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Using Videoconferencing Technology For Broadcast Coverage

Internet protocol-based (IP) communication technologies have been getting a great deal of playing time in the professional sports world recently. This year, ESPN used a combination of Sony IPELA videoconferencing systems powered by GlowPoint’s broadcast quality IP-based video communication network to provide broadcasting services during the live television coverage of the NFL and NBA drafts.

During the NBA draft, on-air personalities conducted interviews with team coaches, players and other key personnel located at remote locations throughout the country using advanced IP-based technology. Each of the team locations across the country connected to the GlowPoint IP network via Sony PCS-1 and PCS-G70 video communication systems located at ESPN’s studios. The PCS-1 systems at each team facility were also set up in a studio environment complete with professional lighting and audio settings.

The remote team locations used the Sony Event Server, which is preconfigured for remote video communication-based content acquisition. Using the system, players and coaches were able to stay at their own local team facility and conduct live broadcast interviews with in-studio sportscasters to discuss each team’s draft prospects and picks. Using GlowPoint’s network, the NFL and the NBA were provided end-to-end reliability and broadcast quality service.

The use of this type of visual communications technology spared the teams the trouble and expense of placing satellite trucks at their facilities—at the cost of thousands of dollars per day—and allowed them to communicate over a standard T-1 connection from each remote location directly with the on-air personalities at the location where the draft was being held.

The live broadcast did not experience video and audio latency and delay often associated with satellite-based conferencing. In fact, sending images and dialogue back and forth was as easy as placing a telephone call, with quality as good as that of traditional satellite service.

The same configuration was used for the NFL draft, which was held over two days. Twenty-six team locations were connected with the studios for IP broadcasting services, allowing team personnel to discuss their draft picks live on-air.

The videoconferencing solution was also used for the morning sports show Cold Pizza, which held draft-related coverage, highlights, interviews and news updates before, during and after the events.

One of the most unique highlights of the service was the side by side interviews on screen between players being broadcast via IP video conferencing technology and images
from the satellite feeds from the talent in the studio.

Since the signals from the video conferencing system were going to be mixed live in real time with traditional broadcast feeds, there needed to be no visual or audio difference between the two feeds. The crew in the studio was able to seamlessly make the quality of the two feeds match perfectly without any discernable difference between them, even when put together on a split-screen.

Special events like drafts are not the only major sports application of IPELA technology. Recently, Sony announced an agreement with the NFL Network to use an IPELA-based integrated IP-based video communication solution. The solution was used by all 32 teams to connect instantly during this summer’s NFL training camps and continuing throughout the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl.

The system uses a combination of GlowPoint and Sony technologies to provide Team Cam interviews with coaches and players on NFL Network’s signature show, NFL Total Access.

During the Team Cam segments, host Rich Eisen conducts live face-to-face interviews with multiple players from different NFL teams and locations to discuss the latest news taking place around the league. In addition, during the regular season, NFL Network will utilize the IP-based solution to broadcast Monday’s head coach press conferences from around the country.