Sky Italia Debuts Channels for Football in HD, Sports News

By Kevin Hilton
To satisfy the apparently insatiable Italian appetite for televised sports, satellite broadcaster Sky Italia has launched two channels. Sky Calcio covers 22 football matches in HD each week and uses a cost-saving process of sending graphics over ISDN. Sky Sport 24 provides all the latest news on anything to do with kicking or throwing balls, running, jumping, and racing cars and bicycles.
Both channels have gone on-air from Sky Italia s new broadcast centre in
Milan, using Vizrt 3D graphics packages working in conjunction with Avid newsroom and control systems. Sky Sports 24 is a round-the-clock news service, with 17 hours of live programming a day, using Viz 3.2 and Pilot 5.1 for on-screen graphics.
A specially constructed control room contains eight Viz Engines for rendering 3D animations in real time. These work in conjunction with other Vizrt systems including Ticker, Content Pilot, Content Pilot Preview, and Touch Screen as well as connecting to a post rendering workstation and its backup. There are also three Viz servers, one for Content Pilot and two Viz Graphic Hubs.
An Avid Broadcast Control System (BCS) handles the transfer of the running order for playing out graphics, while a ControlAir works with a Viz Media Sequencer Engine for scheduling the Content Pilot. This last workstation is connected to the editorial-production chain, with the main Avid iNews systems able to access the graphics template using an ActiveX plug-in.
The graphics and templates for the Sky Italia sports channels were designed by Reality Check Studios (RCS) of
Los Angeles and are based on Viz Look-Ahead Transition Logic. This automatically creates individual layers of graphics, enabling any mix of information, statistics, and captions to be displayed and controlled independently.
Sky Calcio uses Viz 2.8, but Gabriel Galluccio, creative director at Sky Italia, hopes the graphics system will be upgraded later in the football season, most likely during the four-week break over Christmas and the New Year. A feature of the live transmission of Sky Calcio is the use of ISDN connections to carry encoded graphics. Galluccio explains that this keeps down the cost of the outside broadcast because only one satellite feed is needed, rather than two for the match and the graphics.
The broadcaster started the season with the big enough task of covering 11 Serie A matches a week, but the overall figure has risen to 22 now that Sky Italia has acquired satellite rights to cover the second-tier Serie B league as well.

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