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TriCaster® 2 Elite at the heart of IBC's 5G Remote Production Accelerator Program

March 12, 2021 by Scott Carroll

When people think about the new fifth generation 5G mobile wireless network, most think about faster data on their phones. But there is a business aspect of 5G using Non-Public Networks (NPN) that is far more robust, goes beyond smartphones, and is potentially game-changing for broadcasters.

With IBC 2020 reduced to online-only presentations, the IBC’s Accelerator Program switched rapidly to address challenges broadcasters face today with not only adopting and understanding 5G networks, but also the ongoing pandemic and the digital transformation of content in general.

“The Accelerator programme was a framework put together by the IBC to facilitate innovation and in particular collaboration between broadcasters, studios and other content providers,” said Mark Smith, leading the programme at IBC. “There are many challenges affecting the sector–transformation to IP for production workflows, disruptive technologies like AI, or new distribution networks that are coming online like 5G and others.”

The IBC formed a consortium of ‘champions’ made up of ten broadcasters plus six technology providers including NewTek. The deliverable was a live, online broadcast featuring content originating from the RAI Amsterdam, IBC’s office in London, a boat on an Amsterdam canal, shoreside outside Viacom’s Amsterdam studio HQ, and aerial drone shots all via 5G. All signals were sent to London through various means where a TriCaster® 2 Elite production system ingested and switched all incoming signals into a live presentation to online viewers tuning into IBC Showcase 2020. There would be no rehearsals.

The live transmission on September 10, 2020 included a panel discussion from London and the 5G-enabled shoot controlled by AI cameras from the boat on the canal featuring musical artist Emma Heesters. Links between the boat and shore included a view of equipment configurations behind the scenes, plus a live link to a discussion at the RAI.

The IBC Showcase 2020 featuring the 5G Remote Accelerator programme originated at the RAI Amsterdam with a minimal crew

Signals from this boat in an Amsterdam canal were transmitted via 5G to a central location in London

The brilliant musical artist Emma Heesters performed two songs live on the boat in the Amsterdam canal.

Everyone involved worked remotely without ever once meeting in the same room until the day before the event. Bare minimum crews at each location made simple adjustments to things like camera placements a challenge. The first trial run was the actual live stream in front of broadcast industry peers, testing nerves and 5G networks simultaneously. It became the most watched IBC Showcase 2020 event video.

All feeds from 4 separate locations were fed to the TriCaster 2 Elite in Viacom's London headquarters. Camera signals were switched and streamed live to the audience from here.

Connectivity = Creative Freedom
The team chose TriCaster 2 Elite for its ability to bring in unique and dynamic live feeds from anywhere, including AI-enabled cameras, drone shots, the live performance, and the RAI in Amsterdam. These separate feeds were transferred via various IP transports to Viacom London for final mixing and delivery via TriCaster 2 Elite. Shipping for only one month prior to the event, TriCaster 2 Elite was on one of its first real world live productions. It performed perfectly, being the only device in the world capable of simultaneously managing the various inputs and protocols coming in from each remote location. Nearly every web conferencing tool as well as all IP video sources and smartphones are supported by TriCaster 2 Elite. These, along with almost unlimited traditional SDI sources, can be accessed simultaneously. Its performance that day set a new standard with a unique mix of core functionality unavailable in any other system.

“There were some really high ambitions, and what we ended up with was a truly representative example of the kind of work that broadcasters will want to do when 5G is available in the way we need it to be,” said Purminder Gandhu, technology transfer and partnerships manager, BBC Technology Strategy & Architecture. “It was really interesting to be involved at such an early stage where a lot of the technology and the manufacturers now are beginning to think about how they can adapt or innovate and bring out new technology that fits the picture. That’s definitely what happened with NewTek and (other technology providers). It really fit nicely into what we were trying to achieve.”

The 5G Takeaway
Remote production is emerging as an exciting 5G use case, promising a more efficient method of producing live sports, news, entertainment, and events coverage than traditional outside broadcasts, with more cameras yet fewer camera operators, freeing up staff to work on multiple events from a central studio. There will likely be more possibilities during the very early phases of 5G deployment with further key standards completion to come in 2021. “Broadcasters know 5G is on the way and want to understand the technology behind the hype in a practical on-the-ground perspective rather than the normal show floor demonstrations,” said Ian Wagdin, project lead and BBC R&D senior technology transfer manager. “This (project) meant working through the process using different types of networks, with all broadcasters trying to understand each other’s problems.”

Connectivity is the key to a less-centralized, less big-broadcast future of the industry. In addition to 5G, there will be fibre, WiFi, and hybrid solutions. Understanding how these technologies mesh together is paramount. Thanks to the daring 5G Remote Production Accelerator Program at IBC 2020, there is now far greater understanding and confidence among broadcasters that bodes well for the future in a time of great uncertainty.

We are the 10 Champions:

  • BBC (Project Lead)
  • Al Jazeera Media Networks
  • BT Sport
  • EBU
  • ITV
  • SVT
  • TV2 Norway
  • ViacomCBS
  • Yle
  • Olympic Broadcasting Services

Six Participant Technology Providers:

  • Aviwest
  • Huawei
  • LiveU
  • Mobile Viewpoint
  • NewTek
  • Sony

Supporting Partners:

  • EE
  • VodafoneZiggo
  • University of Strathclyde
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