Live from the British Open: AVS Expands Presence via Fiber

Muirfield, site of the 2013 British Open has a complete fiber infrastructure this year, making the job for RF specialist Aerial Video Systems easier by bringing greater signal consistency and greater distances to its range of wireless video and audio systems.

“There are 15 fiber drops on the course and we can order what we want at each location and that has been really helpful,” says Randy Hermes, president of AVS. AVS is providing the RF services for CTV OB, provider of the production facilities for IMG and, ultimately, ESPN’s broadcast.

New technologies in use this year include a touchscreen control system for the 14 channels of wireless microphones that make it possible to call up spectrum analyzer tools at the touch of the screen and to also switch the mics between the pair of diversity antennas that are at each of four receive sites on the course.

In terms of microwave systems, each of seven cameras has eight antenna inputs that are distributed to the eight antennas located at the four receive sites across the course. An unattended omni-directional antenna on the roof of the microwave vehicle in the compound receives those signals. Two additional cameras in the bunkers on 13 and 16, are connected via fibre to the compound.

And this year the demands on AVS extend beyond audio and video from play on the course to include communications systems and even a DVB-T transmission system that sends out the ESPN production to tablets that are in the hands of ESPN on-air commentators on the course.

The communications systems, including PLs and IFB circuits, are sent out via RF over fiber.

“From the compound we can dial up the power levels of the transmitters so they can run on as low of power as we can get away with to keep the noise floor low,” adds Hermes.

The RF situation in Scotland and the UK is as complex as it is in the United States as both governments are looking to increase revenues by auctioning off spectrum to next-generation communication services. One advantage however, is that users like AVS buy the frequencies they want to use so they have exclusive access to the spectrum.

“There’s a constant squeeze for frequencies,” says Robert Shaw, AVS, director of UK operations. “And the [government] is trimming the edges a little bit more each time.”

And while AVS is currently operating in the 2.4 and 1.4 GHz bands  and SIS, which handles wireless needs for the BBC, that situation will eventually change when the 3.5 GHz band is auctioned off.

“And that will push SIS to where we are now,” adds Shaw.

For now AVS will use the spectrum it has purchased to do what it always does: commit to delivering high-quality RF signals that, in this case, measure 18 Mbps.

“We try to do better picture quality and it takes more bandwidth to do that,” adds Hermes.