TranSPORT: Broadcast, IT Continue To Converge in Remote-Production Compounds

Production compounds for major events like the Super Bowl and the NBA and MLB All-Star Games have mutated into sprawling, multisite setups that often feature a dozen or so mobile units and require hundreds of thousands of feet of cable. As a result, remote-production teams are developing new, high-efficiency technologies that cut down on everything from cabling to manpower in an effort to produce the best show possible at high-profile sports events.

“We are very big on shared resources and services, so it’s very critical to us to get everyone together,” CP Communications SVP of Sales and Marketing Kurt Heitmann said during a panel at SVG’s TranSPORT event last week. “When you have a Super Bowl, how many broadcasters do you have, and how many sources do you have to give them, and how do we get them to all work together? You need to share resources and services so that one technician can do the job of three. And I think that IP is going to help that one technician do the job of three.”

Through the Fiberglass, and What Truck Compounds Found There
As the face of the typical truck compound continues to change, one thing is certain: glass has become more popular than copper. Production teams are relying more and more on fiber to interconnect their operations and trucks, leaving the days of coax and triax cable in the rearview mirror.

“One of the biggest things that we have seen in the last few years has been the change over to fiber,” said Joe Zajac, sales and applications engineer, Gepco. “Our facility in Chicago was always much larger on the copper side, and it’s completely reversed now. The fiber lab is twice the size of the copper lab.”

The Great Convergence: Broadcast and IT
While the rise of fiber has dominated the remote-production landscape over the past half decade, the next half decade will likely focus on the next evolutionary step at the compound: the convergence of broadcast and IT.

“You have two different camps: your traditional broadcast camp and your IT camp,” said Bexel ESS Systems Engineer Lars Osterlind. “There is just so much more involved now at these larger setups. It’s all about talking and making sure the various entities meet and don’t leave any stone unturned. It’s definitely challenging sometimes.”

Although broadcast and IT staffers on-site continue to bridge the gap and find new ways to work together and make each other’s life easier, synergy between the two groups will become integral as IP technology becomes more prevalent at the compound.

“We need to work on this because we have no choice,” said Riedel Communications founder/Managing Director Thomas Riedel. “Today’s technology and components will simply not be available anymore in a few years, so we have no choice. I understand that you have the broadcast engineers here and the IT engineers over there and there’s a huge gap in between. But we need to work together sooner than later so future engineers have information from both camps.

IP Connectivity Beyond the Stadium and Arena
While events like the Super Bowl and All-Star Games at least boast the advantage of producing an event that takes place at a central stadium or arena, large-scale marathon and bicycle-race coverage is another story altogether.

Earlier this month, CP Communications was responsible for establishing the primary infrastructure for television and streaming coverage of the ING New York City Marathon. IP connectivity played a key role in the operations setup for both signal flow and communications.

“IP is changing what we do as a company, and a perfect example of that was at the Marathon,” said Heitmann. “This was the first year that the start line was an actual part of the broadcast compound and finish line. It was not considered a remote but an actual part of the compound — 26 miles away but still part of the compound. The reason for that was connectivity of communications.

“We think we are going to expand on that further, and, instead of using fiber optics through Verizon to get the signals back to the broadcast center, we are going to use IP,” he continued. “When IP connectivity is ready to be more than a backhaul and a truly reliable signal flow, that’s how we are going to do it. That’s what IP is going to give us.”

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