Video: Football Production Technology: The Verdict


Football coverage of the main game is always advancing, but this year there have been big changes in production as well as the continued drive to bring second screens mainstream. This conversation covers the state of the art of football production bringing together Mark Dennis of Sunset+Vine, Emili Planas from Mediapro and Tim Achberger from Sportcast in a conversation moderated by Sky Germany’s Alessandro Reitano for the SVG Europ Football Summit 2021.

The first topic discussed is the use of automation to drive highlights packages. Mark from S+V feels that for the tier 1 shows they do, human curation is still better but recognises that the creation of secondary and tertiary video from the event could benefit from AI packages. In fact, Mediapro is doing just this providing a file-based clips package while the match is ongoing. This helps broadcasters use clips quicker and also avoids post-match linear playouts. Tim suggests that AI has a role to play when dealing with 26 cameras and orchestrating the inputs and outputs of social media clips as well as providing specialised feeds. Sportcast are also using file delivery to facilitate secondary video streams during the match.

 

 

Answering the question “What’s missing from the industry?”, Mark asks if they can get more data and then asks how can they show all data. His point is that there are still many opportunities to use data, like BT Sport’s current ability to show the speed of players. He feels this works best on the second screen, but also sees a place for increasing data available to fans in the stadium. Emili wants better data-driven content creation tools and ways to identify which data is relevant. Time agrees that data is important and, in common with Emili, says that the data feeds provide the basis of a lot of the AI workflows’ ability to classify and understand clips. He sees this as an important part of filtering through the 26 cameras to find the ones people actually want to see.

Alessandro explains he feels that focus is moving from the main 90 minutes to the surrounding storylines. Not in a way that detracts from the main game, but in a way that shows production is taking seriously the pre and post stories and harnessing technology to exploit the many avenues available to tell the stories and show footage that otherwise would have space to be seen.

The discussion turns to drones and other special camera systems asking how they fit in. Tim says that dromes have been seen as a good way to differentiate your product and without Covid restrictions, could be further exploited. Tim feels that special cameras should be used more in post and secondary footage wondering if there could be two world feeds, one which has a more traditional ‘Camera 1’ approach and another which much more progressively includes a lot of newer camera types. Emili follows on by talking bout Mediapro’s ‘Cinecam’ which uses a Sony Venice camera to switch between normal Steadicam footage during the match to a shallow depth-of-field DSLR style post-match which give the celebrations a different, more cinematic look with the focus leading the viewer to the action.

The panel finishes by discussing the role of 5G. Emili sees it as a benefit to production and a way to increase consumer viewing time. He sees opportunities for 5G to replace satellite and help move production into the cloud for tier 2 and 3 sports. Viewers at home may be able to watch matches in better quality and in stadiums the plans are to offer data-enriched services to fans so the can analyse what’s going on and have a better experience than at home. Mark at S+V sees network slicing as the key technology giving production the confidence that they will have the bandwidth they need on the day. 5G will reduce costs and he’s hoping he may be able to enhance remote production for staff at home whose internet isn’t great quality bringing more control and assuredness into their connectivity.

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Speakers

Tim Achberger Tim Achberge
Sportcast,
Head of Innovation & Technology
Emili Planas Emili Planas
CTO and Operations Manager
Mediapro
Mark Dennis Mark Dennis
Director of Technical Operations
Sunset+Vine
Alessandro Reitano Moderator: Alessandro Reitano
SVP of Sports Production,
Sky Germany

Video Case Study: How BT Sport de-centralised its football production

We’ve all changed the way we work during the pandemic, some more than others. There’s nothing better than a real-life case study to learn from and to put your own experience into perspective. In this video, BT Sport and their technology provider Timeline TV take us through what they have and haven’t done to adapt.

Jamie Hindhaugh, COO of BT Sport explains that they didn’t see working at home as simply a decentralisation, but rather a centralisation of the technology to be used by a decentralised body of staff. This concept is similar to Discovery’s recent Eurosport IP transformation project which has all participating countries working from equipment in two datacentres. BT Sport managed to move from a model of two to three hundred people in the office daily to producing a live football talk show from presenters’ homes, broadcast staff also at home, in only 10 days. The workflow continued to be improved over the following 6 weeks at which point they felt they had migrated to an effective ‘at home’ workflow.

 

 

Speaking to the challenges, Dan McDonnell CEO of Timeline TV said that basic acquisition and distribution of equipment like laptops was tricky since everyone else was doing this, too. But once the equipment was in staff homes, they soon found out the problems moving out of a generator-backed broadcast facility. UPSes were distributed to those that needed them but Dan notes there was nothing they could do to help with the distraction of working with your children and/or pets.

Jamie comments that connectivity is very important and they are moving forward with a strategy called ‘working smart’ which is about giving the right tools to the right people. It’s about ensuring people are connected wherever they are and with BT Sport’s hubs around the country, they are actively looking to provide for a more diverse workforce.

BT Sport has a long history of using remote production, Dan points out which has driven BT Sport’s recent decision to move to IP in Stratford. Premiership games have changed from being a main and backup feed to needing 20 cameras coming into the building. This density of circuits in both HD and UHD has made SDI less and less practical. Jamie highlights the importance of their remote production heritage but adds that the pandemic meant remote production went way beyond normal remote productions now that scheduling and media workflows also has to be remote which would always have stayed in the building normally.

Dan says that the perspective has changed from seeing production as either a ‘studio’ or ‘remote OB’ production to allowing either type of production to pick and choose the best combination of on-site roles and remote roles. Dan quips that they’ve been forced to ‘try them all’ and so have a good sense of which work well and which benefit from on-site team working.

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Speakers

Dan McDonnell Dan McDonnell
CEO,
Timeline TV
Jamie Hindhaugh Jamie Hindhaugh
COO,
BT Sport
Heather McLean Moderator: Heather McLean
Editor,
SVG Europe

Video: How to Up Your Sports Streaming Game

As countries seek to wrest themselves from lockdowns, however long that takes, we see the name of the game will be come out big and make the most of the renewed freedoms. Streaming has certainly seen a boost over the last year despite the challenges, but in order to make the most of that, as we switch up a gear in public life, now’s the time up your game. Sports streaming is likely to see gradual improvement in the number of live fixtures to cover and employees should be able to find protuctivity gains in working more closely with their colleagues when the time is right the share space again.

In this panel from Streaming Media Connect, Jeff Jacobs from VENN talks to Magnus Svensson, from Eyevinn Technology, Ali Hodjat from Intertrust Technologies, Live Sports’ Jef Kethley and Darcy Lorincz from Engine Media. Magnus kicks off the discussion highlighting the state of the sports streaming industry and the trends he’s seeing. Magnus says that streaming providers are moving away from mimicing broadcast services and inovating in their own right. The younger audience are still more interested in highlights clips then older viewers and esports wiith its on-screen chat and interactivity represents a big departure from what we are used to from broadcasters. Low-latency streaming remains important but keeping feeds synchronised within the home is often seen as more important than the absolute latency.
 

 
Jef speaks about the complete cloud infrastructure he built for the Drone Racing League (DRL) which gave a computer to each player and ran the program and drone simulation in the cloud. Looking to the future, he sees streaming as now allowing monetisation of newer sports. Now that it’s easier and/or cheaper to produce lower-interest sports, they can be economoical to monetise and deliver even to a small audience.

Darcy represents workflows where AI is doing the work. AI’s understanding the goals, the numbers on shirts and much of the action within a game. Darcy’s trying to find as many things AI can do to reduce our reliance on humans. Visualisation of data is grown in demand making these stats easily digestable for viewers by overlaying information in new ways on to the screen.

Ali’s view is from the security angle. He’s been focussed on protecting live sports. Weith the push to lower and lower latencies, the value of the streams has increased as they’re more useful to use for betting. At the same time, lower latency makes it harder to add encryption. On top of encryption watermarking individual feeds and quickly identifying them online is a major focus. Protection, though, needs to extend from the media back to the web site itself, the payment gateway, the applications and much else.

The panel session finishes after discussing low-latency, the pros and cons of remote working, co-streaming, low-latency for backhaul/contribution and finishes with a round of advice to use with your service.

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Speakers

Magnus Svensson Magnus Svensson
VP Sales and Business Development,
Eyevinn Technology
Ali Hodjat Ali Hodjat
Director Product Marketing,
Intertrust
Jef Kethley Jef Kethley
Executive Director / President
LiveSports, LLC
Darcy Lorincz Darcy Lorincz
Global head of Esports & Business Development,
Engine Media Inc.
Jeff Jacobs Moderator: Jeff Jacobs
General Manager,
VENN

Video: Moving Live Video Quality Control from the Broadcast Facility to the Living Room

Moving an 24×7 on-site MCR into people’s rooms is not trivial, but Disney Streaming Services, in common with most broadcasters knew they had to move people home, often into their living rooms. Working in an MCR requires watching incoming video to check content which is not easy to do at home, particularly when some of their contribution arrives at 100 Mb/s. These two MCRs in San Francisco and NYC covering Hulu Live & ESPN+ along with other services had two weeks to move remote.

Being a major streaming operator, DSS had their own encoding product called xCoder. DSS soon realised this would be their ticket to making home working viable. As standard, these encoders reject any video which doesn’t match a small range of templates. Michael Rappaport takes us how they wrote scripts to use ffprobe to analyse the desired video and then configure the xCoder just the right way. The incoming video goes straight to xCoder without being ‘groomed’ as it normally wood to add closed captions, ABR etc.

Aside from bandwidth, it was also important to provide these streams as close to real-time as possible, as the operators needed to see ‘right now’ to do their job effectively. This is why the ‘grooming’ section is skipped as that would add latency but also the added functions such as PID normalisation and closed caption insertion aren’t needed. Michael explains that when a feed is needed, it will call out to the whole encoder pool, find an underutilised one and then can program it automatically using an API.

Watching this at home was made possible by some work done by Disney Streaming Services to allow their player to receive feeds directly from an xCoder without having any problems decoder parameters. Michael doesn’t mention what protocol they use, but as the xCoder creates a proprietary video stream, so they could be used that carried over TCP.

Made their own players to the receiver from the xCoders. xCoder, as a standalone, produces a proprietary TCP stream. xCoder exposes an API hook that allows us to quickly determine things like frame rate, resolution, and even whether or not the xCoder is able to subscribe to the stream

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Speakers

Michael Rappaport Michael Rappaport
Senior Manager, Encoding Administration,
Disney Streaming Services