The advent of lighter, smaller and increasingly robust wireless transmission systems is having a major impact on broadcasters’ ability to cover news, events and, perhaps most important, sports, which is a primary catalyst for the development, adoption and implementation of wireless transmission systems. The ability to get as close to the action as possible and hold an HD signal without dropping a frame opens a Pandora’s box of possibilities — in a good way — for broadcasters worldwide.
The benefits of wireless
In terms of sports and wireless transmission, there are a number of questions to answer, but the most important one is: What are the advantages of going wireless?
The first clue is in the name wireless — no bulky cables to string, store or transport. Safety officials see a marked improved in accident and injury reports because fewer people are tripping over bulky cable runs, particularly, as is often the case, in public areas. Broadcast professionals pretty much know by rote that there are cables underfoot, but going wireless reduces risks to others who may inadvertently stray into a hot zone of action.
Likewise, rigging times are far reduced by going wireless, which, in addition to reducing the risks associated with more demanding, cabled rigging scenarios, keeps management happy as it sees production costs reduced. This includes costs associated with transporting large spools of copper coax.
Wireless also provides the freedom to go anywhere, which is highly valuable to producers because it gives them the freedom to follow the action as it happens, wherever it happens. This can greatly enhance sports coverage in particular. We are seeing an accelerating trend in the use of wireless technology to, for example, provide on-board coverage for motorsport and boat racing events, as well as for point-of-view coverage for team sports such as soccer and cricket.
For example, wireless camera equipment was recently used to provide batsman and umpire cameras in Twenty20 cricket, which had never been done before and was a significant advancement in the enjoyment of the sport to cricket aficionados. The possibilities of similar applications across virtually any sport you can think of are limitless.
Of course, sending wireless signals is one thing. Controlling them and what they send is quite another, and there are several key factors that need to be taken into consideration before deployment.
Recovery after signal loss
First and foremost is the ability to recover after a loss of signal. If you’re going to be where the action is, there’s a decent chance that the action will require an onboard or shoulder-mounted camera to swing around a bend, disappear over a hill or drift too far from shore, each of which may take a camera transmitter out of range. The ability to recover a connection and resume operation, swiftly and seamlessly, is paramount — both in terms of the development of the technology and the decision whether to deploy in the first place. Of absolutely no use to anyone is a system that drops video and control signals when the wind changes direction.