IBC2015 Q&A: Vislink’s Ayes Amewudah on HeroCast, UltraCoder, and 4K MotoGP Production

Vislink made a splash at NAB 2015 in April by teaming with GoPro to reveal HeroCast, GoPro’s long-awaited POV camera for live-broadcast applications. The HeroCast platform, which has been installed at NHL arenas across the country and has generated plenty of interest for live sports production, was demonstrated at IBC along with several other Vislink systems, including its new UltraCoder and UltraDecoder lightweight 1RU half-rack HEVC/H.265 encoder and decoder.

Ayes Amewudah at the Vislink booth

Ayes Amewudah at the Vislink booth

SVG sat down with Ayes Amewudah, VP, sales and marketing, during the show to discuss how the new UltraCoder/Decoder platforms cater to both HD and 4K, the interest HeroCast has garnered, and Vislink’s role in Dorna Sports’ recent 4K production of the Octo British Grand Prix at Silverstone for BT Sport Ultra HD.

What is new at Vislink’s IBC booth this year?
We continue to be leaders in the area of RF. Over the past 18 months, we are really helping our customers do more for less by taking advantage of some of the newer technologies. Whether that is exploring better ways to produce point of view live, sending all of the transmissions back to the studio, newer ways of compression, all of those sorts of things.

Our HEVC UltraCoder encoder and decoder is one of our main features [at IBC]. The driver for that is not so much 4K, because 4K will happen when it happens. The driver is efficiency in using the spectrum; that’s what broadcasters really want. We are demonstrating [here at the booth] how we can produce the same HD quality at 10 Mbps, and we’re compressing that now down to 4 Mbps, less than half the bandwidth at the same HD quality. Now broadcasters can start to save significantly and get a return on investment on the products that they have from us. They can put that over the existing infrastructure. It’s just two boxes: an encoder and a decoder. They don’t have to go deep inside the rest of their production items to rebuild something just to take advantage of that. If you’re using it just in HEVC mode, the unit will take in four HD inputs and then send those all over the same channel. You’ve got one box where four were previously needed.

HeroCast created a lot of buzz when Vislink and GoPro unveiled it at NAB 2015. Can you provide an update on the customer interest and feedback since then?
We have HeroCast here at IBC, which seems to be gathering a lot of interest. Our relationship with GoPro is fully ruggedized. It’s not just something that happens to work with a GoPro; it’s been designed to integrate into that camera. So it does a lot of the things that they need their cameras to be able to do. You need to be able to drop it; you need it to be splash-proof. We’ve done what we’ve done with GoPro because they’re the best in their field in that particular market and we’re experts in RF.

There are a number of sports broadcasters that have seen how it opens up very cost-effective opportunities for more points of view. We’ve had discussions about really crazy things that people want to do for horse racing or for putting the HeroCast in goals as they do in the NHL. People are beginning to realize all these points of view are now possible. At the end of the day, the sports world is all about what angle can you give me that really gives me that feel for what is going on.

It allows [live sports producers] to think about what’s possible now. Before, it was always a clunky transmitter somewhere, and they’re really difficult to set up, and there was lots of excuses about what had to be done. Now this is a very simple thing. It works off existing DVB-T infrastructure. So, yes, we have a receiver here [at the show], which can be used, but, if you’ve got an existing DVB-T infrastructure, you just add this camera and the transmitter

Vislink’s RF equipment was used by Dorna Sports to produce the Octo British Grand Prix. Can you tell me about the role Vislink played and how you think it represents the progress toward 4K sports production?
Broadcasters are looking for ways to exploit 4K. It’s easier for the Netflixes of this world because they’re working off huge, fat pipes. But, for a broadcaster in the RF domain, it’s more challenging. Now, with our UltraCode and UltraDecoder and the wireless transmission of 4K we piloted for MotoGP at Silverstone, we are beginning to give broadcasters an option to be able to transmit in the same way as the others at 4K. It’s an evolving process, but we are very excited about it, and I think [the Octo British Grand Prix] was a big step forward for us and for broadcasters.

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