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by Kieron Seth A nnually, as the Super Bowl approaches, stores across the States stack their shelves with the latest HDTV sets. Advertising sales teams cancel all holidays and prepare for a feeding frenzy. Networks bid in earnest to win exclusive game broadcasting rights. And new media innovators roll out their latest online and mobile apps to capture internet audiences and maximise press attention. Why such an intense surge of activity? Simple: 117 million wealthy worldwide viewers. While many Europeans are still scratching their heads trying to understand what the fuss is all about and why there seems to be more advertising breaks than line breaks, the Superbowl rolls on, bigger than ever. This year’s match in Indianapolis was media heaven. Viewers were treated to an HD sporting spectacular, with operators using TV technology ubiquitous, in and around the stadium. Twenty-nine OB trucks packed with video switchers, routers and signal conversion modules were stationed to manage the operation. Pitchside, NBC’s HD camera systems and slow- mo systems relayed every second and every angle, all connected by miles and miles of fibre optic cabling. 58 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE Failure was unthinkable; outages, no matter how brief, unacceptable. Commercials revenue was enormous, demanding that the broadcaster deliver the audience the advertisers expect. And at an average $3.5 million per slot, expectations were sky high. Into this high finance hot bed crept new low-cost, IT-based TV equipment. Broadcast meets IT Given the vast investment in broadcast equipment and transmission infrastructure, it is tempting to believe that broadcasters still depend slavishly on reassuringly expensive equipment throughout their workflow. Yet anyone following the incursion into television centres by equipment from the likes of Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Blackmagic Design over the last five years will know that this is no longer always the case. However, the one part of the television establishment that has been untouched by commodity-level technology is the all-important video contribution - the transport of video feeds from the field to the broadcaster. An increasing number of intriguing low-cost options are now on the market as a technology competitive to costly satellite systems and cumbersome microwave units. Introduced only a year ago, Teradek’s miniature Cube devices sits on top of cameras and encodes feeds to H.264 for distribution to a decoder using standard wired or wireless IT networks. Cube has become a favoured remote production monitoring tool and is also used for low-cost live streaming of events over the Internet, either direct from a camera or via a production switcher. The newly introduced Case goes one step further. Built around multiple Cube units, it provides a powerful on-set video assist solution for drama and feature film monitoring, proxy file recording and director’s commentary. All this has become available to broadcasters from a Cube unit whose base price is under £1,000. Cameras off the leash At Super Bowl 2012, a new kind of commodity-priced equipment fed screens nationwide, demonstrating how low-cost IT technology has entered the broadcast toolkit. Teradek’s new Bond cellular solution was at the heart of the action for the first time. It was used to televise the event by multiple TV networks across the USA and by a dozen media outlets including the New York Post. Transmitting simultaneously over Verizon, AT&T and Sprint networks, Bond transmitted comprehensive live pre- and post-game supplementary coverage, fixed to a variety of ENG and DSLR camera systems. Bond attaches to a Teradek Cube and is camera-mounted. It uses multiple 3G or 4G mobile dongles from any mobile phone network supplier to transmit encoded content to a receiving station that recompiles the data into a single video >>