The multi-image display processor helped broadcast
the Indy 500 race for the first time in HD.
This year's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 became a piece of TV history as it was the first time the event was produced in high definition. Like other major HD sporting events, the production of the race combined some of the latest HD production, fiber-optic signal transport, routing, distribution and monitoring gear with the talents of hundreds of production personnel.
What made the event different and a bit more difficult to produce in HD was the short time Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) Productions had to come up with an HD production facilities vendor — essentially the few short weeks between NAB2007 in mid-April and the start of Indy race action, which began in early May.
At NAB2007, IMS Productions senior director of field operations and engineering Dave Gass connected with All Mobile Video (AMV) of Lodi, NJ. AMV agreed to provide HD production facilities for the event, with one proviso. Instead of using one of its HD production fleet, the company would send Matrix, its extensive turnkey HD production flypack complete with HD cameras, 128 × 128 multiformat router, HD production switcher and monitoring. The Matrix flyaway provided the production facilities for IMS Productions' world feed of the race, used by ESPN/ABC for the core of its race coverage.
AMV's team, headed by director of mobile operations Lee Blanco, set up the Matrix on May 3 inside a no-thrills trailer on-site at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Five days later, the facility produced its first Indy TV coverage. With each successive weekend, more production capabilities were added to support coverage of the time trials leading up to race day May 27.
Monitoring is a critical component for any live production, but one the size of the Indy 500 needs to support a wide variety of sources with ease and flexibility. For the race, a mix of more than 50 HD and SD cameras (in-car cameras were SD), HD graphics, and a bevy of EVS servers for replays required constant monitoring. Stationing the Matrix flyaway in a temporary trailer added another wrinkle because space was tight, air-conditioning was at a premium, and there wasn't a lot time to make the Matrix operational.
For AMV, integrating the Miranda Technologies Kaleido-X multiroom, multi-image display processor into the production setup made the most sense. The unit offered the size, quality and bandwidth necessary to meet the needs of the production.
IMS Productions' world feed producer wanted a monitor wall that was large but also quite specific. “Piling up monitors,” in the words of Blanco, with under-monitor display units, to meet that requirement would have lengthened the time needed for setup. It also would have required a larger trailer with additional air-conditioning capacity to handle the heat generated by CRTs.
The multi-image display processor supports unlimited image sizing and repetition across all displays. It can handle a mix of 96 image inputs, including HD, SD and analog, and can provide up to eight independent outputs to accommodate unrestricted monitoring in multiple rooms.
At the Indy 500, the Kaleido-X displayed 4:3 aspect ratio versions of all sources — HD as well as the SD in-car cameras — to allow the world feed director to call his show without having to make a split-second decision about whether SD viewers at home would be able to see something in the 16:9 raster.
While Blanco said he appreciated the size, image quality and bandwidth of the Kaleido-X, its graphical capabilities and flexibility made the multi-image display processor particularly well-suited for an application like the Indy 500. Offering not only video display but also UMD capability and tally, the multi-image display processor extracted unnecessary complexity from setup when compared with conventional approaches. It also offered the production staff a way to get more involved so they could be comfortable with their environment.
Taking the checkered flag
All of the equipment that was part of the Matrix flypack used for the race, including the multi-image display processor, was exposed to the rigors of the road — the potential for dings, drops and damage. The Kaleido-X unit used at Indy didn't escape unscathed.
The chassis sustained noticeable damage in transit to Indianapolis, but despite those blows, it worked flawlessly from its first use attempt without requiring any maintenance. That degree of reliability, as well as flexibility, image quality and compact size, put the Kaleido-X in the Indy 500 winner's circle for AMV and IMS Productions.
Phil Kurz writes several Broadcast Engineering e-newsletters, including HD Technology Update.