Paris 2024: France Télévisions creates a unique transmission solution to bring the journey of the Olympic flame to viewers live for the first time ever

France Télévisions is bringing 10 hours a day of live coverage of the flame and its torchbearers to viewers on its Paris 22024 digital channel, for the first time in the history of the flame’s journey

From 8 May the Olympic Torch Relay began to showcase France’s beauty and diversity, its history and landscapes, on its epic journey to Paris. On 26 July in Paris, the flame – having passed through the hands of over 11,000 flame bearers – will light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Games.

For the first time ever in the flame’s history, France Télévisions is bringing 10 hours a day of live coverage of the flame and its torchbearers to viewers on its Paris 2024 digital channel. Before Paris 2024, coverage of the flame has only been through post-produced highlights.

Read more Paris 2024: France Télévisions brings a live production with epic sustainability credentials to its coverage of the Olympic flame’s journey

As to how France Télévisions is making this happen, it is using a unique solution combining the cloud, public 4G and 5G, private 5G and Starlink connectivity to bring every step of every torchbearer over 1,000 miles to the flame’s destination.

France Télévisions is using a unique solution to bring the live coverage of the flame to viewers, combining the cloud, public 4G and 5G, private 5G and Starlink connectivity. Seen here, part of the transmission solution in the back of the convoy vehicle nearest the cameras following torchbearers

Quick start

The plan for the Paris 2024 channel’s coverage of the flame’s journey only began in November 2023, says Romuald Rat, France Télévisions’ TechLab and AI deputy director in the department of technology and information systems, when the Paris 2024 organising committee and France Télévisions, “decided to make a huge event of the Olympic journey”.

Rat continues: “They were first looking for a transmission solution. That was the only thing they wanted. Very quickly we were able to present them with what we did last summer; three hours of live coverage on a boat on the Seine. It was for the one year countdown of the Olympic Games, and we did it with Starlink, with public 5G, and we did it with a cloud production.

“We explained to them that with this kind of production, it will be easier for them and cheaper to have more camera and more editorial content than with a traditional control room, with a traditional gallery,” recalls Rat. “It was very clear at the beginning that we didn’t have the Tour de France budget; it’s very, very not the same budget. So, first for us it was clear that we had to find a solution using 4G or 5G.”

Rat says using 5G and Starlink as a part of the solution was obvious for everybody. He notes: “That worked well for us because within France Télévisions, we have been using Starlink for the news over the last two years from the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Since then, every week we use Starlink for the news production in different cases so we are confident with it, we know how it can be used and how it can’t be used.

“We decided to propose to have [simultaneously] 5G private and 4G and 5G public and Starlink networks [as our transmission solution to follow the flame]. They said, “OK. Let’s go”.

“We decided to propose to have a private 5G network connected to the internet by Starlink, and 4G and 5G public networks as our transmission solution to follow the flame, all simultaneously.”

While only one torch carries the flame at a time, there are several ‘back up’ flames that have travelled from Olympia, Greece – just in case…

Finding a solution

The process for creating a suitable way to connect everything on the ground and transmit the live footage to France Télévisions’ headquarters in Paris had to be fast, but it required a lot of customisation as there was nothing suitable ‘off the shelf’.

Says Rat: “First we talked with our long term partner, TVU Networks, and we remembered that we saw a little company at IBC last year, called Obvios.”

Founded in 2023, Obvios is a spin off of b<>com, a French Technological Research Institute. Its private 5G solution – called Dome – provides a standalone core network solution for ultra-reliable, high bandwidth, mobile and secure connectivity, essentially creating a portable 5G bubble.

Continues Rat on Obvios: “We talked with them and they presented us with what they did for the military. We proposed to them to another solution; we said, “we’ve got an idea. We’d like to do this, to do that. What do you think?” and they said, “oh, yeah. It’s amazing. Let’s go,” and we were off. However, at the beginning it was just about, “we will do something but with two cameras and we want it live. How can we manage the connection?”. Very quickly upon speaking together, we explained to Obvios that if we do X, Y and Z, in fact we can have more cameras.”

Meanwhile, France TV has a pre-existing partnership with TVU Networks. Says Rat: “When I contacted them and said, “we’ve got the idea to do that, to do that”. It was a very big challenge for us, and it was also always a very big challenge for them, because they had to develop a lot of things to adapt their software to our needs. But they said yes to participating to this adventure very quickly. It was very interesting for TVU to develop things and to adapt things, because it’s a big win for them.”

The final solution is that TDF – originally known as Télédiffusion de France – which manages all territorial broadcasting in France as a provider of communications infrastructures and telco networks, is working with Obvios, the build the integrated system. Meanwhile, Obvios is taking its 5G Dome technology and Starlink and creating a mesh network for the transmission.

TVU is providing all the cloud solutions for this production – including commentary, camera switching, mixing, and programming the channel – and it is also providing the transmission devices from the field with TVU One for 5G live video transmission. Finally, TVU Remote Commentator, TVU Producer, TVU Channel and AWS are being used at the France TV’s headquarters to get the content out to viewers.

Low risk high reward

In terms of risk for this production, Rat says it is low. He explains that with the public 4G and 5G plus private 5G and Starlink transmitting simultaneously, there is never any downtime.

“We’ve got two transmissions – 5G and Starlink – and both are working at the same time, and both are rescuing the other. The majority of the time both systems are transmitting at the same time. But, sometimes there is too many people and there is no more public 4G or 5G, but Starlink is working with the private 5G network. The other morning the car was in a very, very, very little street, with big, big houses. Then, Starlink was down, but the public 5G was working.

“Everybody talks to us about what is the rescue system, but, when you are in the Tour de France, sometimes the signal drops off because the transmission is not working, so, if you compare, we can say that we’ve got more security here. Here we’ve got a rescue because we’ve got two systems; two set ups for the transmission.”

There are two convoys following the flame at all times: the first has three cameras and focuses on capturing the front end of the action with the flame, runners and public; the second, which focuses primarily on beauty shots, has two cameras, a drone,, plus a journalist armed with a smartphone to film interviews along the route.

The solution works for the journey of the flame as although the first convoy vehicle stays with the torchbearer, sometimes it cannot be as close as would be preferred; perhaps due to the width of a road, it can be 50 to 100 metres behind the flame.

Rat says the connection still must work, and it must work automatically: “We need a secure connection and we don’t want to manage the connection setup, – whether that’s 4G or 5G public, private 5G, or Starlink – I didn’t want someone who will manage it each minute. I wanted to have something very intelligent, and we got it.” Paris 2024 will transition to Olympic coverage with the start of the football tournament, which begins on Wednesday 24 July, two days prior to the Olympic opening ceremony. Once the cauldron is lit in the Tuileries Garden in front of the Louvre museum, the channel will become the French destination for Olympic and Paralympic coverage.

Coverage of the Olympics will be shown on France Télévisions’ linear channels, France 2 and France 3, in parallel to the Paris 2024 digital channel.

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