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NAB Perspectives: Azzurro’s Lanton Details New All-in-One Transmission Briefcase, AzzurroCam Enhancements

April 24th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Jason Dachman

At NAB 2015, Azzurro Group unveiled an all-in-one transmission briefcase capable of transmitting HD video over minimal public-Internet bandwidth, as well as several enhancements to AzzurroCam, the system on which the company has made its name in sports production. The AzzurroCam HD live-shot system enables remote control of camera, audio, lighting, IFB, and more from a simple touchscreen and joystick. The system has become a staple of NFL Network’s Draft coverage in recent years and is deployed at several pro franchises’ and talent’s homes to enable quick live shots with minimal investment.

SVG sat down with Azzurro Group Director of Technology Dave Lanton to discuss the new transmission briefcase, the latest enhancements to AzzurroCam, and how the rise of “at-home production” for live sports coverage correlates with the company’s long-standing strategy of centralized production.

What is new at the Azzurro Group booth this year?
This [briefcase] is a satellite truck. Our new transmission briefcase is small enough to fit in the overhead compartment on the plane and is a public-Internet, broadcast-quality transmission box with two transmits, two receives. You get HD-quality video at 5 MBps per stream or much, much higher if you have [the bandwidth]. It has monitoring, a waveform vectorscope, audio metering, and VoIP telephone, so it really is everything you’d find on a satellite truck but in a briefcase. We’re very excited about this.

Have you shipped any of these units for live work in the field yet?
We already have 12 portable systems [in the field] for the NFL Network — though it’s a different model than we have at the show here. They use them for everything from the Draft to Sunday live shots on the field, using their own Internet connection, to the commissioner’s awards, which are in a hotel and they get bandwidth from the hotel. During training camp in the summer, they cover all 32 teams for weeks at a time, and they are usually on college campuses, where bandwidth is plentiful. They use all 12 of them at 12 campuses around the country. Instead of renting a satellite truck for two or three weeks, they have the box hooked up to the Internet, and it’s transmit and receive, so they can send back off-air return for the reporter, and it’s everything they do in a satellite truck, but the cameraman carries it around with him and plugs it right in.

What updates have you made to AzzurroCam?
There are a couple of enhancements to some of our features. We have a multicamera version, which includes a production switcher. So now you have remote control over camera, audio, lighting, IFB. and communications, [and] you can also cut the show. So you don’t have to have a production truck. You might have three, four, or as many as 16 cameras, and you can control the cameras, see what’s in program and preview, do effects, insert graphics. All of this can be done by remote. We have done a couple of special use cases and custom builds with this multicamera [functionality], but this is being rolled out as a regular product. [Among the] enhancements [are] increasing the number of cameras and adding the ability to insert graphics with the downstream keyer.

Also, we can now control a large video monitor for seamless-loop animations behind your talent. In an insert studio, it used to be you’d have some kind of fixed background like a bookcase or a skyline; now a lot of studios use a 65- or a 70-in. TV, and it fills the screen behind your talent. We can control what’s in that monitor from the touchscreen. You don’t have to rely on the talent to turn on the monitor, figure out which clip to play on a Blu-ray player; it’s completely automated.

The point [of AzzurroCam] is [to] have very few technical people onsite or even zero technical people onsite. We do a lot of installs in talent’s homes. As long as they can find the X on the floor where to sit or stand and put on their mic and earpiece, the lights turn on by remote, the audio is adjusted by remote, the camera gets framed by remote, and they’re on TV. So talent no longer has to travel to do a live shot.

How do you see AzzurroCam and your other systems contributing to the hot trend of at-home productions in sports?
Now that transmission is becoming more and more possible over the public Internet, it makes a lot of sense. It used to require having to put in T1 lines or some kind of very expensive, multiyear-contract bandwidth in a talent’s home. Now HD, broadcast quality, low latency are possible over the public Internet with a cable modem or FIOS modem. It used to be, the limiting factor was bandwidth availability and the high cost. Take that out of the equation, and you can put these everywhere.