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2019 Transport Summit Lays Out Vision for UHD, 5G, Remi Future


2019 Transport Summit Lays Out Vision for UHD, 5G, Remi Future By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director

Monday, October 21, 2019 - 4:27 am

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The 2019 SVG Transport Summit began with a panel discussion featuring representatives from CBS, ESPN, NBC Sports Group, and ESPN. They discussed a wide range of topics as the nature of signal transport moves well beyond backhauling a single feed from a remote venue to a broadcast center. Below are some highlights and key takeaways from the session.

The State of TranSPORT: Broadcaster Perspectives panel (from left): CBS's David Chilson, NBC Sports' Chris Connolly, Sinclair Broadcasting Group's Paul Spinelli, and ESPN's Adam Whitlock.

Transporting more than just linear signals is a game changer.

Adam Whitlock, ESPN, Associate Director, Remote Traffic Operations, on the changing nature of signal transport says that with a lot more connectivity in place now ESPN has adapted and now use that connectivity it for things other than linear signals, like file transfers. The challenge is that means that the connectivity providers are much more crucial to a successful event and, as such they need to have a bigger presence on site to solve problems quickly.

File transfer needs require pipes of up to 2 Gbps, even with file acceleration. And it isn't just video and audio that is being moved. Data increasingly is a big part of the demand and is often the first thing production personnel are asking for when they are on site, according to Chris Connolly, NBC Sports Group, Senior Director, Transmission Engineering and Operations.

Relying on public Internet for signal transport is on the rise.

Paul Spinelli, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Director of Engineering, says that public Internet is playing a bigger role for Sinclair Broadcasting Group, especially when it comes to lower tier events or bonus coverage on OTT services. He also says that as the opportunity presents itself there will be a growth in using it for primary distribution.

David Chilson, CBS, Director of Broadcast Distribution Operations and Engineering: Extended coverage is a great place for transmission over the Internet. Usage of the public internet is up quite a bit but so is the number of events and hours being covered.

The explosion of events (from 35,000 in 2018 to 40,000 in 2019) puts a greater burden on signal monitoring.

Monitoring a multitude of signals through the entire path to delivery to consumers has led to big struggles as those signals now go to so many places, different type of devices, and platforms. There is still no perfect solution for easily monitoring content in a multi-platform world, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

The convergence of broadcast and IT requires new mixes of people and tech on site as well as more collaboration.

Chilson says that the size of the IT team at a major sporting event can sometimes be multiples the size of the traditional transmission team. Spinelli adds that there is then a need to have knowledge transfer across those departments, with both IT and video engineers working together. And it's not just about staying on air: it's also about ensuring the team follows best practices to make sure operations are secure from attacks. Collaboration is important, says Connolly, to make sure everyone understands the risks and aren't fighting each other.

New remote production workflows like remi, at home, etc. will only continue to grow.

Ours is continuous, says Whitlock of the learning process and evolution around remi productions. Our dedication to centralized productions has not wavered and we have become wiser thanks to wonderful partnerships with transport vendors who have supported us as our requirements grow.

Connolly says NBC's investment in at-home efforts is focused a lot around international events like the IAAF World Championships, recently held in Doha, and next year's Olympic games in Tokyo. Yes, there are cost savings like not having to travel as many people or rent a truck and facilities but there are other benefits as well like making it easier to enhance a production with second feeds or early feeds.

The role 5G will play is a work in progress.

Chilson says he is looking forward to 5G as it will be another service that provides additional utility to professional broadcasters. We can take advantage of 5G if it bears fruit, but it is still early, he says. Connolly added that it also could help with quality of service and Spinelli says it will be interesting to see how it evolves and is put to use by various entities.

UHD and 4K are exciting but the focus is still on the signals that pay the bills.

This is most excited I have been since HD, says Whitlock of the recent ESPN efforts around UHD. The SDI production looks really good at home but in UHD and 4K the granularity is awesome and even the downconverted signals looks great. But we very intentionally make sure the core HD audience is not compromised.

Connolly says that NBC Sports coverage of University of Notre Dame football in 1080p HDR has also been great but that the production focus is still on the HD viewers. But as more and more contracts for rights get renewed and the industry moves to IP, he thinks UHD programming will increase.

Chilson added that broadcasters are caught in the middle as they are still trying to figure out a pathway to the home as they often have older infrastructures. But UHD is the future and 4K is inevitable, he says.
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