Innovative new German mobile facility is almost totally tapeless
WIGE OB demands interoperability and network features
by Reinhard E. Wagner
WIGE Television recently ordered a tapeless OB truck from Protec, based in Bingen, Germany. The technical innovation and ideas within the installation are based around a SportsNet server system from EVS, which was selected for its interoperability and network features. The EVS LSM slow motion replay systems will be networked together to become a fully integrated production environment. Any clip recorded by any device on the network is available for editing or playout to any user or even other server, even while the recording process of that clip is still in progress.
Gregor Mucha, technical director of WIGE Television, explained the operational philosophy. "We hesitated (as many other competitors still do) quite a long time before investing in tapeless technology. In the sports production environment you have to record each camera as a single event for pre-editing and re-use purposes. Compared to tape-based recording/archiving, disk-based had previously been expensive and ineffective in a comparative cost-benefit analysis.
"Today, after a slight decrease in server prices, it has become attractive to look at a disk-based solution," says Mucha. "In fact, the new system had to mirror all activities we had been able to do with tapes.
"Hard disks cannot be archived as easily as tapes can, but with EVS' Highlight editing solution, all marked clips may be copied from one LSM to another and/or played directly on air out of a remote machine while parallel recorded on tape for archiving purposes," he adds.
"We wanted to work on one single hardware platform, without recording on a high resolution disk server, then transmitting that material onto an editing server and afterwards forwarding it onto a playout server," Mucha explains.
"The platform had to have online editing, super slow-mo, slow-mo and highlight editing, including split screen and illustrator possibilities. Also, it should work as a regular server, offering access to all files from each seat inside the new truck. Finally, we wished to get a system that could play back several streams at once (loop or still) for keying or monitor filling/playback purposes."
NO PATCH PANELS
At IBC 1999 and NAB 2000, only a few manufacturers could offer a system that provided internal mix effect boards and also supplied all other required features. After careful evaluation of available systems, the final decision was made in favour of EVS and its M-JPEG compression system. WIGE also considered Numeric Video with its Wavelet compression-based Forum server system, but after Numeric was acquired by Orad, WIGE was not sure of the continuity in support for the Forum server product. Although wavelet compression has its benefits, EVS was the winner.
No patch panels were installed in the new OB truck. Central routing from Quartz takes place via two router systems (256x256 and 256x512) managed and controlled by Protec's Virtual Studio Manager software solution. All physical interfaces (SDI standard) are connected directly to the router.
For redundancy and disaster reasons, parallel signals of all main camera, VTR and server signals go to the two GVG Kalypso mixers. Both router systems are interconnected via 64 links, which are handled by the Protec Management and Control software that enables the system to find available signal paths between the two.
The network architecture of the EVS system is like a loop. The bandwidth (540Mbps) supports up to 15 simultaneous realtime transfers on the network at any point in time. "Now that the LAN works well on the OB truck, we are thinking of extending it to a WAN, provided that full bandwidth SDI video links are available both ways between a sports arena and the studio," Mucha says.
The EVS system includes a central replay station, which offers instant access to any camera from any LSM through the network. In conjunction with the central archive station, automatically selected clips are archived to videotape and removable disk. Central edit station will create and roll a highlights package with clips from all machines without the need to copy them.
Although server-based technology (six servers with 36 GB HDDs; each offering six channels) is implemented, there are still 10 DigiBeta VTRs in use. A Lawo mc2 audio mixing console with two ATM switches is implemented, which makes audio routing superfluous. "We are able to provide 7.1 audio surround sound, but at the moment, Dolby E is not under consideration. As a service provider, we have to support our client's requests. As soon as someone has a need for Dolby E, we can implement it. The truck is pre-wired for several future applications," explains Mucha.
The intercom solution is a Riedel Artist with 256 digital and analogue Ifs, which has 64 bi-directional audio connections to Lawo mc2. "We also invested in a huge amount of CRT monitors (new Barco series), because we figured out that TFTs are not the best solution for sports application," Mucha adds.
The new OB truck offers workspace for 22 people. Carlton 021 has a similar OB truck with EVS solutions under construction, which will be on the road in about two months.