As World Cup Begins, Here’s a Peek at the Gear Being Used to Cover It

After weeks of buildup involving speculation over squad members, star players getting injured during training, and constant discussion of who might actually win, accompanied by the incessant buzz of the vuvuzela, the FIFA 2010 World Cup finally gets under way in South Africa today.

Host broadcaster HBS is producing the tournament in high definition, with 5.1 surround or stereo sound, from facilities at 10 stadia around the country and the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Johannesburg. HBS is also collaborating with FIFA and Sony to transmit 25 games in 3D, while international broadcasters are enhancing the main unilateral feeds by bringing in their own facilities.

Distribution equipment for the host feed at the venues is housed in Technical Operations Centres (TOCs) built into Portacabins by UK systems integrator Gearhouse Broadcast, which was awarded the contract by lead equipment supplier Grass Valley.

Grass Valley is laying on approximately 290 HD cameras — predominantly LDK-6000/8000 WorldCams — and 43 production switchers. Combined, the Gearhouse Broadcast-built TOCs house about 6,470 items supplied by UK manufacturer/distributor Canford. Among these are 685 custom-built panels, plus BNC HD termination panels, Musa HD panels, and standard XLR panels.

According to Gearhouse Broadcast Project Manager Simon Atkinson, all signals from the venues, which comprise numerous SD feeds and HD feeds, are distributed to unilateral broadcasters at the venues and then fed to the IBC over a telco infrastructure.

3D on the Scene
Two 3D OB trucks are out in South Africa to work on the stereoscopic production. UK company Telegenic’s T18 is equipped with 3ality Digital rigs and a Calrec Apollo digital audio console, and the French AMP Car 8, the first facility of its kind in France, can accommodate up to 16 cameras, 16 digital or analogue VTs, and eight six-channel video servers, with sound mixed through a Studer D950.

Unilateral broadcasters also have taken OB trucks or flyaway packages to the World Cup, with equipment supplied by SIS LIVE and CTV OBs, among others. Belgian company Alfacam is providing facilities for HBS and has sent five HD vehicles, which will operate with a Riedel MediorNet fibre-based network to distribute and route audio, HD/SD video, intercom, and data. Riedel Artist digital matrix intercom systems feature in the four South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC) vehicles built by the OB unit of Sony Professional Solutions.

German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are tailoring footage to their requirements using facilities provided by Media Logic. This involves a mobile-production unit at the IBC based on two Fairlight surround-sound workstations linked to an Avid Unity ISIS-Interplay network and content-management system.

Dedicated to IPTV and Mobile TV
IPTV and Mobile TV are a major component of this World Cup, with a dedicated facility operated by HBS to provide material for these platforms. Other specialists in the field are also involved, including Outdoor Sports Channel, which is providing a live stream of the action.

ITN Productions is supplying Outdoor Sport Channel with news bulletins, interviews, and live coverage of press conferences, including today’s announcement of the England team that will face the USA tomorrow. In addition to live streams, Outdoor Sport Channel has a video-on-demand service, with all its output available on satellite, cable, and the Internet as well as IPTV.

“This is a huge event in the sporting calendar and has a massive following,” says Henk Van Meer, chief executive of Outdoor Sport Channel. “Being able to offer this content as it happens will be a real differentiator for our customers.”

To Deliver the Commentary
Commentary equipment is supplied by Glensound Electronics, which has shipped 650 analogue and 25 digital systems over from the UK. These comprise analogue GS-OC33 desktop base stations in conjunction with GS-OC34 commentators’ panels at the stadia and the IBC for use by international broadcasters; and 25 GDC6432 digital systems, which are at each venue for the HBS host commentary.

“This year’s World Cup is the largest project our equipment has ever been used on,” says Glensound Managing Director Gavin Davis. “We will watch the matches with particular St. George’s pride, knowing our little company from Maidstone, England, is responsible for the little box sitting in front of all the world’s commentators.”

As big an achievement as that is, it will probably be scant comfort to England fans if their team doesn’t get to the quarterfinals.