On Nov. 30, 2016, in a live production of a French football match between Bastia and Bordeaux, only three people were sent to the site: a production manager, a sound technician and an encoding operator, in addition to camera operators. A total of five cameras were used for the event. A light and compact vehicle was deployed, equipped with encoding system, audio preamps, intercom and tally system, and central control unit (CCU). The event main production truck was located near Paris, almost 900 kilometers away from the stadium. Video signals were lightly compressed at 140 Mbps and transported through 1Gbps dedicated Ethernet connection. All major production work was done remotely in the truck, including video and sound monitoring and routing, graphics rendering, sound mixing and production switching.
On March 31, 2019, the 13th China Zhengkai International Marathon was broadcast live, nationwide, using 5G technology. The Zhengkai International Marathon is 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) long and 21.0975 kilometers (13.1 miles) halfway. Solo 5G portable transmission unit (5G 和背包) played a key role in this mobile, 4K live broadcast. Live cameras’ SDI signal was encoded and transmitted to an on-site TV studio, and to a remote TV station, through the portable transmission unit and 5G network. On-site 5G network speed was tested with a peak rate hitting 1.6 Gbps and with an average rate of 1.5 Gbps, per device. At a local event center, 16 UHD videos were displayed simultaneously and smoothly on one screen, consuming 900 Mbps total bandwidth.
In three years’ time, the changes in remote production technology are dramatic: from HD signal to UHD signal, from fiber to wireless, from fixed camera to mobile camera, from stadium to open field.
Live events, such as sports, breaking news, music festivals, political debates, court proceedings, celebratory occasions, and all others of public interests, are important parts of real time content. It is not always cost effective to send a dedicated outside broadcast van and a group of operators to these events. Remote production offers an alternative way, and 5G network slicing provides an end to end solution, for content creation and distribution.
All major U.S. mobile network providers are currently deploying 5G technologies. With T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger just confirmed, 5G networks may expand to rural areas sooner than expected. 5G technology has requisite varieties for UHD signal flow: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC). In the past, broadcasters tried to deliver TV services to portable and mobile devices, but with limited success. 3GPP release 14, published in 2017, provides solutions based on 4G technology. Release 17 will further improve the architecture for 5G broadcast services. In fact, 5G network has many advantages over the traditional broadcast network, from iterative full duplex communication to centralized management, for example, in addition to eMBB, mMTC, and URLLC.
Rapid changes in technology is not only the biggest disruptive force to the broadcast industry, but also the driving force for viewers’ habits. Quality of experience has become the dominant factor for viewer loyalty. With UHD, display becomes more prevalent, ultra-high resolution, high frame rate, HDR, and wide color gamut will be the new normal for content creation. Content quality, diversity, and availability are key factors for success. With the agile 5G portable transmission unit, journalists could go places, inaccessible to traditional technologies, to report events. Viewers’ vision is only as broad as reporters’, and will be improved when reporters’ exploration skills are improved. Scale of event coverage will be increased when multiple cameras, across multiple sites, are connected together to form a production network, using viable system approach (Ling Ling Sun, VSON Manages Network Complexity, TV Technology, June 17, 2019), and multiple views are distributed to end-users intelligently. Through a centralized control and orchestration, aided by deep learning algorithm and autonomous production, next generation live broadcast experience will be surprisingly different. Viewers will decide what to watch and how to interact.
Ling Ling Sun is general manager, chief technology officer, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications