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Broadcast Videohub

Every two years, thousands of broadcasters descend on an Olympic host city like a horde of media-ravenous carnivores. In addition to the International Broadcast Center (IBC) provided for the rights holder broadcasters, the host city also provides a second media center handles the 24x7 needs of the non-rights holder broadcasters. At the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, this facility was put in place by the Province of British Columbia at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver, and was called the BC Media Centre (BCMC).

Broadcasters needed easy and immediate access to all of the audio and video available to them through the BCMC. To get the feeds to them, we here at ProShow, a Western Canada-based provider of broadcast mobiles, flypacks, engineering and corporate audiovisual services, pulled together a routing network based around the Blackmagic Design Broadcast Videohub router and its Smart Control Panel software.

ProShow installed a 72 x 144 Broadcast Videohub as well as two 16 x 32 Studio Videohubs at the BCMC in the weeks prior to the opening ceremony, and maintained that network well after the last event was held. Throughout, we were able to route all of the feeds coming in from various sources through the Studio Videohub and give any broadcaster access to those feeds.

Installation

Installing and configuring the routers was simple. The routers come with SDI reclocking features, which allowed us to connect to long-distance equipment, as well as redundant power supplies and power fail protection, so we were ensured the system would be reliable. And we were able to connect to different formats on the same router because the routers are able to handle mixed SD, HD and 3Gb/s SDI connections.

After we had gone through the initial connections, we moved onto configuration. The routers have the ability to configure and change connections right from our desktop. We had more than 60 sources coming in to the system, including the BCMC press theatre, bookable and unilateral stand-up locations, multicamera feeds of Robson Square's live entertainment, remote feeds from the media center in Whistler, backhaul feeds from broadcasters, and, the most popular item, multiple “beauty cam” shots in and around Robson Square from HD cameras placed around the two-block area. Router destinations included all of the HD LCD screens placed throughout the BCMC facility, the three giant LED walls for public viewing, and, of course, outgoing feeds to broadcasters' control rooms and edit suites both in the BCMC and via fiber back to their home stations.

Software control

We had to have total flexibility to manage the routers — in addition to giving broadcasters complete access. That is where software control was invaluable. Some workstations like our Master Control Operator or Press Theatre Technician needed to control multiple destinations; others like a simple edit suite or outgoing feed to a broadcaster only had a single destination assigned. The Smart Control Panel software allowed us to create customized control panels for each user that gave them full access to what they needed, without the visual clutter of things they didn't need.

We also used the router's Pushbutton View feature. This let us build an interface that allows users to easily navigate pages of buttons with concise and easy to understand descriptions. The Software Control Panel already came with a library of icon buttons and gave us the ability to customize the descriptions even more.

As an IP-based system, the Software Control Panel users were not limited just to those broadcasters that maintained edit suites and control rooms within the BCMC. We were able to give each of our broadcasters an IP address that they could connect into and grab the feeds they needed from anywhere. As long as they could get Internet access, they could access the routers. With a simple software app installed back at the station across the city, or across the continent, a news program could take an event in our Press Theatre live, switch to a beauty cam shot for the bumper to commercial, then switch to a unilateral camera on a stand-up riser and come back for a live interview, followed by a different beauty cam shot into the next break. This level of control and ease of use made the BCMC routing network really stand out.

And although they were located blocks away in the IBC, many of the rights holding broadcasters got in on the act and made use of the Software Control Panel to access our Press Theatre and beauty cams throughout the games.

By the end of the games, more than 3800 members of the media made use of the BCMC, and images taken from our network were used in nearly every country with a broadcast presence at the games.

What we accomplished and the ease with which our audience was able to use the routing infrastructure really could not have been made possible without software control. And it can be done at a fraction of the cost of the old hardware-based control. The Broadcast Videohub that was at the center of it all has now been installed in one of our HD broadcast trucks, where it continues to provide exceptional performance and flexibility.

Tim Lewis is founder of ProShow AudioVisual/Broadcast.