CP Communications Deploys IP-Based Transmission Technologies for Coverage of TCS New York City Marathon
CP Communications successfully provided live coverage – featuring direct feeds of the professional athlete races – at the 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 7 using IP encoding and bonded cellular solutions. It also managed the event’s Virtual Media Center (VMC) for remote journalists.
Film 45, in partnership with New York Road Runners, produced the five-hour live broadcast for ESPN2 and WABC-TV, and a three-hour live World Feed for international broadcasters. CP’s HD21 mobile unit served as the central hub for managing the production’s 30 inbound and 20 outbound video signals (including 14 feeds for the VMC). All inbound IP streams were decoded and converted to HD-SDI for distribution. CP also handled paint control for 14 cameras covering the race, which hosted approximately 25,000 runners across all five boroughs of New York City.
“This is the best year we’ve had for coverage, with 98 percent coverage of the course,” says Frank Rafka, senior RF tech manager for CP Communications. “IP encoding and bonded cellular have become more reliable in the last two years. We really had great success with such a complete changeover of technology. It really shows what the engineering teams at CP can do.”
Beyond video, all internal communications were handled by CP through the Unity IP-based intercom system managed on-site in HD21. Crew members — from camera operators to more than two dozen spotters on bicycles across the course — kept in contact via Sonim XP8 ruggedized smartphones. CP’s proprietary Unity Talent mic system was used for all on-course talent and interviews, providing a local mix for IFB, talkback, and on-air audio using the cell phones through a Dante audio interface.
Race coverage included footage from two helicopters, four smart cars and two motorcycles. Two cars featured robotic cameras on Black Arm stabilization systems, as well as Dream Chip POV cameras for on-camera talent coverage. There were also three remote production sites on the course, each supporting a handheld and jib camera. The sites featured two Mobile Viewpoint UltraLink-Air H.265 encoders, Mobile Viewpoint playout servers for confidence feeds and additional communications equipment.
“Our IP encoding and bonded cellular solutions require significantly less infrastructure than traditional RF,” explains Rafka. “We don’t have to deploy microwave equipment or rent rooftop space for receiver sites across the course, and we don’t need to assign personnel for all those receive sites. The TCS New York City Marathon production perfectly illustrates the narrative for adopting IP encoding and bonded cellular for large events.”
The VMC was built on CP’s FastReturn platform, a remote production workflow solution that provides content security and extensive user management. While the technology has been in place since 2019, CP has improved its low-latency performance as the importance of remote production has grown.
“With so many people living in a Zoom world, latency has become less and less acceptable,” explains Allen Harris, lead IP and bonded cellular specialist for CP Communications. “The Virtual Media Center was pushed to the forefront during a time where media are often covering events remotely.”
“During these times, enhancements and increased accessibility to industry-leading technologies, such as those provided by CP Communications, are essential in creating a positive experience for viewers tuning into the TCS New York City Marathon in more than 180 countries and territories around the world,” says Trina Singian, Head of Media & PR, NYRR. “Likewise, the need for creating technological solutions for global members of the media in today’s landscape have become crucial to providing effective digital solutions for journalists. The Virtual Media Center successfully extended New York Road Runners’ reach to markets across the globe.”
For the TCS New York City Marathon, CP used the raw camera feeds from the NEP program production and integrated the footage into four multi-viewer streams so journalists could follow different professional runner groups and the international broadcast. “We built the ‘looks’ in our HD21 production truck using Grass Valley multi-viewers, encoded the streams with Videon VersaStreamers, and pushed those video streams to cloud servers where we hosted the Virtual Media Center,” Harris recalled.
A virtual professional athlete media availability during race week was hosted via Zoom. CP used its CamSTREAM Collaborate all-in-one remote production and streaming solution – which features a PTZ camera and tripod along with a video encoder, return monitor, and UltraLink-Air bonded cellular transmitter for reliable connectivity with Zoom and other video collaboration platforms to enhance the virtual experience. Harris controlled the system remotely.
Approximately 40 journalists were active in the VMC during the livestream of the post-race top finishers press conference, asking questions through the Zoom Q&A feature. CP utilized its Mobile Viewpoint bonded cellular solution to share live video signals between the production truck and physical Media Center. The company installed playout servers in the Media Center, which received copies of the live feeds of the professional athlete races from the production truck that were displayed on large screens for the in-person press attendees.