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ITV Sport Reveals Remote Production Behind Royal Ascot Horse Racing

30/06/2020

ITV Sport reveals remote production behind Royal Ascot horse racing Editing, media management and graphics remoted out to operators' homes By Fergal Ringrose, Editorial Director, Europe

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 12:17

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Two weekends ago ITV Sport resumed live horse racing with all presenters at home and a remote production in place for races from Lingfield, Newcastle and Newmarket. Last week brought the high-profile Royal Ascot meeting with lead presenters Ed Chamberlin, Francesca Cumani and Jason Weaver safely distancing back in the paddock and other colleagues presenting from zones around the racecourse.

The ITV Sport production team has left no stone unturned to present the best possible show in the safest environment, and there can be no better illustration of how much coronavirus has changed the landscape than the fact that this was the first year the Queen did not attend the annual Royal Ascot meeting in her 68-year reign.

Challenged with connecting a distributed presenting team and production crew across ten locations two weekends ago, facilities partner NEP made use of low latency encoding technology and bonded networking solutions to deliver a secure platform capable of real time communication with robust and reliable contribution facilities.

However the production hub, two weeks ago and last week, was the Equinox truck, built for the

ITV Racing presenter Olie Bell at his home studio for the first weekend of racing, from Lingfield, Newcastle and Newmarket

bespoke needs of ITV's horse racing coverage. Based at Royal Ascot throughout, Equinox provided the firepower to drive the first weekend's distributed remote production, and of course did not need to be de-rigged following that groundbreaking first weekend of live racing before being pressed back into action for the Royal Ascot OB.

To understand the complexity of the new workflows and production operations involved in delivering live horse racing over the past two weeks, SVG Europe sat down with Daragh Bass, NEP UK, head of sales; Jon Harris, NEP UK, technical projects manager, Horse Racing; Rob Oldham, ITV Sport, technical manager; and Roger Pearce, ITV Sport, technical director.

For the first weekend we had to look at the constraints of the racing venues, said Pearce. Our thinking was around creating a hub a safe hub. That would be the place we actually present from, and it would have the traditional connectivity of a main and a backup feed out to ITV Presentation.

We would try to hook on remote elements from there, connected via the internet. The big problem is the internet, and whatever you put on there you need to back up or be prepared to lose.

That was our planning, said Pearce. We went through every little element and worked out how to back it up. We wanted to be able to keep that core working so if we lost the director, editor and PA via the internet we had someone at the hub who could take over.

Equinox is our established set-up for horse racing coverage, said Harris. When we put this proposal and plan together we didn't know what was in front of us, other than the fact that Royal Ascot was going to happen in the middle of June, more than likely behind closed doors. We very much wanted to get our foot in the compound here and get this hubbed infrastructure' in place.

The timelines fell into place in that we could introduce a remote hub approach for the first weekend's racing, while at the same time rigging Royal Ascot here with all the cameras. And it has now been deemed appropriate, we can now bring the presentation team to Ascot and have them on site.

The schedule for horse racing doesn't contain much slack, said Harris. There are 94 programmes a year, so you're never more than five days away from your next OB.

We're quite adjusted to the fact that we're going from one event to another - and efficiency is the key to all of this. A working environment with a hub approach was the best option really, rather than trying to build it from the ground up.

Three timing planes in place for contribution and production

For the technical approach we took some inspiration from the world of esports, said Bass. Within an esports environment the players need to compete real time, and latency is critical. But you still have to broadcast that.

So the original concept was that we could backhaul each presenter to a hub, create a multiviewer, and send them a return feed. But even on the best low latency encoding you're still talking - ballpark one second in each direction plus a little bit of processing.

We knew we needed to do something different. We set up a couple of different timing planes.

Ed Chamberlin, ITV Racing presenter, at home for the return of racing

To ensure real time we used cloud mixing and cloud video conferencing tools, and that basically enabled all the talent to communicate in real time with visual cues, nods and thumbs up - and they had open talkback into each other's ears to create mix-minus feeds. That was challenging enough in itself, creating all the different audio feeds - Jon and the team in the truck did a fantastic job QC-ing and bringing it all together, said Bass.

And then at the next level we took discrete feeds of all of the individual cameras and microphones and took them to the truck. So the hub probably operates on a slightly different timing plane of about a second behind the real time comms, but it has proven not to be an issue because as long as the talent can communicate in real time in their world and get fed the cues, contributed sources and VTs from the truck, we can create this discrete mix out of the truck and produce it.

And there's a third timing plane to factor in. You've had the contribution side up to now, but the production side is also something of a feat of e
LINK: https://www.svgeurope.org/blog/headlines/itv-sport-reveals-remote-prod...
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