With the abundance of international sporting events taking place this summer, broadcast technologies and logistics are being put to the test across the board. Beyond the typical coordination and on site expertise required for broadcasts, many companies face not only longer engagements but aggressive turnaround times and long travel distances between each event. This summer, Bexel, a unit of the Vitec Group's Services Division and a leading worldwide provider of broadcast services and solutions, gave us an inside look at the journey of its gear as the company successfully outfitted major broadcasters with equipment and engineering support during the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, Olympic Games and US Open—totaling more than 12,000 miles in about three months.
“Every two years we anticipate the challenges and logistics required for the Olympic Games,” says Joe Wire, vice president Bexel Global Enterprise Accounts. “This year posed a unique test for us, as the games took place directly in between the Euro Cup in Warsaw, Poland, and the US Open in Queens, New York. Not only did we have to take staffing into consideration, but also equipment, as each production required unique solutions.”
Throughout the course of the year, Bexel made considerable investments in a range of broadcast technologies. “We know that our clients expect turnkey solutions, so as we built up to the summer events, we increased our inventory substantially—from cameras and lenses to servers, switchers and audio monitoring,” says Tom Dickinson, chief technology officer, Bexel.
While Bexel was ultimately charged with coordinating three different broadcast events, its expertise lies in scalable solutions. “Using the same core infrastructure for all three events, we were able to utilize similar equipment across all of them and succeed,” says Wire. Included in the scalable flypacks that made the journey across Europe and the U.S. were Evertz EQX, EMR and Xenon routers, Sony HDC-2500 cameras and the EVS XT3 video servers. The Evertz EQX and EMR routers originally made their flypack debut during last year’s US Open and were selected again this year, as the routers are scalable to meet the various different complexities of the shows with regards to inputs, type of signals (50hz vs. 60hz and multiple HD formats) and flexible programming. The Sony HDC-2500 cameras were a part of the flypacks for the Olympics as well as the US Open, as the camera is the first to offer 1080p as a standard feature, capturing incredible images for Bexel clients. What’s more, the EVS XT3 six-channel production servers with 900GB drives were provided to give Bexel and its clients the most robust server technology available. They also provided a backbone of the technical infrastructure to perform at its highest capability allowing Bexel clients to capture, edit, playback and export the media in a seamless fashion. The EVS internal IT infrastructure allows Bexel to create a diverse production computer network with capabilities to interface with many of today's file-based infrastructures. For the Olympics specifically, Bexel was able to network four XT3's with multiple EVS IP Directors and Avid edit platforms creating a seamless production workflow.
Once the gear was identified and secured, the next step was to develop a seamless plan of attack for getting it overseas. To do so, Bexel worked with SOS Global Express, a full-service freight forwarder with extensive experience in time-sensitive large-bulk movements. Starting in May, more than 30 days ahead of the start of the European Championships, Bexel began its massive distribution of equipment to Warsaw. Several 52' tractor trailers moved the equipment from Bexel's Dallas office to an international shipping terminal in New Jersey. From there, via ocean containers, the equipment was shipped to Warsaw for its initial European deployment. Bexel also utilized cargo aircraft to transport more delicate electronics two weeks before the beginning of the European Championships. Through careful planning, precise customs documentation and thorough execution the equipment arrived in Warsaw as expected.
For the European Championships, Bexel integrated a broadcast infrastructure whereby signals were routed to and from multiple locations in Warsaw, the Ukraine and ESPN U.S. Broadcast Center in Bristol, Connecticut. "The technical integration of Bexel's Evertz Router systems working in tandem with ESPN's Bristol-based Evertz systems provided a multi-national fiber transport network to function flawlessly throughout the tournament," says Wire.
Following the conclusion of the European Championships on July 1, Bexel engineer Lane Robbins was charged with striking the gear. A slew of equipment was then driven from Warsaw to London the following day by truck. “It was imperative that the gear arrived on time and prior to lockdown in the IBC on July 5, as that would have made things much more difficult,” explains Wire. “The gear arrived on the evening of the July 4 and we took delivery prior to lockdown.” In addition to bringing gear inside the IBC, Bexel also had to ensure a large portion of the equipment arrived at ESPN's Olympic Park studios on Marshgate Lane the following day in order to meet the very aggressive production schedule for multiple ESPN and Disney networks. With a successful delivery to both locations, Bexel's engineering teams began the process of building and integrating four control rooms, four audio control rooms, two EVS networks, eight Avid and Final Cut Pro edit rooms, multiple media manager stations and the deployment of four Panasonic P2 based ENG packages.
“It’s certainly a team effort to ensure all 482 boxes are packed and unloaded efficiently,” adds Wire, who says a specific labeling system was deployed to carefully track and manage each piece of equipment with its correlating shipping crate or box. “The system we used really allowed our team to be able to lay out the boxes at the end of each series, grab the equipment and look for its proper box. This way, when customs officials looked at our manifests, they could clearly see what’s supposed to be inside. From there, we had a record of which box and equipment went on to the next event.”
After the closing ceremonies, the team struck the production gear on Monday, August 13 and Tuesday, August 14, and prepared the items to be loaded onto a Bexel chartered 747 jet for the tight two-day turnaround to the US Open. The plane left London and arrived in New York, the following morning. From there, the Bexel operations team inventoried the equipment once again and created delivery schedules for both ESPN and CBS on August 17 and 18, respectively.
Onsite at the US Open in Flushing, New York, the Bexel team will put together complete production infrastructures for both ESPN and CBS inclusive of a 22 EVS XT production infrastructure with 12 logging stations, one media manager station with nine EVS XFile2's, three full high-definition control rooms, seven Avid Symphony edit rooms, four VIZRT graphics workstations, two Chyron HyperX graphic workstations and an integrated fiber network throughout the USTA compound. In addition, Bexel will deploy 19 engineers to support the 24-hour production environments for both US Open rights holders.
“Our success can really be measured by the consistency and scalability we provide,” says Wire. “When we build a flypack, it can do a two-camera or a 30-camera show. So for these events we took the package we’ve offered for the US Open for the past three years and scaled it to grow for London and downsized it for the European Championships, all featuring the same core equipment. The same goes for our engineers: depending on the scale of the event, you can have one person running it or three, and then potentially six or seven based on what they need to accomplish.”
According to Bexel, the plan for these systems is to continue on to other projects in Bermuda, China, Europe and beyond, not to mention the Super Bowl and upcoming NBA games—until all preparations begin again for the 2014 Winter Games.