SVGE FutureSport: After Supersport 2014, what lies in store for broadcasters in 2015?

In the concluding session of SVG Europe’s FutureSport 2014 at Lord’s, moderator Ken Kerschbaumer made reference to the exhausting sports broadcasting schedule of this year and asked what can we looked forward to seeing in 2015. Alan Bright, then director of operations at Presteigne Broadcast Hire [now director of engineering at IMG Studios] said that although next year will be somewhat quieter, they are still looking forward to a number of regular activities. “We want to push the boundaries of 4K. We are working with a number of manufacturers, principally Sony, in trying to mature the 4K market and find some clients who are actually willing to pay for it.”

Bright believed 2015 will provide an opportunity for OB companies who had to step in when the largest provider of facilities to the BBC pulled out of the market. “This will be a time for the innovations to be brought into reality and expanded. That is why we introduced the mesh technology and IP solutions. We used both on the Boat Race where feeds from some cameras were sent back over circuitry to BT Tower and then on to the truck for mixing. The other area is archive material being produced away from the OB itself. That will remove the need to carry around heavy and bulky drives to remote locations.”

David Shield, SVP global director of engineering and technology at IMG Media was able to provide a detailed look at one of the major events of next year – the Rugby World Cup tournament. The schedule calls for coverage of 48 matches between 18 September and 31 October at a variety of venues across England – and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. ITV Sport will be responsible for the world feed, with IMG acting as commercial advisors and providing the unilterals at the venues.

Shield explained that a number of specialist cameras will be in use, including ref cams, rail cams and line-out cams positioned on poles. “We have seen corner post cams used widely this year and that will continue. We will also see cameras in dressing rooms for the first time in Rugby World Cups.”

“We have had some interesting discussions with Hawkeye about something already in use on Premier League football, bringing back multiple angles that can be accessed through a web application. We are using that for citing commissioners on site at the IBC, and those feeds will also be available for teams to watch the game from eight different angles.”

The IBC will be stationed at IMG studios in west London, from where daily and weekly highlights packages will be produced. There will also be media conference translation service available.

Shield confirmed that all the comms for the tournament will be delivered over IP. He believes the opportunity exists for someone to offer 4K support for the tournament.

Beyond that, the concept of remote production will be high on IMG’s agenda for 2015. “We have 2 Gig into every Premier League venue, so we are talking about reducing our footprint on the ground, especially when it comes to unilateral interviews and for tactical coverage – maybe having a smaller van and bringing more material back to the studio.”

Creating an interactive riot

Moving away from ‘real’ games, Production Associates provides IPTV services for Riot Games’ League of Legends online contest. This interactive game attracts around 77 million participants, and accounts for three per cent of all bandwidth around the world. Colin Cradock, technical producer and COO explained that 60 hours of games are provided each week from four remote locations. “We are also expanding on the e-sports side of things with video games – especially for the Asian market.”

Michael Thuney, the global television producer and CEO of Production Associates’ added that the set up for Riot Games is just as involved as, say, the Commonwealth Games. “We broadcast in 13 languages with facilities that are similar to that of a regular broadcast event. Our MCR is in Los Angeles, with producers in New York and we have other production people in Berlin.”

For a recent production, 23 cameras were used with return feeds to all the various locations. “Everyone says, why not just plug into the game? But this is a five on five activity and we have Point of View cameras on each player so we capture winning moments and all other emotions that go into traditional sports.”

Cradock added that there were 7000 spectators in the stands watching the final. “We arranged a number of shows in Asia and the numbers ranged from 3000 up to 47000, but we always got around 52 million hits.”

The images are set back to the US where the multiviews from the flypacks at the location are seen, recreated and then sent to MCR. The images are fed back to Production Associates for sending to the live screen in the venue. “We do all of this is the US because it is difficult to get the right equipment in some of these areas of Asia.”

He said that one of his biggest problems was obtaining fibre lines into the venues. “The provider wanted a four year contract, but we only need the circuit for three days! The other problem is retaining the high resolution of the game itself when it is being broadcast. We are talking to gamers about whether they want to go down the 4K route.”

Thuney stated, “We have set the standards level for production values that others will have to meet. This is the future – and we have people wanting to buy into these events from many remote sites.”

Shield completed the discussion by replying to the question ‘what is on your shopping list for 2015?’ “Buying bandwidth. I’d like10 Gigs for a day!”

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters