big plan for a big city

Covering Glasgow 2014 encompasses 19 venues, 26 televised fields of play with 24 Production Control Units, 16 OB vans and eight flyaway kits. More than 259 cameras are in use, including 26 Super Slo Mo Cameras and three Ultra Slo Mo cameras, as well as speciality POV cameras on athletics, swimming and diving. Four beauty cameras are situated around the city. For the outdoor races, there are cameras mounted on two helicopters, two motorbikes and two lead vehicles.

“Glasgow is a beautiful city and the Organising Committee have done a good job in ensuring that the road races and marathons go through key parts of the city, highlighting different areas,” says Quinn. “Obviously we’re choosing camera angles to showcase that as well.”

The co-ordination must be immense, but Quinn explains that the 18 months of planning allows time to break it into manageable sections. “Then after a number of months, you just put it all back together again and everything just falls back into position in this one big plan.”

Some of those responsible for this big plan are to be found in the Host Broadcaster Office at the IBC. “They’ve been working on this for 18 months,” explains Quinn. “The team have put in all the pre-planning so that we deliver a proper product to RHBs for the twelve days that we’re here. They’ve planned the number and where cameras are to be placed in venues, what directors we should be choosing, which producer they should have, and what camera crew is needed and the all the logistics to deliver it. All the venue technology, whether it’s PA speakers, lighting, cameras or radio technology, it all has to integrated into one drawing which shows and interfaces everybody’s requirements.”

The production department is also in charge of production quality control, making sure everything at Glasgow 2014 sticks to that plan, as well ensuring that production quality is equal across all venues. “We supply commentators in English for every sport,” says Quinn as an example. “Our production team makes sure the venue production teams and commentary is world class broadcast quality and everyone is doing the right thing. They all provide co-ordination from the venues for sports finishing late, starting early and updating times so that information can be passed to CDT and CSC teams.”

The Contribution Distribution and Transmission (CDT) room provides a master control for communications and looks after all the venue circuits. “We have 26 venue feeds coming in, not including unilateral circuits,” says Quinn. “Obviously we have a number of unilateral services for rights holders video and commentary circuits coming in from, equipped commentary boxes, mixed zones, dedicated announce platforms, studios, and a couple of our venue compounds as well.”

“We also sort out pre and post bookings from here so rights holders can do interviews and stand-up before and after the sports,” continues Quinn. “We can update the rightholders from this area if sports are running late or finishing early. If they’ve got a booking we’ll co-ordinate from here and deliver circuits into in their IBC space. Also from here our teams can talk to the venue and co-ordinate if there are any problems.”

SVGTV is providing a multi-channel service to RHBs, six channels of long-form ready for air sports, including RHB-requested overnight replays of content not able to be scheduled during the day.

The IBC also hosts ranks of edit suites to provide highlight packages for rightsholders. “We do 52 minutes for a morning session of sport and another 52 minutes for the afternoon/evening session as well. We also provide supplementary coverage for rightsholders including those who want to book an ENG package. For example, for table tennis, where we have twelve tables out there and we only cover two, a rightsholder can request us to do an ENG coverage of one of the non-TV tables. We’d then bring that back here, and edit it up to a package and deliver it to the rightsholder. Or say there’s a high profile event that we can’t put on TV during play, though it’s unlikely to happen, we can do an ENG coverage for that and provide it as a service to all rights holders.

Glasgow 2014 also sees the first appearance of the Host Broadcaster Games Channel, a single fully-produced channel for rightsholders.

“It’s delivering the best of the day’s sports,” says Quinn. “It also has little magazine segments around town, interviews with athletes. All rightsholders get the Games Channel and it’s the delivery platform for the 24 hour Glasgow 2014 YouTube channel rightsholders are using it for their own digital channels or lifting content out of it.”

The last stop on the tour is a room of operators working on computers, with EVS IP Director prominent on screens. “Our logging team adds sports-specific metadata to the content on our archive server,” says Quinn. “That helps our highlight teams search for content. The rightsholders also have access to our server, so they can be searching for content from us as well. We’re also providing a full digital archive for the Commonwealth Games Federation for the first time as well. So all that metadata will travel with the archive. It will be given as search criteria and then they’ll be able to drop that into their database. So the legacy of Glasgow 2014 is that they’ll be able to search by day, by venue, by sport, by event – there’s a full raft of database search criteria.

“Typically we would deliver it as a number of palettes of videotape, but here’s it’s going to be a full digital archive. It’ll probably be around 1700 hours. We’ll hand it over directly after the Games are finished.”

“We like to read good news stories about rightsholders having rating wins and high viewer numbers,” Quinn adds, at the conclusion of this IBC walkabout. “It validates what we do. Network 10 has been doing well in the ratings; the BBC has had good viewership. The Malaysians have done well out of winning some boxing gold medals and obviously Australia winning the marathon would have been good for Network 10 as well. I’ve only heard good things about the opening ceremony from all the rightsholders here, so good on Glasgow.”

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