Italian production company NVP has equipped its OB 4 with solutions from Lawo, including mc256 production consoles, a Nova router, and DALLIS interfaces, alongside the VSM control system and the V__pro8 video processing units.

IP-equipped OB vans ready to hit the road live

With IP technology being increasingly adopted in outside broadcast (OB) vans, the live broadcast set-ups demand new approaches in terms of workflows and design. Josephine Tan discovers how OBs have evolved following the implementation of IP-based solutions.

An outside broadcast (OB) van is fundamentally a mobile broadcast studio. Housing all the equipment needed to produce and deliver a live event — such as cameras, routers, switchers and multi­viewers — within a vehicle, OB vans continue to act as a valuable tool for broadcasters in ensuring the coverage of local and on-set productions.

In OB 4, the latest addition to the fleet of OB vans operated by Italian production company NVP, the triple-expanding truck has enabled the company to accommodate multi-format productions in SD, HD, 4K/Ultra HD (UHD), standard dynamic range (SDR) and high dynamic range (HDR).

At the heart of OB 4’s audio system are a pair of Lawo’s mc256 production consoles, a Nova router and DALLIS interfaces. Completing the features needed in the broadcast production workflow is Lawo’s virtual studio manager (VSM) and the V__pro8 eight-channel video processing units, which are fitted in a compact 1RU housing.

Together, the audio consoles and VSM have empowered NVP to manage multi-format operation across a variety of productions. This includes Italy’s Serie A football league matches produced in 4K/UHD, concerts and musical events. The OB van has also been deployed for conference coverage, including the G7 Summit 2017 in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, in May when NVP was the host broadcasting company.

“Lawo’s solutions provided power and versatility, opening the infrastructure to any interaction by simplifying complex operations, and establishing interconnections that support complex remote production capabilities,” says Ivan Pintabona, technical manager at NVP. “VSM works perfectly with other products of the same range. I am pleased with my choice, and I am deploying new solutions and functionalities using Lawo’s products daily.”

Additionally, OB 4 is equipped with Grass Valley’s cameras, including 20 4K LDX86N and eight LDX82 WorldCam, all with HDR functionality and capable of simultaneous operation, alongside Dolby E, 12 replay stations and six producer positions. With two dedicated video and audio control rooms, all sources can be managed separately to supply any type of production, host signal and national integration on-board.

To enable multi-format simulcast 4K/UHD HDR, HD 1080p HDR, and HD 1080i SDI productions, NVP required an enabling control system, which is one reason for the deployment of the VSM control system. The system is capable of controlling all equipment in OB 4, including overall labelling and tally. Moreover, VSM runs on an IP-backbone and is future-proof for further developments and productions of OB 4 in an increasingly IP world.

The proliferation of IP technology in broadcast infrastructures will significantly change the role of OB vans, declares Gregor Erlitz, head of sales, Asia-Pacific, Lawo.

He tells APB: “Implementing remote production workflows reduces the need for having fully equipped large production OB vans on-site. We will see the design of traditional OB vans being replaced by smarter layouts that still could be operated as standalone production trucks, but in parallel, act as a front-end for remote production set-ups that provide additional mixing, processing and storage resources from a networked production facility, whenever needed.

“Production staff then can reside inside the OB van, or at other distant facilities, to operate equipment that is not necessarily housed in the same OB van anymore.”

While the move to IP-based infra­structures may be fuelled by 4K/UHD investments, Erlitz points out that an inherent advantage of IP is its ability to manage different types of media and production formats within the same infrastructure. He elaborates: “The integration of audio, video and control within the same network, and having them accessible via a unified operating interface, enhances production configuration and reduces set-up time dramatically. Another aspect with IP is that the staff and the equipment location become potentially independent, resulting in better utilisation of resources.”

Hiroyuki Takahama, assistant general manager, content creation solutions marketing, professional solutions company (PSAP), Sony Corporation of Hong Kong, agrees with Erlitz’s points on staffing efficiencies and better allocation of resources brought forth by IP. He adds: “Apart from satellite uplinks, broadcasters now are able to explore more possibilities with the availability of new network connections.

“There is an increase in the adoption of IP-based workflows in OB vans which is proving to be intrinsically beneficial, as it provides scalability and flexibility while supporting cloud-based and service-based operating models. Furthermore, the increase in the numbers of OB vans currently deployed in the broadcast scene that are equipped with a certain degree of IP capabilities has shown that the technology is ready for live production.”

Sony is now offering its IP Live technology, which is designed to create a single, unified IP network that aims at lowering equipment costs and replacing dedicated SDI routing with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) switches. Calling the IP Live technology a “substantial step forward” in OB van workflows, Takahama explains that compared to IP Live, conventional 3G-SDI cabling requires high cost, more weight and high storage volume, thus impacting the transition to 4K/UHD programme production.

He continues: “For instance, each 4K/UHD 50p connection requires four 3G-SDI cables. With compression enabled, IP Live is capable of carrying two 4K/UHD 50p signals on a single-fibre interconnect. Our calculations for a sample eight-camera truck revealed 75% reduction in the number of cables, and 85% savings in cable weight. The savings in size and weight are major advantages when configuring the OB van.”

In Australia, NEP is one of the country’s largest OB and studio facilities, providing broadcast infrastructure for sports and studio productions locally and internationally. The company has chosen several equipment from Sony — including the HDC-4300 cameras, XVS-6000 and XVS-8000 IP-capable switchers, as well as a wide range of OLED and LCD monitors — for its new IP-based remote production solution.

The systems are installed in NEP’s new Andrews Hubs, which connect 29 sports venues via a new high-bandwidth network. Four new all-IP OB vans and seven legacy SDI trucks, enhanced with new IP layers, will complement the two production hubs, which are located in Sydney and Melbourne.

NEP’s Andrews Hubs will also enable multiple, simultaneous OB productions. Hence, despite the HDC-4300 cameras being located at different venues, the event production teams will be based at the production hubs. The SMPTE 2110 signals from these cameras will be transmitted to the production hubs, where the production switching will be performed on Sony’s XVS series of vision switchers.

Marc Segar, director of technology at NEP Australia, explains: “NEP is committed to an all-IP ecosystem at the Andrews Hubs and our new trucks at the beginning of this project. We are therefore very pleased to be partnering with Sony on switcher and camera technologies that complement the rest of our fleet. The new HDC-4300 cameras will join the 48 in our current inventory.”

Additionally, NEP Australia has equipped its 4K/UHD-HD-capable OB vans with IHSE’s Draco tera KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch. Draco tera is connected to a range of on-board equipment via control interfaces, enabling operators to connect all computers and devices throughout the OB van to their individual workstation using keyboard commands.

As for Tencent, a Chinese Internet platform, it has tasked systems integrator (SI) Ideal Systems to design and build a 4K/UHD HDR OB van equipped with IP infrastructure. The IP infrastructure is designed based on the SMPTE 2022-6 and SMPTE 2022-7 standards, with the ability to upgrade to SMPTE 2110. Developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), SMPTE 2110 is a set of standards — pending ratification — that specifies the carriage, synchronisation and description of separate elementary essence streams over IP.

Tencent’s OB van is fitted with Grass Valley’s 4K LDX86N cameras. As part of the LDX86 series, the LDX86N camera features native 4K/UHD (3840×2160) and native 3G/HD (1920×1080) image capture, using three 3840x2160p 4K/UHD XensiumHAWK CMOS imagers with DPMUltra (dynamic pixel management) functionality.

Feeds from the cameras will be transmitted via IP to GV Node, an IP processing and routing platform. Designed to manage “accurate” switching within IP workflows, GV Node is integrated with the support for SMPTE 2022-6 IP inputs and outputs, as well as TICO visually loss-less compression, to enable the delivery of 4K/UHD applications. GV Node also supports the extensive range of Densité signal-processing modules, including integrated Kaleido multiviewer to deliver monitoring for live production.

Li Hua, head of engineering, Ideal Systems China, concludes: “It’s a natural progression to see video developing from SD to HD, and to 4K/UHD, or even 8K. Under this circumstance, IP will have a clear advantage over high-bandwidth transmission. Although some manufacturers and organisations have different approaches towards IP standardisation, which has yet to be unified, we look forward to the TR-03 and TR-04 standards from Video Services Forum (VSF) to provide an overall solution while achieving IP interoperability.”

And when watching the broadcast of a live event, it is extremely distracting to the viewers if lip-sync error occurs as it is instantly visible. To accurately measure audio and video alignment, London-headquartered video production company Timeline Television has equipped its OB van with Hitomi’s MatchBox 4K.

Dubbed UHD2, the IP 4K/UHD HDR OB van is designed based on the SMPTE 2110 standard, enabling both audio and video to be processed in the IP stream. The 1U Hitomi MatchBox provides test signals generation and comparison of video and audio delays, enabling operators to measure and monitor the delays, ensuring delays are precisely matched.

Lee Wright, senior broadcast engineer at Timeline, concludes: “With 4K/UHD transmissions, there is a relatively high video processing delay to audio. The only way to measure the discrepancy out of the HEVC/H.265 encoder is by using a MatchBox as it provides an actual measurement of delay in milliseconds, allowing the engineer to manually add the correct delay in the audio to match the video exactly. Every pair of AES audio channels are checked, and once the delay is added, it is great seeing a zero-difference reading on the analyser.”

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