FEED Xtreme May/June 2022 - Web

MAY/ JUNE 2022

Helping you build winning sports content

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FIRST ISSUE! WOMEN’S FOOTBALL / SPORTS & ZERO CARBON ADVERTISING TO GAMERS / SMART STADIUMS

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SOMETHING

EDITORIAL EDITOR IN CHIEF Neal Romanek +44 (0) 1223 492246 nealromanek@bright-publishing.com

YOUR SPORTS CONTENT JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT BETTER

DIGITAL AND FEATURES EDITOR Verity Butler

CHIEF SUB EDITOR Alex Bell

SUB EDITORS Matthew Winney, Harriet Williams CONTRIBUTORS Michael Burns, Fergal Ringrose ADVERTISING GROUP AD MANAGER Sam Scott-Smith +44 (0) 1223 499457 nealromanek@bright-publishing.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGERS Stephen Palmer +44 (0) 1223 499453 stephenpalmer@bright-publishing.com Emma Stevens +44 (0) 1223 499462 +44 (0) 7376 665779 emmastevens@bright-publishing.com

W ELCOME TO FEED:Xtreme . When the first issue of FEED launched, almost exactly four years ago, covering the revolution in sports content was baked into it from the start. Our opening salvo included coverage of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, an interview with esports magnate James Dean, a platform for streaming youth sports in the Nordics and delivering matches to fans of UK football teamDerby County. By the end of that first year, that sports section was already being called “Xtreme”. When FEED went from a monthly magazine to our quarterly deluxe editions, Xtreme grew too. It became a “magazine within a magazine”, with distinctive paper stock and specially designed covers. We had considered a sports mag in the early days, encouraged by our partnerships with major sports industry events – and our supporters doing cool things around sports content that they wanted to show off.

But it took FEED ’s features and digital editor, Verity Butler, to give the final push. Her presentation to the team made it clear this was a no-brainer. A fewmonths later, here we are. We’re aiming to make Xtreme a hub for anyone trying to build exceptional sports content – whether that’s an international broadcaster at a big event, a college playoff, a global esports tournament, or even local youth athletics. Xtreme is for anyone wanting to get content in front of the best fans, in the best way possible. Sports isn’t just another media business – it’s about real people, pushing themselves to excel. In a world becoming increasingly digitised, the best sports content encourages us to come together and celebrate what human beings can really accomplish. Sports is action, drama, poetry, contact... sports is real. FEED:Xtreme is dedicated to helping sports brands of all sizes bring this magic to everyone, in bigger and better ways.

DESIGN DESIGNER AND AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong JUNIOR DESIGNER Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman

DESIGN MANAGER Alan Gray

DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings PUBLISHING MANAGING DIRECTORS Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck

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NEAL ROMANEK, EDITOR IN CHIEF nealromanek@bright-publishing.com

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There’s a new player on the field! FEED:Xtreme will show you how to make the most of your sports content 06 WELCOME TO XTREME!

08 NEWS

The latest updates on technology and innovations around sports content

16 LIVE BROADCAST

24 STADIUMS

Mobile and 5G are turning stadiums into immersive content hubs – here’s how

We take a look behind the scenes at this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing

28 ROUND TABLE

36 ONE-ON-ONE

Xtreme sat down with football pro Bex Smith, to talk about the boom in the women’s game

Technology experts come together to discuss the revolution in distributed production

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CONTENTS

A report from Altman Solon analyses the interest in women’s sport, from a global perspective 40 WHAT’S THE SCORE?

44 ESPORTS

We get up close with the broadcast innovations behind last year’s Dota 2 classic

Brands are finding a whole new audience to advertise to – gamers. And the potential is massive 50 IN-GAME ADVERTISING

60 TEAMWORK

56 HYBRID SPORTS

We look at how sports are raising awareness of the environmental crisis – and taking action to beat it

What do you get when you combine video games with physical sports?

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INSIDE XTREME

WELCOME TO FEED:XTREME!

FEED’s popular sports section Xtreme is launching as its own media brand! A S ONE OF the top news and information sources for the broadcast industry, ready to go into the world as its own B2B media brand! FEED:Xtreme is a bimonthly

FEED has always made sports coverage a priority. The section Xtreme dealt with the latest news, as well as case studies, interviews, round tables and analysis from the world of sports and action media. With more FEED readers – and partners – taking an interest, the section grew bigger until... well, we’re proud to announce that Xtreme has outgrown the confines of FEED magazine and is finally

magazine, accompanied by content across multiple media, including video, web and events. Whether you’re a broadcaster, a stadium, an esports company, a college conference or even a high school team, Xtreme will offer you case studies, tech profiles, research and expert opinion to help take your media to the next level. So, what exactly can you look forward to in Xtreme ?

GAME ZONE

Live is at the core of sports broadcast. Delivering action as it happens is more than just getting the perfect shot. It’s the right workflows, communications and distribution partners. There’s only one chance to capture a goal. Miss it, and you’re fighting off a lot of angry fans – and advertisers. Learn how the experts are innovating on the pitch and in LIVE BROADCAST

Xtreme ’s ever-popular Game Zone section will continue, with even more coverage of esports, gaming and digital competition. From lone Twitch streamers to fully VR- enabled combat in virtual environments, the video gaming sector is a wellspring of new content – watched by a fan base that dwarfs most conventional sports. Game Zone will educate on esports trends, while illustrating how gaming can be turned into content in surprising and lucrative ways.

the studio, using everything from cellular networks to satellite, bringing audiences closer. Live broadcast is in a whole new realm, with remote production and cloud-based tools replacing dispatched crews and OB vehicles. This, plus other innovations around lighting, power and smart vehicles, means that the sector is getting greener!

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INSIDE XTREME

STADIUMS

OTT & STREAMING

Easily available streaming platforms mean that even a small sports brand can reach people globally. Whether broadcasting via social media, or through your own platform servicing millions of fans, Xtreme will introduce you to technologies and techniques to leverage everything internet distribution has to offer. The majority of fans are now ready to access content on multiple devices, via streaming and on-demand. This is an amazing opportunity for entrants into sports media to interact in newer or better ways – offering a different level of engagement for existing broadcasters, clubs and federations.

Of course, it’s ‘stadia’, not ‘stadiums’ – as you well know. The word ‘stadium’ originally indicated a measure of length, about 1/8 of a Roman mile – around 180 metres – and was derived from the Greek ‘stadion’, meaning both a running race in the original Olympics, the building in which that race was run, and the length of that race (again around 180m). Events today aren’t that different from 750 BC Greece.

What has changed is how spectators can enjoy the action, with big screen A/V, interactive mobile content, pre- and post-game initiatives, and ever-expanding capabilities for connectivity and production. Whether it’s a school football pitch or a one-of- a-kind international event space, Xtreme ’s coverage and insight around stadium tech will help you build the best live experience possible for fans.

COACHING FROM THE EXPERTS

ON THE SAME TEAM

Sports can inspire us to rally around a community, or just get out the door and challenge ourselves. Contrary to the misinformed opinions of a few, sports has always been a force for social and political influence. The initiative of individual athletes can encourage society to do better. Muhammad Ali’s outspoken protests against war and racism cost him his title, but

became an inspiration for human rights activists around the world. Today, organisations and athletes are increasingly vocal about issues like gender equity, racial justice, and bringing people together to take on the biggest challenge humanity has faced – environmental collapse. Xtreme brings you those stories of how sports media is being used to make the world better.

In every issue, Xtreme talks with top innovators about new ways of getting sports action to audiences, building revenue and staying on the cutting-edge of content creation. We sit down with broadcasters, heads of leagues, clubs and federations, technologists, start-up innovators and, of course, athletes. Round tables discuss fan engagement, workflows, sustainability or esports. Provocative conversations yield important insights. Not just for readers, but also the participants.

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NEWS

WORDS BY VERITY BUTLER

Here at Xtreme, we will be keeping you bang up to date with all of the latest news on sports broadcast tools and tech

IN-GAME RELIEF FOR UKRAINE

Frequently asked questions swirled initially over the fact this figure may not be as bulky as it pertained to be. This was directly addressed by a blog post on the Fortnite website. “We’re not waiting for the actual funds to come in from our platform and payment partners, which can take a while depending on how the transaction was processed. As transactions are reported, we’ll log them and send the funds to the humanitarian relief organisations within days.” Key organisations being assisted by this money include Direct Relief, Unicef, UN World Food Programme and World Central Kitchen.

Over the past few months, we have all born witness to the creative initiatives being hatched globally by international companies collecting humanitarian aid and donations towards the ongoing war in Ukraine. But the giants that have topped the charitable tables – swiping the title of biggest corporate donors – weren’t a global bank, or enormous tax firm. Instead, they hailed from the esports stratosphere. Through Fortnite in-game purchases, Epic Games and Microsoft collaboratively raised over $70 million (as of 25 March) during a 20 March-3 April fundraising drive. To demonstrate a scaled contrast, Meta (Facebook) donated $15m, Amazon $10m and Samsung $6m.

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NEWS

Diving deep: British triathlete Alistair Brownlee is the only individual to hold two Olympic titles in his event, winning gold medals at both the 2012 and 2016 games

A new broadcast partner was announced earlier this year for the Mana Sports and Entertainment Group. Gravity Media will step up to the production plate for the colossal Pho3nix Sub7 and Sub8 Project – powered by Zwift. Held during a two-day window of 5-6 June 2022, at the Dekra Lausitzring in Germany, the project sees Olympic medallists and athletes vying to achieve record-breaking triathlon times – under seven hours for men, under eight hours for women. The project involves a stonking 9.5-hour live broadcast. With eight hours of racing bookended by pre- and post-show content, it will require careful planning and scrupulous expertise. Gravity Media’s selection came as little surprise, with a demonstrable niche in triathlon coverage. Its history includes the Super League Triathlon broadcast at Hamilton Island and Ironman documentaries – as well as Olympic experience. “This gruelling triathlon world record event will be matched by our innovative broadcast technology to engage fans through interactivity and immersion by being put in the athletes’ shoes, through backstories and on-screen race data analytics,” said head of production for Gravity Media in Australia, Mike Purcell. DEFYING GRAVITY

UNREAL ESPORTS

Real-time technology has been on the rise, deployed to enhance broadcast and live content. With this growth, there have been swathes of products cropping up on the market to accommodate this production model. One is an Unreal Engine sample called the Hype Chamber. It’s part of a reimagining of the Rocket League Championship Series.

The sample illustrates how to design, develop and play out a multitude of animation elements for esports shows, using advanced Blueprint and data table workflows. Artists can learn how to switch 3D models, textures, materials and lighting – all using one Blueprint controller. It includes motion graphics animations, designed to be played out live, or as pre-rendered content.

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NEWS

AI-POWERED HIGHLIGHTS Premier Sports has partnered with WSC Sports to bring automated highlights to its subscription-based Premier Sports TV channel, OTT channel Premier Player, and Premier Sports channel on Amazon Prime for LaLiga games and the Scottish Cup, among others. Machine- learning technology will analyse actions in real- time, index, crop and apply graphics to videos, creating personalised highlights for audiences in the UK and Ireland. Premier Sports hopes the AI platform will help scale up content production, providing highlights to fill linear TV LFP TACKLES PIRATES channels right after an event. Content will also be available on the Amazon Prime Premier Sports VOD channel. French football governing body LFP is using the Anti-Piracy Center services from Orange subsidiary Viaccess-Orca (VO) to fight against IPTV networks. Under the agreement, the LFP will benefit from VO’s expertise in video security, investigation and security audits. A team of specialists will rely on dynamic watermarking to identify the sources of piracy and request immediate action. VO’s Anti-Piracy Center will help LFP combat content redistribution via a team of experts skilled in video security, investigation and security audits. LFP will be able to tailor the security services to address each unique piracy case.

HIGH SEAS, LOW CARBON

“THE SKYBOT-CAM WILL BE RELEASED AT SAILGP”

A collaborative project has been unveiled between Riedel Communications, SailGP Technologies and Skyroads. Aiming to provide coverage that is more immersive, as well as producing substantially less CO2, the partnership will deliver a $20m order of Skybot-Cam systems – which combine high-payload drones with professional broadcast, gyro- stabilised camera systems. “Today’s professional airborne broadcast camera systems are mainly helicopter-based and require enormous organisational, technical and budgetary effort for a photographic platform that, although creating high-quality pictures, is unsustainable in the long run,” stated SailGP CTO Warren Jones. “SailGP Technologies

stands for innovation in sustainable sports as part of its ‘Better Sport – Better Future’ strategy, and it is partnerships with forward-thinking companies like Riedel and Skyroads that allow us to achieve this.” The Skybot-Cam will be released at SailGP, acting as the first event to use the new technology. “This partnership reflects our commitment to enhance innovation in order to create future-oriented formats, focusing on environmental and safety aspects,” said Riedel Group CEO Thomas Riedel.

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NEWS

In-game advertising specialists, Adverty, recently added over 150 games from Roblox into its growing portfolio, following a partnership with Super League Gaming – including distribution in the US, the Nordics and selected Latin America markets. As Roblox currently sits as the world’s most popular gaming destination, with over 200 million monthly players, it’s certainly a partnership of considerable note. BUILDING BLOX

“Ad offerings in the metaverse will eventually be seen as no different than banner ads on traditional websites, or indeed ads in the physical world,” said Adverty chief supply officer Thorbjorn Warin. “Roblox is the ideal location for brands to build presence and integrate assets into pre-existing experiences, or build dedicated worlds within the platform.” Super League recently acquired Bloxbiz, an ad platform specifically for metaverse environments.

PRISM PROMISES TOP COLOUR

CLEAR TALK IN ENDURANCE RACING

The Corvette Racing team has invested in IP intercom technologies from Clear-Com, including the Eclipse HX Digital Matrix, FreeSpeak II digital wireless systems and the Agent- IC mobile app. In 2019, Corvette Racing switched from two- way radios and single-channel intercoms, to the Clear-Com systems for its endurance races. EHX enables connection to or from any third-party device using AES67, allowing the configuration

and seamless integration of FreeSpeak Edge 5GHz wireless beltpacks and transceivers. Corvette Racing is also using Clear-Com’s Agent-IC mobile app for remote race management. Team engineers in the US have connected on their phones to a race site in Belgium, and maintained communications with crews and drivers – an option for stakeholders who don’t need to be on-site for a whole race, but still need to be in touch.

Teradek has added a new 4K HDR encoder/ decoder to its range. Prism Flex delivers secure low latency, colour-accurate 4K HDR video streaming in AVC or HEVC – with secure monitoring options for viewing streaming content, with latency over WAN as low as 300ms on AppleTV, Mac OS and iOS devices. Its

12G-SDI and HDMI I/O allow for easy workflow integration. Paired with Teradek’s Core cloud platform, Prism Flex allows users to remotely manage and

distribute streams to all destinations simultaneously.

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NEWS

DISASTER READY IN THE CLOUD NESN (New England Sports Network) is protecting on-air assets with a cloud-based disaster recovery solution. The business continuity plan features Imagine’s Versio integrated playout infrastructure, optimised in the cloud with AWS. The implementation takes the live feeds from stadiums in parallel – one back to the main playout centre and one to the cloud. Using an automated process that mirrors on-prem content and operations in the cloud, Imagine ensures commercials and playlists are up to date and ready to air. In the event of failure, output can be switched to the cloud. The deployed solution will also automate the playlist processing. Control of the changeover, and of live playout, can be implemented from any location with an internet link.

NEW COMMS IN NEW HAVEN

Yale Athletics has used Studio Technologies to support comms for its new video boards and workflow, used by nine varsity teams across three venues, including the Yale Bowl. An intercom connection between production and on-field personnel was created with a Dante audio workflow, using Ethernet transported over the new fibre infrastructure, employing Studio Technologies’ Model 5422A Dante Intercom Audio Engine. In the control room, the Studio Technologies Model 348 Intercom Station allowed monitoring of all live channels, plus direct channels with specific production personnel. The Model 205 Announcer’s Console enables talent cueing and dual talkback, and the Model 371A, Model 373A and Model 374A Intercom Beltpacks provide direct access to live audio.

Extreme E has confirmed an extension of its broadcast agreement with national Brazilian pay-TV channel, SporTV, to televise the Championship’s second season. “This continuing partnership with Globo TV is crucial. Brazilians have a huge passion for motor sport and Extreme E has proven to be no different, EXTREME EXTENSIONS

alongside its focus of shining a light on significant issues affecting our planet,” said Extreme E chief marketing officer Ali Russell. Belonging to Latin America’s largest media company Globo, SporTV is a a pay-tv channel.

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NEWS

HAMMERING CYBERTHREATS

Cyber-protection organisation, Acronis, has announced an official Cyber Protection Partnership with English Premier League football club, West Ham. The club’s IT department will utilise the Acronis Cyber Protect, a machine intelligence-enhanced solution that integrates data protection with cybersecurity. This will in turn prevent cyberattacks and lessen downtime. “We are thrilled to team up with Acronis,” said West Ham chief commercial officer Nathan Thompson. “Protecting our data, which includes that of our supporters, is of the highest priority for us – and Acronis is the perfect partner to help us do so. Acronis is the industry benchmark of quality and security, and a company we are looking forward to working very closely with over the coming seasons.” The new tech pairs automation with integration and ensures the prevention, detection, response, recovery and analysis needed to safeguard all workloads, while simultaneously streamlining protection efforts.

Genius Sports Limited partnered up with Pixellot, in a bid to deliver AI-automated live video and data to over 100 competitions around the world. Terms of the agreement include the acquisition by Genius Sports of the exclusive rights to distribute Pixellot’s camera systems to leagues and federations globally. This allows Genius Sports to sign long-term partnerships with sports that deliver TV broadcasts and clipped highlights, while automating each step of production, streaming and distribution. The two companies already have a successful working history, across the Argentine Football Association, Croatian Basketball Federation and A STROKE OF GENIUS

“THE TWO COMPANIES HAVE A WORKING HISTORY”

Israeli Basketball Association, delivering live data and video solutions. “Integrating live video and data with new viewing and analysis options is already impacting millions of fans, athletes and coaches,” said Pixellot CEO Alon Werber. “This exciting partnership with Genius Sports brings additional monetisation options to create long- term revenue streams for sports organisations.”

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LIVE BROADCASTING

A LANDMARK WINTER OLYMPICS The delayed Summer Olympics in Tokyo meant Olympic Broadcasting Services had to scramble to get Beijing up and running. But the successful Winter Games met expectations, with tech milestones including an entirely UHD HDR broadcast WORDS BY NEAL ROMANEK

T he last time the Olympics were in Beijing was summer 2008 – and in technological terms, that’s an age ago. Apple had only recently launched a fancy mobile phone with a somewhat promising future. The remarkable advancement for those Summer Games was that they were the first entirely in HD. Those 2008 Games were a chance for China to be seen by the world as a high-tech, highly modernised country. For the 2022 Beijing Winter

the Olympics since 2001. “China is far more technically advanced now. There have been leaps forward – and you can see it everywhere. The introduction of mobile is extremely high, sometimes higher than other developed nations.” As a result, the expectations were on another level for this Olympic presentation, and they didn’t disappoint. The Beijing Games were the first Winter Olympics to be shot and presented entirely in UHD HDR – and widely deploy 5G networks for broadcast contribution. It also enabled remote access for affiliates in new, more flexible ways. These landmarks would have been impressive for any Olympics broadcast, but Salamouris’ team faced unprecedented difficulties.

Olympics 14 years later, China needed no such introduction.

RETURN TO BEIJING “It was almost like being in a different country,” says Sotiris Salamouris, Olympic Broadcasting Services CTO, who has helped capture and transmit

6000+ TOTAL HOURS OF OLYMPIC COVERAGE

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LIVE BROADCASTING

IP IS REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIRED, BUT THE OLYMPIC BROADCASTING SERVICES STILL USED 8684KM OF CABLING

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LIVE BROADCASTING

“OBS HAD TO PRESENT THE WORLD’S LARGEST SPORTS BROADCAST TWO TIMES IN ONE YEAR”

Due to the Covid-enforced postponement of the Tokyo Summer Games until 2021, OBS had to present the world’s largest sports broadcast two times in one year. “This has never happened before – and it hasn’t been easy. Normally, we have a year and a half between each edition of the Games in order to prepare, but thanks to the postponement, this period was squeezed to just a fewmonths,” explains Salamouris. The technological advancement in China enabled this fast turnaround, with partners Alibaba helping to deploy new cloud services, with China Unicom providing network coverage; Alibaba has been the cloud services supplier to the International Olympic Committee and OBS since 2018.

“If we had to deal with problems like infrastructure or readiness, it would have become overwhelming. The fact that we had a really stable technological set-up there – and local employees we could bring on – really helped alleviate the challenges caused by the Covid-19 postponement,” says Salamouris. “We had to send some of our people to Beijing, while the Tokyo Games were taking place. We were a bit lucky that both cities were in similar time zones. Once we finished Tokyo, we started sending equipment and personnel directly to Beijing.” SNOWBALLING EXPECTATIONS OBS could stick to its original, ambitious plans, making this the first completely UHD HDRWinter Games. Four years ago, the Pyeongchang event had 4K cameras in the mix, but 4K plus high dynamic range is now the standard. The Beijing Olympics were also entirely IP-based – a core enabler of the UHD workflows and easier management and distribution of content. Remote coverage really hit its stride at these Games. For last summer’s extravaganza in Tokyo, broadcasters around the world scrambled to produce coverage fully from their home bases, with

ZHANGJIAKOU

YANQING

BEIJING

The Beijing Olympics actually took place in three locations: Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou CHINA

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LIVE BROADCASTING

Social platforms have become essential for sports fans – and the business. NBCUniversal partnered with TikTok to promote coverage of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The broadcaster created daily content for multiple handles, including @NBCSports, @NBCOlympics and @PeacockTV, and also produced a three-episode live stream on the platform, hosted by a TikTok creator. NBCUniversal noted that Olympics content got over 18 billion views on TikTok, so it offered to collaborate directly. Ironically, TikTok isn’t available in China, although it is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The Chinese government loosened internet restrictions for Olympic venues and athletes. Stopping them posting with their medals was something they dared not do. KEEPING IT SOCIAL

25 RIGHTS-HOLDING BROADCASTERS (INCLUDING THE OLYMPIC CHANNEL) WERE CONTRACTED TO BRING THE GAMES TO THE WORLD, WITH OVER 130 BROADBAND LICENSEES

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LIVE BROADCASTING

Number of cameras used in the broadcast Number of microphones 1624 660+

very few actually sending teams to Tokyo. A remote trend already underway was forced into the mainstream – and has become cemented for some broadcasters as a preferred mode of coverage. Why transfer your own staff to sit rink-side, when you can comment directly on the content produced by the OBS International Broadcast Centre (IBC) from your own studio, or from another location your expert commentator might be in? A predictable result of this increase in remote coverage was the boom in virtual sets and graphics, with broadcasters like the BBC continuing to evolve the elaborate virtual experience it has been employing for other sporting events, such as Uefa Euro 2020 and the

Tokyo Olympics. The Beijing virtual studio was driven by Vizrt technology, and took the form of a CG ski lodge. DUAL OLYMPICS One part of the Winter Games set-up that distinguishes it from the Summer is its two hubs, with a split between the enclosed ‘ice venues’, and outdoor ‘ski venues’. The broadcast infrastructure for the Summer Olympics is a hub-and- spoke model, with the IBC at its centre – but for the Winter Games, the IBC was in Beijing, covering the ice venues. The snow venues, featuring skiing and snowboarding, were in the mountains quite far from the IBC in Zhangjiakou, more than 200km from the city. The snow venues had their own premises, called the ZBC – Zhangjiakou Broadcast Centre – which was connected to the IBC by multi-redundant fibre connections, provided by China Unicom. “We were blessed to be able to implement our initial vision, but of course it didn’t happen without sophisticated planning,” says Salamouris. “The Olympics is all highly orchestrated. We had the tools and knowledge, and managed to do it without too many sacrifices.”

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LIVE BROADCASTING

Wondering how much kit is used during an Olympics broadcast? Here’s the tech breakdown from NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Games

U S Olympics rights holder NBC Sports brought together a raft of its regular tech vendors for coverage of the XXIV Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing – across NBC, Peacock, USA Network, CNBC, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. NBC used over 100 Sony cameras to capture footage and athlete interviews at venues, for studio and portable recording and capture. A selection, including the HDC- 3500, were used for IP-enabled transmission, with the rest in SDI. There were alsomore than 300 Sony professional monitors – including the BVM-HX310 4K HDRMaster for critical picture evaluation, and PVM-X Series 4K HDR Trimasters for on-set and location. Other HD LCDmonitors from the lightweight LMD series were used in the studio and field. NBC Sports utilised Sony’s Professional Services Group to provide 24/7 support for its equipment and operations, for the integration of the International Broadcast Centre in Beijing, as well as reinforcement for competition venues and its Stamford studios. Grass Valley continued to provide NBC Sports a range of IP and SDI solutions, as it has done for the last seven Olympic and Paralympic Games. The IP technology, including its Dynamic SystemOrchestration, powered NBC Sports’ remote

From a distance: A new bar has been set for Olympic coverage

production from the Stamford International Broadcast Centre. NBC Sports maximised the benefits of IP through a configuration, control and monitoring solution, specifically designed for the orchestration of broadcast media networks across SDI, hybrid and pure IP. Comms were supplied by RTS, who have worked with NBC Sports for over 25 years. It helped NBC make the transition from analogue to IP, allowing the broadcaster’s local and global venues to act as

a single virtual location, using RTS Trunking solutions. The installations for the Olympics included RTS Omneo audio for location communication, and RVON for international

NBC’S FIRST OLYMPICS WAS THE 1964 TOKYO SUMMER GAMES

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LIVE BROADCASTING

THIS WAS NBC’S SIXTH STRAIGHT WINTER GAMES

VIRTUAL SETS AT THE BBC With the pandemic enforcing a new way of thinking about broadcast,

remote commentary became the standard, even among broadcasters who traditionally sent huge teams to past Olympics. What emerged was innovation in virtual sets and studio graphics. BBC Sport used Vizrt’s Viz Engine 4, coupled with an Unreal Engine 4 render pipeline and Vizrt’s Fusion Keyer – all driven by a virtual set, to create a dynamic studio environment with easy operator control. The Viz Engine offers native integration with Unreal Engine, and the Viz Arc control application allows

comms, along with VLink – an IP- software multi-channel/multi-access

communications solution that connects to RTS intercoms.

users to control aspects of both render pipelines. In April 2021, BBC Sport launched a Vizrt ecosystem to broadcast programmes like Match of the Day , Euro 2020 coverage and the 2021 Summer Olympics. “We converted a small studio space at Media City into a green screen area with a virtual design

and enhanced rendering technology, delivering an immersive experience for audiences,” said John Murphy, creative director and head of graphics at BBC Sport. “The studio, with five different presenting positions that can house a variety of outputs, will be a key presentation location for BBC Sport this year.”

WORKFLOWS NBC Sports incorporated EVS LiveCeption Signature tech for replays and highlights technology across International Broadcast Centres in Beijing and its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. This included EVS XT-VIA servers and LSM-VIA systems. The XT-VIA platform, also used at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, expanded to take in the Winter Games’ UHD 1080p and HDR production. Telestream provided media capture, automated media processing, closed captioning and test and measurement equipment. The Telestream Vantage Media Processing Platform and Cinnafilm’s Tachyon processing library gave the frame rate conversions required. The Telestream Lightspeed Live Capture and Vantage delivered a unique, mixed HDR/SDR conversion workflow for NBC Sports content produced in HDR. The NBC Sports Advanced Technology group worked with Telestream to develop custom-colour LUTs within Vantage, ensuring an accurate colour processing pipeline throughout. Signiant software

DISTRIBUTION MediaKind provided NBC Sports with a range of video processing and advanced modular receiver technologies, to support low latency and reliable US distribution. Engineers assisted with equipment installation and system set-up, and were present on-site to offer support throughout the event. The live 4K HDR broadcasts were delivered to local stations and affiliates with Harmonic’s XOS Edge solution. It allowed for distribution at scale in UHD HDR, streamlining all Olympic feeds from Beijing, enabling live 4K HDR broadcasts of the Opening Ceremony and nightly prime-time coverage. For the first time, NBC Sports employed a fully remote audio workflow for the Winter Games. Four Calrec RP1 Remote Production cores were at the International Broadcast Centre in Beijing, to cover numerous studios. Control for the IBC remote production cores was provided on Artemis consoles, based at the IBC in Stamford.

enabled transfer of the footage over standard IP networks, eliminating latency and packet loss, so US-based editors could begin creating highlights almost immediately, with action still happening. The software also allowed for content to be transferred quickly back to the IBC in Beijing. NBC Sports also used Telestream’s caption authoring and editing product in conjunction with Telestream Cloud’s Timed Text Speech – an AI-powered transcription service. It employed Telestream 4K/8K HDRWaveform Monitors to support alignment and confidence monitoring in local and remote operation. Chyron provided live on-air graphics with integrated data. LyricX CG systems were used for live production at figure skating and extreme sports, as well as in remote broadcast trucks based in NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Centre in Stamford. US-based operators also used the Chyron PRIME Live Platform to drive content for studio video walls in Beijing.

helped NBC Sports move petabytes of HDR and 4K footage back to Stamford, immediately upon capture. Acceleration technology

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STADIUMS

CONNECTED STADIUMS LEAD TO CONNECTED FANS

5G networks are promising a whole new model for in-venue experience U P TO NOW, live sports TV images have been transmitted from wired

to be fitted out with next-generation 5G infrastructure linking to a mobile edge cloud in 5G, ensuring sufficient bandwidth and stability. Many game organisers and venue owners see in-venue apps as a means of striking a balance between the broadcast and in-person experience. With TV constantly improving, some sports fans wonder if a view from the couch is preferable. If more perspectives and apps are available in the stadium, spectators could watch the event from all sides. FRIENDLY MOBILE NETWORKS While fans are aware they can interact with games on their phones in the stands, current mobile

cameras to the OB truck at the venue, through satellite or fibre to the studio, and onwards to the viewer’s screen. With 5G mobile communications technology, the path taken by the live picture to the screen can be massively shortened. Images from the camera or smartphone go directly into a virtual studio in the cloud, then to the screen, without detour or prohibitive latency. In the living room, fans can watch with very little delay and potentially experience new perspectives on the game. Stable networks and guaranteed bandwidths are vital for these advances. For an in-stadium 5G project to

succeed, close collaboration between key stakeholders – mobile network operator, venue owner, rights holder and content provider – is essential. Most importantly, the stadium needs “WITH TV CONSTANTLY IMPROVING, SPORTS FANS WONDER IF A VIEW FROM THE COUCH IS PREFERABLE” technology does not facilitate this in a stable manner. Thousands of people simultaneously attempting to access high-quality footage via large mobile networks is just not sustainable. This flurry of activity has the potential to degrade feed quality, leaving streams lagging

On hand: Germany’s Sky Sport worked with Vizrt on a 5G-powered broadcast of handball

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STADIUMS

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behind what’s actually happening in the contest itself. The key at present is the telco provider. A fully connected ‘5G stadium’ ensures that: (a) images can be transferred directly from live production facilities to fans’ phones; and (b) new possibilities arise for never-before-seen camera angles and AR-driven smartphone apps. The main advantage of 5G compared to 4G is capacity; the network’s best use cases are in high-data-demand hotspots such as airports, train stations and sports

venues. As general data demands rise, with the amount consumed per customer going up year-on-year, the capacity of 5G will also increase over its lifetime. Within the sports venue, 5G cameras can be placed in areas inaccessible to manned, wired equipment – such as near the goal netting, on walkways at the top of the stadium, the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the field, and beside team benches. Network slicing is a unique feature of 5G, offering increased

reliability for live production, especially in congested areas. Using this, you can effectively reserve a piece of the 5G spectrum, so your devices won’t compete with anyone else for bandwidth in that slice. Such isolation is impossible when data traffic is on a contended network like 4G or Wi-Fi. This becomes a stumbling block in densely populated areas, where thousands may be using the same phone or cell tower at the same time. 5G also offers the potential of ‘liberated’ production, using ultra low-latency transport. Now, the reality of 5G cameras with vision mixing and live production in the cloud is enabled, with just a laptop. Fewer crew members need to be at the stadium, with traditional production operated by remote teams, across multiple locations. Needless to say, reducing the air, road and rail travel significantly cuts the carbon footprint of broadcasters and content producers.

Action stations: A peek behind the curtain of Vizrt’s set-up

“WITHIN THE VENUE, 5G CAMERAS CAN GO IN AREAS INACCESSIBLE TOMANNED, WIRED EQUIPMENT – SUCH AS NEAR THE GOAL NETTING AND BESIDE TEAMBENCHES”

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STORYTELLING PERSPECTIVES Last November, Sky Sport in Germany presented a Handball- Bundesliga game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Füchse Berlin via O2’s high-end 5G network. This was the first live broadcast in Europe via pure 5G, and the game was also streamed on skysport.de and the Sky Sport YouTube channel. Sky Deutschland senior vice president of sport production, Alessandro Reitano, told a follow- up webinar hosted by production partner Vizrt: “The handball combines two worlds. We are looking at the evolution of the 5G network and how it can help us contribute and distribute content in a different way. Therefore, 5G in broadcast is needed. This is new – and I’m proud we’ve been able to work with the handball federation.” In 2020, Sky Deutschland produced a handball match end- to-end with 5G, where 5G was the enabler from a distribution point of

view. The team used 12 smartphones in parallel with a traditional broadcast. This lean, flexible set- up enabled them to explore the use of smartphones with a new perspective for storytelling. “We saw that it worked, but the quality was unexpected: not because of 5G, but the smartphones. They are consumer devices,” said Reitano. “This year, we said, ‘let’s replicate a traditional broadcast in the cloud’, using four broadcast cameras and four smartphones – an eight-camera production, end-to-end. Again, we’re proud to be working with a federation that says, ‘yes, we want to be pioneers by doing something new’. We can produce lower-tier sports to a higher level. “O2, our 5G operator, provided a dedicated 5G campus network. We saw that, with smartphones, we could create a totally fresh perspective: new angles to engage fans in the stands with live crosses, where they are watching the match.

“Normally,” Reitano continues, “you cannot get such emotions in a live production. Streaming traditional broadcast cameras with LiveU units, a Vizrt NDI production backbone and 5G, we were able to keep the quality level to that of your established broadcast. This was something new and powerful.” 5G Gipfel AR, the augmented reality app of Eyecandylab, provided extra information about the handball match and players from both sides, available for Android and iOS. With 5G, we are seeing industries transform. Reimagining live events is a great demonstration of its power. Working together – enabled by high bandwidth and the potential to guarantee that bandwidth – telco providers, federations, stadium owners and content rights holders can unlock advancements for Tier 1 coverage. This can provide a way for Tier 2 and 3 sports to be televised with higher production values, in a more sustainable way.

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ROUND TABLE

DISTRIBUTED PRODUCTION IS NO LONGER REMOTE – IT’S HERE! In this Xtreme Round Table, we discuss

a new approach to production, set to revolutionise sports broadcast

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ROUND TABLE

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ROUND TABLE

THE TECH VENDORS

Steven Dargham, head of major events, Telstra Broadcast Services

Robert Erickson, strategic account manager sports and venues, Grass Valley

Tim Puschkeit, senior project manager, Riedel

Norbert Paquet, head of live production, Sony Professional Solutions Europe

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY

Claire Wilkie, managing director, Limitless Broadcast

THE MODERATOR

Neal Romanek, editor in chief, FEED:Xtreme

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WATCH THE FULL VERSION OF THIS ROUND TABLE

CLAIRE WILKIE: That’s right. It is anything that separates your MCR or gallery from the studio, so they are operating in different locations. It streamlines your workflow, plus it’s sustainable. TIM PUSCHKEIT: In the early days, we called it a remote production. However, you perhaps only used a few services remotely, while everything else was on-site with OB vans. It changed, especially throughout the pandemic. That was our comfort zone and the established business practice over the past couple of years. But we were asked to leave our comfort zone and do it in a different, new way.

NORBERT PAQUET: There is another term I employ: ‘distributed production’. That gives a better idea of how we’re distributing resources. In terms of these, two main elements compose a production process. The first is technical resources – acquiring, processing or distributing content. Then, there are people who operate or manage the technical infrastructure. NEAL ROMANEK: To start, how exactly would you define ‘remote production’?

Remote controller: Are on-site OB vans a thing of the past?

“WE WERE ASKED TO LEAVE OUR COMFORT ZONE AND DO IT IN A DIFFERENT, NEW WAY”

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NEAL ROMANEK: What are the real benefits to doing production in this distributed way?

ROBERT ERICKSON: It comes down to efficiency and duty cycle. With college football or baseball, you might have 70 or 80 games a day. Networks, such as ESPN, traditionally fly a crew to every single production. You want to do a baseball game: you get a truck, you fly in a crew. You want to do another baseball game: you get another truck, you fly in another crew. They are there for a two- hour production, then go back to their hotel room, before flying home the next day. But remote production introduces efficiency. What if I can build a hub in LA, Charlotte or London? I can assemble a large staff with a technical director, audio engineer, graphics operator, producer and assistant director. All those people can do one show. They can take a break and walk back into that same studio an hour later for another show. You can do back-to-back shows, and that capital asset you invested millions of dollars in can have an 80% usage cycle. CLAIRE WILKIE: I’m not an engineer. I’m a girl with a vision. I find remote production really exciting. I love live production and coming up with challenging, mad ideas. Remote production opens up so much freedom for that.

We use a lot of Blackmagic Design kit that proves scalable and modular. On top of that, we don’t have a legacy of big broadcast trucks – we are not one of those behemoth companies. With remote production, you really are unlimited in what you can do now. With the tech becoming smaller, it means a more level playing field, and this is something that’s necessary. TIM PUSCHKEIT: Even though I’ve been working in this business a while, sometimes I still think it’s unreal that you can operate cameras located in Sydney or Paris from London or Germany. But it’s our bread and butter now – and it’s the future. Remote production does give you more challenges, requiring clearer communication. The camera operator may be sitting in a different time zone, speaking a different language. NORBERT PAQUET: Distributed production is modular. But considering exactly where you place the different building blocks of the production process is important. That is the acquisition, production and processing of the content, as well as distribution, plus the people required. A director might appreciate working close to his home if the stadium is far away. But others prefer to go the stadium to see the atmosphere and talk to camera operators face to face. There is that flexibility with remote production; you can put the right people in the right places, based on the production workflow you want to achieve.

NEAL ROMANEK: Howmight remote production actually affect how – and where – people work?

ROBERT ERICKSON: There’s been technology for five or ten years that has allowed us to do remote productions efficiently. But the way we’ve been doing production for eternity has worked – and broadcasters were reticent to make the change. You’ve always had engineers that want improvements, but someone at the network was likely to say: “I get that, but this is how we’ve done things. This is a premier event and we’re not going to risk messing up our cash cow.” Covid-19 opened up the door. Engineers could say: “Let’s try it this way. We’ve never done it, but the risk is actually pretty low.” It introduced the idea of innovation to senior management, raising the industry’s tolerance for failure – it’s never been a big fan of failure. But true innovation comes with the idea

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“I LOVE LIVE PRODUCTION AND COMING UP WITH CHALLENGING, MAD IDEAS”

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approach. We not only did the broadcast, but the technology on the boats and the race management system. We already had some remote solutions installed, with remote engineering and data logging on the boats, plus the cloud was a remote solution. We also had remote edit suites operating in Europe that could create news feeds overnight. Nonetheless, due to restrictions, not a single broadcaster was able to go to the event last year. We used Telstra’s redundant fibre to feed out to local broadcasters. Steven and I spent a lot of time on the phone between Auckland and where he was in Sydney, trying to figure things out. In the end, we used everything we had, because the local broadcasters asked for so many things: individual signals, a different voiceover and other unilateral services. We were flat out. That’s something we need to learn. Infrastructures and set-up need to be prepared for big events in the future. NORBERT PAQUET: One thing has been the production planning and coordination of resource. Usually, the main conversation is around latency management: how do we manage the different latencies introduced by remote or distributed operation? Communication is fundamental to everything. As soon as you introduce latency into communication, it impacts the entire production and value chain. We’ve looked at solutions that manage the overall set of latencies introduced by the different paths the audio takes, and then how you resynchronise that in the end. We had discussions with customers around codecs and compression ratios, because bandwidth is also an element to consider. Some people have one gig uplink – some don’t – so you must pay attention to that.

NEAL ROMANEK: What has been some of your practical remote

production experience recently?

STEVEN DARGHAM: For the America’s Cup last year, we had two of the events in Europe cancelled due to Covid-19. We ended up doing the America’s Cup without a single person from Telstra on-site. TIM PUSCHKEIT: Riedel worked on the America’s Cup project, too. We started four years ago. The plan was to do a series in six or seven different venues across Europe and the US. We even did recce missions and site visits. Instead, we spent six months in Auckland, New Zealand. But, in that time, we did prototype engineering. It was challenging, because we follow a 360-degree “WE HAD REMOTE EDIT SUITES IN EUROPE THAT COULD CREATE NEWS FEEDS OVERNIGHT”

that you learn from possible failure, then you move forward. TIM PUSCHKEIT: Big events, like the Super Bowl, Olympics or World Cup – where you have a production of four weeks – will remain on-site. Maybe you can share synergies, using established remote production units as well, but a lot of things will still happen on-site. For the events that come back on a weekly, monthly or annual period, with a more or less standardised set-up, I definitely see remote production as the future. STEVEN DARGHAM: It was always something broadcasters wanted. We’d come in and do workshops and trials. They would discuss it, but it never got to the working stage. Now, it’s a necessity. Last year’s Tokyo Olympics were completely different. Every single broadcaster we were involved with did everything from back at home, with nothing at the International Broadcast Centre. They’re changing the workflow. Keep in mind, we couldn’t do that without an advancement in the underlying technology and telco infrastructure.

A shore thing: America’s Cup coverage was executed from remote cities

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