For-A HD converter keys ESPN/ABC World Cup coverage

By Ken Kerschbaumer
The World Cup in Germany is a boon for translators as thousands of foreign journalists, players and coaches descend on the country. But language isn t the only thing that needs to be translated: video signals do as well.

For ESPN the conversion challenge this year is greater than usual. The World Cup is originating in 1080i at 50 frames per second so that means ESPN has to not only content with converting the resolution from 1080i to 720p but also the frame rate from 50 to 60 frame per second.

The problem? With Europeans so new to live HD sports production there isn t a lot of conversion gear on the market that effectively handles the framerate conversion. The need for this kind of gear kind of crept up on the market, says Emory Strilkaukas, ESPN manager of transmission contribution services. As a result Emory and ESPN had to look beyond the usual conversion product providers for a suitable solution.

After a few months of evaluation ESPN selected For-A and its FRC7000 product. For-A is known more for its virtual set and production switcher products but its conversion line is increasingly becoming a market factor.

We went to For-A from start-to-finish, says Strilkaukas. The HD frame-rate converter satisfies two problems: the inability to perform judder-free conversion on moving objects and the processing of scene changes without ghosting or interpolation. Another important feature for World Cup coverage is Scene Cut Detection that detects scene cuts automatically to ensure that the conversion is performed without generating a motion compensation image from unrelated cuts.

We re adding 10 fields per second to the World Cup coverage and cheaper converters just duplicate frames which can create a shuttering effect, says Strilkaukas. We needed something that gave a more advanced look to the frames before and after and could also estimate the motion.

Strilkaukas says the FRC7000 was superior when it came to motion estimation. Two FRC7000 converters are housed in Bristol, CT, where they convert incoming MPEG-2 World Cup feeds that are coming in via fiber and satellite.
Anthony Klick, For-A sales manager for the Northeast and Midwest says the trick of the FRC7000 is its ability to diligently not delete too much information from previous frames when creating the new frame. In our tests with ESPN the only hiccup was when there was a shot where the white ball went in front of banners that were a white background, he says. That one frame was the only error. Dollar for dollar it handles motion compensation just fine.