The ability to set up fast and get on-air is particularly important for sports. You rarely get a second chance to capture that game winner. Muhammad Ali is probably the only athlete who ever asked a broadcaster (or opponent for that matter) if they wanted to see it again.
Sports broadcasters looking to set up a newsroom operation at a sporting event need to be able to do it quickly, which these days almost certainly means an IP-based system that uses wireless technology. Such a system also provides the ability to take advantage of Ka-band satellite uplinks.
The increased availability of high-capacity Ka-band services, now and via new satellites soon to be launched, completely lifts the lid on any previous restrictions on delivering broadband-over-satellite. Satellites continue to be a prime driver in the ability of field producers to deliver high-quality video content, and the greater availability of Ka band provides a great deal more spectrum that it is now technically possible to put to good use. The suitable availability of Ka band, particularly using powerful new satellites, is only just emerging so will no doubt become an even more attractive and beneficial resource going forward.
We worked directly with Inmarsat as a development partner for its new Ka-band based Global Xpress service. The service will start delivering, via its next-generation Inmarsat-5s satellite system scheduled for launch this year, higher transmission speeds through more compact terminals at a lower cost than existing VSAT services, using far less congested spectrum. When the full service starts rolling out in 2014, with global coverage planned by the end of that year, the ability to capture and transmit bandwidth-intensive, high-quality video — from anywhere — will truly be off to the races, literally and figuratively.
Production teams will not only be able to capture events at distances never before possible, with modern wireless transmission systems that also include IP-connectivity, but also they will also be able to make video calls, watch their home team score a goal, read the news, shop or even use social media if they want to. In a way, even though they are meant to be doing their primary job, sometimes they need IP connectivity for their own use. New systems can provide all of that, and more, to keep them happy.
With the combination of these new satellites and Ka band, dishes — whether mounted on an OB truck or hand-carried in a small transport case — can now be less than 1m in diameter and still be used to transmit full HD video. This has simply never before been possible. And, as I just alluded to, a small dish has the added benefits of offering substantial economies in transportation, storage and power consumption, not to mention the vastly increased ability to take them almost anywhere.
So, as transmitters, dishes and CAPEX budgets continue to decrease, the reductions in the first two mean that you don’t have to compromise on the third. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. A lot of power, functionality and reliability are now available for wireless systems that enable production teams and broadcasters to take their viewers to places none of them have ever been before. And, these systems actually cost less.
To achieve this, it’s important that the system includes everything required, such as a quality path for live two-ways; remote camera control; high-quality file transfer; and a high-capacity internet connection with access to base newsroom computers and mobile phones — all in a single package that can be easily transported, unpacked and in operation in minutes. Such systems are now readily available.
A compelling option
Wireless transmission is not a replacement for wired applications. However, it is a compelling, reliable and exciting extension of the possibilities available to sports production teams the world over. When there’s no wire, there’s no reason to hang your broadcast coverage
—Stuart Brown is broadcast systems director at Cobham Broadcast.