CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for complex live event productions, exhibited the full power of IP streaming and bonded cellular networking for live sports production at the 2018 Subaru IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant, a professional triathlon event streamed on Facebook Live. The fully IP and mobile architecture brought together Mobile Viewpoint contribution and transmission systems from CP Communications’ recently-launched Red House Streaming division to process and deliver live camera signals from six events.
Located in the Canadian province of Quebec, Mont-Tremblant is a tiny village that welcomes athletes every summer to compete in a 2.4-mile swim in Lac Tremblant, a 112-mile bike course through forests and low-lying mountains, and a 26.2-mile run through LeP’tit Train du Nord, the longest linear park in Canada. Athletes also competed for 40 qualifying slots at the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship, which takes place this Saturday, October 13 in Hawaii.
CP Communications leased the systems to Carr-Hughes, the production company in charge of the event. CP also provided the specialized motorcycles, which are used for TV, media and live events. Five Mobile Viewpoint Agile Airlink solutions were deployed across four motorcycles, and one roaming technician operating a handheld camera. A miniature Mobile Viewpoint NEO system was also added to a drone for overhead shots. With all six devices added to a Mobile Viewpoint LinkMatrix web portal, Carr-Hughes staff could easily manage devices, adjust data rates and monitor signals from a central workstation.
Mobile Viewpoint Agile Airlink and NEO devices combine H.265 (HEVC) video encoding with patented bonding technology to reliably transmit video over bonded IP connections at the highest possible quality, while using the lowest bandwidth. For the Mont-Tremblant event, each Mobile Viewpoint device accepted and encoded a single camera feed that covered the races from different vantage points. All acquired content was live-streamed to playout servers at Carr-Hughes’ studios in Saratoga, New York, and then onto to IRONMAN’s headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. The high-efficiency H.265 compression and minimal bandwidth consumption across the end-to-end architecture ensured a robust and reliable live signal for Facebook Live viewers.
Kurt Heitmann, CEO of CP Communications, notes that the networked architecture allowed Carr-Hughes to produce what he calls an “at-home production” at one-third the cost of a more traditional networking infrastructure.
“IP and bonded cellular networking offers a cost-efficient option for live sports production, particularly for events such as IRONMAN that do not require a great deal of graphic insertions or large production trucks,” he said. “Our Mobile Viewpoint solutions allow our clients to connect via IP, public internet, Wi-Fi or any combination of the three, using compact, high-efficiency solutions that don’t weigh down technicians or networks. In areas with poor cellular coverage, technicians were achieving excellent picture quality at 500 kpbs, which is unheard of in our industry. Bonded cellular modems and devices are rapidly improving to the point where full event coverage is no longer a concern. Our clients can cut a very high-quality live show at a fraction of the price.”
The compact Agile Airlink devices were side-mounted within Pelican cases on each motorcycle with external gain antennas. Heitmann adds that the on-the-fly flexibility of the Agile Airlink and NEO devices within the LinkMatrix portal allowed technicians to adjust latency as needed based on cell tower proximity.
“The Carr-Hughes team could quickly adjust from very low-latency of one second or less in high-capacity cell tower areas, to as high as ten seconds in more challenging coverage areas,” said Heitmann. “This ensured that the proper amount of forward error correction was applied to the live stream to maintain optimal quality.”
Heitmann concludes, “The launch of our Red Stream Solutions brand eight months ago has quickly differentiated our service offerings from our competitors. Combined with our traditional RF event production and transmission services, CP Communications brings 30 years of experience and a full-service solution across RF and IP based on each client’s requirements.”