Arena, UK OB provider, taps Snell Quasar for RBS6

Snell & Wilcox’s motion compensated Quasar Ph.C HDTV upconverter has been used by Arena TV, the U.K.’s largest privately owned supplier of outdoor broadcast (OB) services, to provide a seamless HD feed of the RBS 6 Nations Championship for BBC Outside Broadcasts. In its first use for a U.K. sports event, the Quasar Ph.C was installed in Arena’s HD7 OB unit at Twickenham to upconvert the output of the Red Bee Media Piero graphics system so that its 3-D models of play meshed smoothly with feeds from the 23 HD cameras at the stadium.

“We turned to the Quasar Ph.C because we wanted to be sure that we could maintain a high standard for all of our HD camera sources and graphics within the 6 Nations feed,” said James Bonnar, head of outside broadcast at Arena TV, which was subcontracted by BBC Outside Broadcasts to deliver coverage for BBC Sport. “We implemented it to great success with the Piero system. The upconverted images looked crisp and sharp, and they blended nicely into the overall production. The output really looked fantastic. The key lies in how well the upconverter can fill in the missing bits, and Quasar Ph.C manages this exceptionally well.”

The RBS 6 Nations Championship took place over seven weekends from Feb. 3 through March 17, featuring matches among rugby teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy. With coverage across BBC ONE, BBC TWO, and BBCi, the 2007 tournament was the first to be broadcast in HD as part of the BBC’s HD trial on cable, satellite, and DTT. All home matches for England, Scotland, and Wales were broadcast in HD. When play concluded on Saturday, March 17, France was the overall victor.

For matches broadcast from Twickenham, Red Bee Media’s Piero technology created a virtual stadium in which virtual players could be seen from almost any angle, allowing viewers to see precisely how the ball was thrown and by whom. The Snell & Wilcox Quasar Ph.C was used specifically to upconvert this unique virtual element and bring Piero’s computer-driven graphics into the HD realm.

Quasar Ph.C produces dazzlingly clear and sharp HD outputs from a variety of SD inputs, regardless of the complexity of the input. Unlike other HDTV upconversion systems, Quasar Ph.C uses motion estimation technology to combine all of the information in each video field into a full-resolution frame, from which it produces its upconverted output. As a result, the Snell & Wilcox system is able to deliver twice the resolution of other available HD upconverters.

Developed from the ground up to deliver the ultimate conversion to HD formats, Quasar Ph.C combines four Emmy Award-winning Snell & Wilcox technologies in a single compact 1-RU package. These technologies include Ph.C motion estimation, DEFT 3:2 cadence correction, Prefix compression preprocessing, and FormatFusion HDTV conversion.

“The RBS 6 Nations Championship is among the premier sports events of the year here, making a high-quality HD broadcast a high priority,” said Joe Zaller, vice president of strategic marketing for Snell & Wilcox. “The Quasar Ph.C’s ability to preserve high-frequency detail in action-packed images and maintain the fine detail of slow or still images made it a perfect fit in this application, enabling a consistent look across the BBC’s HD broadcast.”