Claudia Kienzle /
06.09.2002 12:00AM
Having a Ball at The World Cup
Also at the World Cup...
Pixelmetrix joins the World Cup action with its DVStation for signal monitoring. Scopus chose the DVStation and Pixelmetrix's Preventative Monitoring solution for signals from five different game sites. DVStation is monitoring seven MPEG streams and 14 SDI signals in realtime for errors and quality assessment.

East Coast rental house All Mobile Video is sending 13 Ikegami HK-388PW digital cameras to Japan for use by Charter UK to broadcast a series of key World Cup matches taking place in early summer.

The Ikegami HK-388PW uses newly developed 640,000-pixel 2/3-inch FIT CCDS to help deliver high resolution and extremely accurate color fidelity. The cameras can instantly convert between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, while extensive digital circuitry achieves excellent images consistently and easily. A 10MHz ultra-wideband component triax system was introduced together with the HK-388PW, delivering high-resolution pictures even at long cable lengths.

All Mobile Video has more than 100 Ikegami cameras in their roster of rental inventory and on mobile units.

EVS Broadcast's presence at sports mega-events with the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Seoul Broadcasting System, South Korea's largest commercial radio and television broadcaster and an EVS client since 1997, already operates a fleet of four EVS LSM live slow-motion systems. For the opening ceremonies and the first match (Senegal versus France, in Seoul) SBS used the high-definition HD LSM-XT, featuring integrated downconverters for convenient monitoring or HD/SD simulcasting.

Across the globe, EVS is helping Univision with a tape-free tape delay for its 8.5 million U.S. households. An EVS MPEG-2/DVB server is recording every match for replay, using a dozen onboard 180 GB disks, plus editing tools for trimming the segments and assembling highlights packages.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

As the ball is kicked across the field in the games of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament, the TV signal is bouncing from fiber to satellites on its way to billions of viewers around the globe.

With more than 2 billion people watching the last World Cup (in 1998), this year's event - with 32 teams competing in 64 games from May 31 to June 30 in stadiums across South Korea and Japan - is given Olympic-style treatment. Because of the size and fervor of the soccer audience, those responsible for relaying the live television signals from stadiums to TV screens are under tremendous pressure to deliver every single frame of each match without technical problems.

For American viewers, the two key players in the TV signal relay game are Scopus Network Technologies, a supplier of MPEG-2 DVB technologies for broadcast, based in Tel Aviv, Israel; and ESPN, in Bristol, Conn. Both entities stress the quality-control measures they've taken to ensure that these live games light up every soccer fan's TV screen without fail.

GLOBAL TEAMWORK

To support the global signal distribution, Scopus designed and implemented a powerful, complex MPEG-2 DVB digital infrastructure to simultaneously transmit more than 200 digitally compressed channels - roughly 20 video and audio streams from each of 10 stadiums across South Korea and Japan - to the International Broadcasting Center (or IBC) in Seoul.

Once at the IBC, all the games' content is monitored, controlled, processed, edited and rerouted to three earth stations where the content is again processed, de-multiplexed and routed, as the international feed, up to satellites such as PANAMSAT (for the Americas), EBU (for Europe) and J-SAT (for Asia).

Besides having access to that world feed, ESPN deployed its own 35-member production team to South Korea and set up its own broadcast operation within the IBC, including voice-over booths, edit suites and fully equipped control and master control rooms. From this facility, ESPN is taking a clean pool feed and producing its own elements, such as America-centric commentary from ESPN announcers at the stadiums, and custom graphics, and then relaying the game signal and freshly produced elements via satellite to its own Network Operations Center (NOC) in Connecticut. From there, ESPN's NOC takes those elements and produces the final product for broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC (all part of the Disney/ABC family).

THE NEED FOR SPEED

"Considering all the intricacies, the challenge for Scopus was the tight time constraint we faced, " says Ovadia Cohen, vice president of marketing and co-founder of Scopus. "From the time that Korea Telecom officially selected our equipment for this critical digital platform, we had only six weeks to deploy all our equipment and engineering personnel in order to complete the entire system integration in time for FIFA's Final Draw, on December 1, 2001, in Seoul."

The live, televised Final Draw was a series of games that determined the way the world's teams would be matched up in the World Cup. The top 32 teams are now organized into eight groups of four, with the U.S. team in Group D with South Korea, Poland, and Portugal.

Scopus was a subcontractor to Korea Telecom, which spearheaded the 2002 World Cup Soccer global transmission project using its own satellite and telecom infrastructure. Serving the host broadcast nation, Korea Telecom worked in cooperation with HBS (Host Broadcast Services, a division of Kirsch in Germany), which was hired by FIFA as the exclusive provider of the 2002 World Cup Soccer international feeds.

"Our equipment enabled Korea Telecom to provide 2002 World Cup Soccer broadcasts worldwide with the highest signal quality. Because 'live' means no second chances, our system architecture had many redundant signal paths to ensure that there would never be 'black screens' during the live events," says Cohen.

The Scopus end-to-end installation featured its CODICO product line, including E-1000 Professional 4:2:2 encoders (for the output of each digital camera at each stadium), RTM-3800 Statistical Multiplexers, Scopus De-Multiplexers, and professional Integrated Receiver Decoders. The Scopus NMS-4000 was also installed at the IBC for automated, integrated production control management. Actual production of the games was handled by a consortium of local broadcasters in Japan and Korea using primarily DVCPRO cameras.

BACK IN THE USA

"The biggest challenge for us has been coordinating the world feed telecasts with our broadcast plans," says Bill Graff, ESPN coordinating producer for the World Cup. "While the world feed controls 95 percent of the action our viewers will see, we need to add our own elements - including 50 pre-produced 'featurettes' profiling American players and hot issues surrounding soccer in the U.S. - into their program lineup.

Graff also served as the ESPN/ESPN2 and ABC Sports coordinating producer for the 1998 World Cup in France and the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup in the U.S.

"The host broadcaster HBS controls the actual game telecasts, as well as orchestrates the coverage starting 30 minutes prior to the game, during half-time, and 15 minutes following the game. We had to time our elements to fit seamlessly into those pre-game, half-time, and post-game slots, then go back and join their coverage," Graff added.

Graff says that the same production team and facility are serving all the games, which have been divvied up between ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports. ESPN and ESPN2 have combined to present 57 matches live (16 on ESPN and 41 on ESPN2). Also, from May 30 to June 29, ESPN2 is presenting "World Cup 2Night," a daily review and preview of World Cup game action. ABC Sports is carrying an additional eight World Cup matches during the weekends, plus the title match live Sunday June 30 at 6:30 a.m. from Yokohama, Japan.

All the ESPN/ABC telecasts feature uninterrupted game coverage, with continuous score and clock displays. Since the pool feed is being provided in NTSC, Graff says they won't have the headache of signal conversion. Also, there are contingency plans in place: Their feed from the IBC in Seoul is being transmitted by two different satellites (being arranged at press time). And should those fail, ESPN can pick up yet a third source, the world feed on a third satellite.

Despite the time difference, which means that most games air between 2:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., Graff anticipates his networks' live and replay coverage will garner a good audience, especially if the U.S. makes it to the finals.


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