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Fox Tees Up IP Technologies

New Mobile Production Trucks for the U.S. Open and Football Are Deep Drives for Network 5/18/2015 8:00 AM Eastern

ANOTABLE EXAMPLE of how the transition to IP technologies is moving much faster than most expected will come next month at golf’s U.S. Open, when Fox Sports uses three new mobile trucks from Game Creek Video to produce the event from Chambers Bay Golf Club in Washington state.

 

The Encore truck package is the first large-scale deployment of an IP routing system in a major remote production unit. The move will highlight the myriad advantages of moving to IP video, particularly as a way of handling the massive amount uncompressed video created during major sports events, such as golf and National Football League games.

 

“We wanted to build a very special truck here,” one that could handle both very large productions and very different types of sports, said Mike Davies, senior VP of technical and field operations at Fox Sports. “We’ll be using it for Super Bowl LI in Houston [in 2017] and the U.S. Open [in 2015] that have very different technical requirements.”

 

Initially, IP wasn’t part of the design. During the 2014 NAB show, Game Creek engineers had rejected using IP routing because existing systems used compressed video, couldn’t supply very low latency and weren’t able to handle breakout audio, recalled Jason Taubman, VP of design and new technology at Game Creek.

 

Using traditional technologies to meet Fox’s needs also proved difficult. “We began to realize that we couldn’t get there with traditional baseband,” Taubman says. “We couldn’t get the kind of EVS [replay] I/O we wanted and we knew the monitoring was going to be really insufficient.”

 

Meanwhile, IP technologies were rapidly improving. In October 2014, Evertz engineers told Taubman and Paul Bonar, VP of engineering at Game Creek, that they could handle uncompressed IP video with only 33 milliseconds of latency. While they still hadn’t solved the audio problem, the Game Creek engineers soon came up with a workaround.

 

Game Creek eventually deployed the Evertz Software Defined Video Network system, which includes the EXE video service routing, the Evertz Magnum system control, the Evertz 570IPG gateways and the 3067VIP-10G multiviewer system.

 

IP TO THE CORE

 

While the end result is a notable advance in the use of IP technologies, Taubman and others stress that there’s still more work to be done before an all-IP production truck can hit the road. “The whole thing is IP at the core but it is baseband at the edges, both in and out,” Taubman id. “The switcher, the cameras, the EVS, the frame synchs don’t have native IP connectivity at the moment.”

 

Even so, it illustrates the kind of flexibility and processing power IP technologies can provide. “The requirements for these big events continues to grow,” said Pat Sullivan, founder and president of Game Creek. “This not only meets their requirements today but meets their needs four years from now.”

 

The new design also freed up space for more production positions in the truck and helped create a more flexible design with extensive use of KVM connectivity. “In total, there are 320 KVM ports all trunked together,” said Taubman. “You can sit down in the C unit and access a device in the B unit,” which allows the truck to be easily reconfigured for different sports.

 

How quickly the transition to a full-IP truck can be made is open to question, given the speed by which the technology is progressing, said Sullivan. He believes the transition will continue to make mobile units more efficient and powerful, but in the meantime, “doing large-scale IP routing and doing it in an uncompressed form is really an historic event.”

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