PSSI Turns Three Trucks Into One With New C-Band Trailer

Thanks to a new PSSI-Strategic Television satellite uplink truck, broadcasters can now produce full sporting events without even being present onsite. PSSI used the new 47-ft. C-band trailer last weekend to send seven HD MPEG-4 paths from Augusta National Golf Club back to Golf Channel’s headquarters in Orlando, FL, where the network cut its live Masters show. Golf Channel did not have to send a production truck or any staff to Augusta, resulting in major cost savings for the network.

“Instead of cutting the show remotely and sending it out like your typical production truck would, we’re actually sending MPEG-4 HD paths back to the home facility, where they can cut the show from there,” PSSI SVP Brian Nelles said at the company’s NAB booth on Tuesday. “For the Masters, [the Golf Channel] cut the actual live show in Orlando. The Masters was the first time [the Golf Channel] ever tried that.”

PSSI transmitted three camera feeds, a media-room live camera feed, a fairway camera feed, and a two tape-machine cameras from Augusta back to Orlando. In addition, Golf Channel plans to use PSSI’s truck once again for the Players Championship in May at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

“It’s like a production trailer but with satellite as the backbone. It’s basically a mobile teleport,” says Nelles. “It doesn’t have the traditional satellite-truck look because it’s got a large monitoring area with a huge multiviewer wall for projects just like this.”

The truck debuted earlier this year at Daytona International Speedway, where PSSI sent six channels of AVC HD video from the Daytona 500 back to NASCAR Media Group’s production center in Charlotte, NC. The truck will also serve NMG’s needs at every Sprint Cup race this season, when PSSI embarks on a five-year deal with NMG.

Previously, PSSI had to roll out three C-band uplink trucks at every Sprint Cup race and one back in Charlotte. However, the new Frontline Communications-designed truck allows PSSI to use a single truck for several transmission streams. It is equipped with two C-band antennas, which can support simultaneous transmissions to three discrete C-band transponders. The first transponder is used for NMG, the second as a backhaul feed for the Speed Channel, and the third for DirecTV Hot Pass.

“This was a year in development with NASCAR. We started testing with them at Martinsville [Speedway] in March of 2009,” says Nelles. “It was tested several times during the year, but it wasn’t until Daytona in February of 2010 that we actually went to air with the platform.”

The large control room for monitoring is fitted with six 40-inch NEC LCD displays along with four Evertz multi-image processors, three Harris multiformat test monitors, and six Wohler audio monitors. In addition, the truck features eight Ericsson MPEG-4 encoders and Evertz digital router, fiber converters, and RF amplifiers.

According to Nelles, the trickiest thing about transmitting video to an off-site production facility is coordinating the timing and delays from each source. For example, when a car enters turn three and then the director cuts to a shot of the same car coming out of turn three, the two shots will line up perfectly in terms of timing.

“Obviously, it’s very important that the camera shots are all coming back at exactly the same time,” Nelles said. “There has been concern about MPEG-4 and the fact that we’re running at different bitrates. That means the delay of the encoding could be less or more, depending on the bitrate in the encoders.

“So you have to be very cautious and use some techniques in encoding that makes sure that your delays are exactly the same,” he continues. “We’re using what’s called a seamless variable delay in the Ericsson encoder to set a predetermined delay number. That way, the delay is the same all the time.”

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