Technical Pieces Are Falling Into Place for HBS World Cup Operations

The internal team at FIFA TV, Host Broadcast Services (HBS), and a legion of freelancers are putting the finishing touches on production workflows for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and Jörg Sander, director of the FWC 2014 project at HBS, says that everything is looking good from a technical standpoint, with about a week to go until the first match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.

The focus is now is to make sure that host operations within the International Broadcast Center located in Barra da Tijuca are operating completely as soon as possible, that the rightsholders are settled in and ready to go by this weekend, and that the match and ENG operations across the country are ready for action.

“With respect to the IBC, I can definitely say we are ready and formally opened,” says Sander. “Now it is just about the teething problems that always occur prior to a big event.”

The IBC, which measures 55,000 sq. meters, comprises key facilities for the event, including master-control room, central equipment room, production center, production-control room, and quality-control room. More than 85 broadcasters will call it home during the tournament, making use of 17 TV studios, more than 70 miles of primary and secondary cable, 350 40-in. HD screens, and a 6,000-sq.-meter satellite farm. Built in less than five months, it is located at Riocentro, to the west of Rio de Janeiro (about 10 miles from the Estadio do Maracana) in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood.

Probably the most important part of the IBC is the FIFA MAX server, an EVS server that will hold all match and ancillary content created in the coming weeks. Sander says that, although the size and capacity of the server have not dramatically increased from previous World Cups, the number of users hosted has, because the EVS servers can accommodate all the demand for access in terms of users and file size.

“The biggest difference is, we now include remote access using EVS IP Web Browse,” Sander explains. “The Web application allows the user to browse the entire library of clips from anywhere. They can select the clips, scroll and mark in and out points, and then push those to a bin with dedicated storage space.”

Also new is the use of EVS C-Cast, completely integrated into a second-screen white-label application that gives fans a chance to use live streaming and VOD for interviews, press conferences, etc., and also see alternate camera angles of key plays. Dedicated connectivity to all venues allows clips to be brought into the IBC and published out through C-Cast to the app.

“The beauty of this setup is, we can use far more of the content we create than ever before,” Sander notes. “We always generated a lot, but, thanks to the second-screen application, the content is a lot more visible.”

Also helping with visibility are two clip-compilation channels: one focused on match action and a second offering the emotion, via reactions from players, coaches, and fans.

Beyond the IBC
Although there are still some moving pieces to fall into place within the IBC, there are pieces that will continue to move throughout the month-long tournament.

Among those pieces are 46 chartered flights via Brazilian airline Gol, which will transport production teams and equipment from venue to venue. With 12 venues located across a massive country, driving from one to the next would be impractical.

“Some equipment will stay at the venues for coverage the day before the match, but we have equipment and eight technical and production teams flying around on the charter flights,” Sander explains. The first flight was a demonstration of efficiency: more than 3.6 tons of equipment was loaded onto a plane in less than 90 minutes for a flight from Porto Allegre to Fortaleza.

Also on the move will be more than 40 FIFA TV ENG crews, which will cover teams and build feature packages about the cities, venues, and culture of Brazil.

The ENG crews, as well as broadcast teams at the venues, will move vast amounts of video and audio data along a massive fiber network that has been put in place by Brazilian telecommunications provider Telebrás. Each venue is connected to the IBC in Rio.

“It’s all looking good, as the telecom network is up and running and stable,” says Sander of the network, which is fully operational now and is a big part of making a World Cup of this scale possible.

The network is connects more than just the venues, though.

“Not all of the ENG teams can get to a venue to ingest content, so we have 26 locations in hotels that will offer 100-Mbps connectivity,” he explains. The goal is to keep driving distances to no more than 45 minutes for file ingest and delivery.

The FIFA World Cup production also offers broadcasters studio locations on Copacabana Beach.

The turnkey facilities are providing studio and production space as well as power, cabins, and air-conditioning to nine broadcasters. The setup also includes dedicated and redundant connectivity back to the IBC.

The nine broadcasters using the studios are the BBC and ITV from the UK, BeIN Sport, SBS Korea, TYC Argentina, Sky Italia, the Norwegian consortium, SBS Australia and SVT Sweden. Sander notes that SBS Australia and SVT are sharing a studio, a situation enabled by the 10-hour time-zone difference between Australia and Sweden.

At the Venues
As if getting a massive IBC, studio operation, and ENG teams up and running was not enough to tackle, there are the venue operations. The construction delays and challenges (and even tragedies) are well documented, but venue broadcast operations are ready to go, with a couple of remaining odds and ends ¾ like stabilizing camera platforms a bit more ¾ still to be nailed down.

“It’s been an amazing effort that started in Munich with the setup in early January of 12 production cabins that are basically huge trucks without wheels,” explains Sander. “They were shipped by sea and arrived safely with key components, like the routing and vision mixer, already installed.”

Sony was the general contractor, and Munich-based SonoVTSStudiotechnik completed integration work. Last year’s FIFA Confederation Cup allowed both companies and HBS to lay down a functioning blueprint for venue operations that became a reality for all 12 venues.

Also playing a big role are AMP, CTV OB, Presteigne Charter, Outside Broadcast, and Studio Berlin, which are providing technical teams and expertise.

The heart of the technical operations area is a 40-ft. refrigerated unit housing all the camera-control units, EVS XT3 server infrastructure, intercoms, Harris and Sony routing control, network switching, and more. That unit is located next to two rows of cabins facing each other (one row has a second level) that measure about 6 meters deep and about 40 meters wide, making some 300+ sq. meters of production space available.

After eight to 10 days of setting up the physical infrastructure, such as monitor walls, the remaining kit — cameras, servers, mics, and other equipment — has rolled in.

The complete facility can be put together in four or five days after the arrival of airfreight equipment.

All freight has arrived in the country and is currently being installed at the venues, ready for the arrival of the production teams.

After matches, some of the kit and the production team will move to another venue, but others — such as the EVS servers, vision and audio mixers, Harris routing, and Sony monitor galleries — will stay put. A small camera complement will remain at a venue for coverage the day before the event and to serve as a backup.

Backup is also the name of the game for power. Aggreko was contracted by FIFA to provide generator power to the IBC and the 12 venues.

“We will always have two or more generators running for full redundancy, and, at the IBC, there will be eight generators,” says Sander. Adding an extra layer of security is that devices with dual power supplies are powered from two different power sources. And cameras on the main gallery are on different power paths so that there is a camera to switch to in case of a single breaker’s tripping.

“We are definitely busy,” says Sander, “but we are in good condition to broadcast matches.”

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