ORF, Euro-TV discuss FIS Alpine Ski World Cup production infrastructure

The recent FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Schladming, Austria, proved to be a masterstroke of broadcast production technique, writes Birgit Heidsiek. At this international event host broadcaster ORF worked with experienced service providers including Euro-TV, LCM, Sono and Riedel. The production partners managed 95 percent of the whole production of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup.

In Schladming, the ORF didn‘t have a central media server providing the rights’ holders with images from the event. However, for an extra fee they were able to obtain a world feed plus signal that started two hours before the race and ended one hour afterwards. Seven TV stations, among them German public brodcasters ARD and ZDF, opted for the world feed plus.

The fiber-based signal transport occurred via Riedel‘s MediorNet, which combines signal transport, routing, signal processing and conversion into one integrated real-time network solution. “ORF delivered great images and amazing shots,” says Peter Dittrich, who handled the remote pickup for ARD and ZDF in Schladming. His favoured footage came from the fully remote controlled cable camera system by Camcat as well as from the ultra slo-mo cameras by Antelope.

The acquisition technique was rigged up by Euro-TV, which arrived in Schladming with a team of 149 employees, among them 42 camera operators. “Our team consists of experienced mountaineers and very good skiers,” stresses Günther Polder, chief of Euro-TV. At the height of 1,750 metres he had a helicopter in the field that dropped off huge aluminium boxes with equipment. For the downhill event, Euro-TV installed two wireless cameras in the warm-up area, a polecam for close-ups, as well as three wired camera on tripods including an ultra slo-mo camera. In total, there were 47 cameras for the men’s downhill and 44 cameras for the women’s downhill.

Whenever the location had to be changed quickly, the whole transmission technology was tranported by a small container on skids that also could be drawn by a skidoo to the grids. “This might be necessary if the helicopter can‘t take off because of fog,” explains Polder.

The technique container is an in-house development by Euro-TV. Further down at the finish, for the transmission of the race, Euro-TV set up two huge OB vans operated by TVN in Germany and tpc in Switzerland. In the OB, the German team did the direction and pre-editing of the men’s competition whilst tpc was responsible for the direction and pre-editing of the women‘s competition.

Another pool position at the parking block featured TV service company LCM, which controlled the ultra slo-mo images that were taken by the Antelope MKIIs and a Antelope PICO POV. The Mklls systems record with 2,500 fps. “The enhanced detail function which has been integrated in the latest version of the CCU leads to very sharp details of the skiers,” underlines Felix Marggraff, CEO of LCM. The Antelope PICO was installed in the target area and delivered emotion feed replays with 340 fps. “For the first time it is possible to show the emotions in the target area in high speed to the world,” says Marggraff.

LCM‘s high speed analysis truck was linked over the MediorNet system by Riedel to host broadcaster ORF, where the Antelope replays could be seen via an LED cinemascope display.

While Euro-TV and their partners made sure there was a smooth production workflow on top and at the foot of the mountain, general contractor Sono Studiotechnik undertook installation work at the International Broadcast Center (IBC) as well in the field at the finish. The IBC received all the signals from the two OB vans which were distributed to the rights’ holders. In addition, Sono was in charge of all the unilateral bookings that were made individually by national broadcasters. The complete set-up in the IBC had been built up and tested in Sono‘s production hall near Munich, where it also got the approval from ORF. In this fashion, the prewired and in-rack integrated technical systems could be set-up in the IBC in only a few days.

The distribution of the signals via fiber optics was handled by Riedel technology. The MediorNet system allows each incoming signal to be sent via mouse click to one or even more outputs. Each MediorNet main frame has a router capacity for 32 x 32 720p/1080i signals, 160 x 160 SD-SDI signals, 27,000 x 27,000 AES signals, or any combination of these signals. “MediorNet offers many advantages,” reports Stefan Grömer, technical director at Sono Studiotechnik. “If there is a need for some other audio signal, it is available right away because MediorNet transports all audio signals.“

Reflecting on the event, Michael Goetzhaber, technical director at ORF, is more than satisfied with the production of the Ski World Cup. Among other factors, he appreciates the collaboration with Riedel and their communication and fiber optic transmission techniques. The fibre optic-based infrastructure was, he says, “a tremendous advantage” for the production of the event.

The approach of ORF as host broadcaster is not only to develop a visual language that creates a highly dramatic viewer experience, but also to provide impeccable sound quality. Therefore, the Alpine Ski World Cup was delivered in 5.1 surround sound, masterminded by sound engineer Alexander Kantz using a Lawo MC2 56 mixing console in the OB van.

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