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infrastructure by Alan Green, TTL Video
I t is now common
practice to cable
major sports venues
for broadcast operations.
It saves time rigging –
pulling cables in to every camera and
commentary position can take a day
or more. The efficiency is great for
broadcasters – it means that the same
truck can work at different grounds on
As well as speed, pre-cabling also
makes for a tidy rig. Stadiums are
now prestige venues, and owners
like to keep them looking their best.
Draping cables around, using tape
or ties to attach them to parts of the
structure, which may not be designed
to take loads, and covering cables in
rubber mats leaving trip hazards are all
unacceptable to stadium owners.
TTL Video has been a leader in this
area since 2000. That was when it was
decided to pre-cable all the Premier
League football grounds in England to
a standard scanner location, and the
contract was awarded to TTL.
The initial project involved installing
around 80 cables in each stadium.
These included triax cables to the
standard camera positions, plus audio
multicores, video and power cables.
Today the number of cables has risen
to more than 300 for each stadium.
This is due in part to the steady
increase in the number of cameras
around the pitch. The current standard
Premier League plot can use 26
cameras. The cameras around the pitch are just
the start. Broadcasters now expect to
be able to put cameras on the arrival
area, in the tunnel, in some sports
maybe even the dressing rooms, and
press conference rooms.
There can be multiple rights-holding
broadcasters at an event, each with
their own presentation or studio,
so the number ramps up really
60 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 88 APRIL 2014
When we started, fibre was felt to be
relatively fragile for this sort of job, so
we provided extra to give us resilience
– installing 12 strands where perhaps
four were regularly used. But actually
fibre has proved to be astonishingly
reliable. The main problem with fibre are
the connections, so when we are
designing an installation we have
to find the balance between the
convenience of installing the cable and
minimising, or eliminating, joins. The
solution is to install fibre cables to the
approximate length, then use short
“pig-tails” with the connectors, which
can be fusion spliced on site.
quickly. We see 80 or more camera
positions alone specified in stadiums
today. More broadcasters mean
more requirements for commentary
positions, audio feeds, data for
telestrators and other requirements,
too. We are seeing a transition of camera
cables. At present the English
stadiums are all still largely triax, but
there is an increasing requirement for
SMPTE fibre. This requirement started
with high definition super slo-mo
cameras, and was reinforced by the
interest in 3D coverage, which relies
on fibre cameras to give the necessary
bandwidth. This is why we need good
reliable suppliers of cables, connectors
and accessories. Argosy, admirably, is
one of our key suppliers and they help
fulfil this role for us.
For a broadcaster to decide not to rig
its own cables, it has to be completely
confident the stadium installation will
work. That means the installation, and
its routine maintenance, has to be to
broadcast standards and broadcast
reliability. With the growing use of fibre optic
cables – both SMPTE fibre for
cameras and single-mode, so-called
“dark” fibre for other functionality – we
have a lot of experience in what can
be done in stadium installations.
Fusion splicing requires sophisticated
equipment but is a relatively simple
technique which competent wiremen
can learn, and this means that fibres
can be quickly repaired if necessary.
We expected a typical life of five years
but our installations are comfortably
The cabling of stadiums and sports
venues may seem like an unglamorous
task, but broadcasters will only be
able to trust it if they are completely
confident in the infrastructure. In
turn, broadcasters will be more keen
to use a stadium which has a good
infrastructure because of the savings
in operational expenditure and time,
so more events will go to that venue.
All in all, a good, reliable, pre-cabled
infrastructure is a sensible investment.