Changing the rules of the game for dynamic sports productions

LiveU’s Ronen Artman discusses the return of live sports in the COVID-19 era and the increasing importance of remote production workflows.

In 2008, LiveU launched its first product, changing forever the way that content is gathered, disrupting existing workflows with far greater flexibility, mobility and at a vastly reduced price point compared to satellite and fibre. The newsgathering sector soon came to rely on LiveU.

Recently, there are several clear trends that we’ve all seen evolving: the rise of remote production, especially across the sports market but not exclusively so; the growth in remote working more widely because of the considerable challenges presented by remaining safe during the spread of COVID-19; the development, testing and initial deployments of 5G; and the continually increasing use of LiveU technology across the sports market globally.

Having come to dominate the newsgathering market, we have witnessed a huge rise in the use of LiveU across the sports sector over the past few years. From the Rugby World Cup, where our technology was used both to gather content and also as a disaster recovery solution, to the FIA World Rally Championship; cycling coverage in the UK and South Africa to motorsports with our relationship with Griiip, it’s been a period of tremendous growth. And that’s just a few examples of what we’ve achieved.

We all know that the sports market has been particularly badly hit by COVID-19 and the multiple challenges that brings. While sports are returning, this varies greatly around the world and it’s clear there are ongoing challenges in terms of social distancing and therefore maximising coverage and fan engagement. Remote production – indeed remote working more widely – is crucial going forward.

“We need to work together to keep productions happening wherever possible. This requires not only technological innovation but also working more closely than ever with customers to understand the precise requirements of each production.”

The benefits are immense: optimised resource allocation as well as cost savings with technology enhancements contributing to very high-quality video. With today’s COVID-19 protocols, having minimum people on-site is a critical advantage and this dovetails with today’s budget limitations.

Using LiveU’s Remote At-Home Production (REMI) solution coupled with our Precision Timing™ technology means that customers can produce multi-camera live sports events using wireless technology instead of costly traditional transmission methods. Everything is handled safely from a centralised studio, with minimum staff on-site and no need for a dedicated on-site OB/SNG truck – saving up to 70% on production costs.

But we have known for some time that to reach right across Tier 1 sports, and to do for remote production what we did for newsgathering, we needed to disrupt the market again.

In early June we launched the brand new LU800 (pictured above), the first production-level field unit, changing the rules of the game for live news and dynamic sports productions. It combines multi-camera production and superior video and audio capabilities with mission-critical transmission in a native 5G unit. The LU800 supports up to four fully frame-synced feeds in high resolution from a single unit, using powerful IP bonding of up to 14 connections.

The unit also offers the highest-quality video performance, with up to 4Kp60 10-bit HDR transmission for optimal colour depth and richness, as well as up to 16 audio channels for high-end productions. For the sports market, this is truly next-generation technology. Of course, the LU800 also works exceptionally with 4G. And there’s our compact LU300 HEVC unit too.

What is REMI/At-Home Production?

In terms of remote production, we had already established a powerful reputation. The LU800 takes this to the next level, bringing together 5G and remote production in a multi-camera unit to provide customers with both the flexibility and premium production qualities they rightly demand. With the return of live sports, 5G is expected to play a significant role in live production and contribution.

We also offer a rich set of production tools for smooth communication between on-site crews and remote production teams, including Video Return, Tally Lights and Audio Connect. Live feeds can also be shared with a larger audience as part of an end-to-end content workflow, with the LU800 (and other field units) combined with the LiveU Matrix cloud-based content management and distribution solution.

Then there’s our IP Pipe option, which provides remote control over a wide range of network-based equipment such as robotic/PTZ cameras and Camera Control Units (CCUs). Operating in parallel to live transmission, IP Pipe further increases operational efficiency and cost savings – equipping remote teams with new management and control capabilities over their field-based IP gear.

While there are clearly significant challenges across the market, we need to work together to keep productions happening wherever possible. This requires not only technological innovation but also working more closely than ever with customers to understand the precise requirements of each production. That is clearly a two-way street with LiveU able to share its ever-growing knowledge across remote production and beyond.

We owe it to fans for whom watching sport is a major part of their lives. With current attendance restrictions, this is more important than ever.

Ronen Artman is vice president of marketing at LiveU

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