Sport Facility Integration Summit: Understanding next-gen transport technologies

Next-gen video- and audio-transport technologies for large public venues offer ways to dramatically improve the quality of video and audio production in sports stadiums and venues. Because of the multiple ways in which these can be leveraged, venue operators and vendors alike face seemingly limitless possibilities. Understanding them, however, can result in just as many headaches.

Last week’s inaugural Sport Facility Integration Summit, held in conjunction with Integrated Systems Europe at the Amsterdam RAI, a panel of industry experts discussed the impact of the latest transport developments and how sports venues are using gear in interesting ways.

“NFL is a real showcase for Haivision and was a real stretch for [our] technology,” said Charles Dobson, VP, global channels, Haivision. “The league is responsible for generating a lot of their content, [and] what they wanted to do was connect all of those venues together. … They did this using Haivision HD encoding and decoding with a managed MPOS backbone to create an always-on real-time HD interactive network that lets them produce content on the fly.”

While a top league like the NFL in the U.S. or the Premier League in the UK has the resources for an advanced transport system like Haivision provides, not every league can follow suit.

“When you’re at that level, they can afford to build what they need to build, and we can have a very advanced discussion with somebody like that,” says Chuck Meyer, CTO, core products, Miranda. “On the other hand, we have a whole product line inside Miranda [geared toward leagues with fewer resources]. … Pulling the fiber through is the easy part. The rest of the technical equipment along with it has to make that transition, and that’s fundamentally the capital investment, so it’s a challenge.”

Beyond merely having resources, a team or league may not have the understanding of available technologies and workflows, particularly when it does not own and operate the venue (for example, collegiate venues owned and operated by the university).

“I think the technical-understanding level of the venues as customers varies widely,” said Bob Boster, president, Clear-Com. “The reasons for that are pretty clear: you have the organisations that have a venue as a part of their overall activity, but the media part — the communications part, the operation that we as a group are interested in — is not their specialisation, and, maybe in some cases, the entire existence of the venue isn’t their specialisation.”

The panelists agreed that venues, when looking to upgrade, face a certain amount of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’

“The venue operators watch each other very closely, I think, partly because they see themselves as competing with one another,” said Dobson, “but also because the technologies and tools that are available are moving so quickly that it’s really important for them to stay current [and] state-of-the-art in their industry.”

However, they continued, pursuing cutting-edge equipment for the sake of having cutting-edge equipment is a mistake. “‘Cutting edge’ is a dangerous idea to set in this marketplace, because I think the requirements for [an event like the Winter Olympics] is very different than what it might be for an NFL stadium or Premiership stadium,” said Boster. “The expectation … is different, the investment scheme is different, the levels of economic constraint … is different. There’s a lot going on there to deal with.”

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