Gearhouse Broadcast Celebrates Success of Massive World Cup Project

As the 2010 FIFA World Cup draws to a close, Gearhouse Broadcast is at the center of the action in South Africa, providing facilities, services, equipment, and crew to chief North America rightsholders ESPN and Univision.

“A lot of people and equipment have gone into making this key sporting event a technological success,” says Marc Genin, managing director, Americas division, Gearhouse Broadcast. “As far as the USA and large parts of South America are concerned,” he adds, “everything you watch is facilitated by Gearhouse Broadcast.”

In addition, Gearhouse provided services and gear to Host Broadcast Services (HBS), ITV, ESPN Brazil, and Argentina’s TyC and Telefe for their extensive World Cup productions.

“This has been one of the largest and most challenging projects we have undertaken, due to its scale and the complexity of the logistics involved,” says Gearhouse Broadcast COO Kevin Moorhouse. “Because of the amount of kit and the distance involved, we started preparing for the World Cup 12 months ago, and it has been a very complex process.”

Gearhouse Broadcast designed and installed a 1,200-sq.-m facility for ESPN in South Africa. It comprises three production galleries, each with its own audio mixer, central logging and ingest area, on-air EVS area, Avid edit suites, transmission area, and large remote studio overlooking Soccer City. In addition, a large central production office houses audio, video, and communications facilities.

The whole facility is virtually tapeless. A central EVS server for ingest and logging is connected to an Avid Unity server to allow transfer of files among Avid edit systems, ingest, and on-air EVS machines. Three Lawo MC56 audio desks (connected via four cores) enable all three control rooms to transfer audio signals for the various 5.1 surround-sound mixes. A large Telex Adam system with 270 ports (including 64 RVON ports) maintains all communications between ESPN’s Bristol, CT, headquarters and the remote sites in South Africa.

Gearhouse Broadcast has supplied Univision, which holds the Spanish-language World Cup broadcast rights in the U.S., with broadcast equipment, communication facilities, two control rooms, studio, and crew at the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in Johannesburg. This facility has a large EVS and FCP server system, making it almost tapeless. Gearhouse has also constructed a remote three-camera studio connected to the IBC via third-party–supplied fiber and data connections.

Host Broadcast Services
As a service provider to Host Broadcast Services, which is producing the World Cup feed seen by billions of fans around the world, Gearhouse Broadcast’s Project Solutions team built and installed the Technical Operation Centre (TOC) at each of the 10 stadiums in South Africa. These are the main signal-distribution and -monitoring facilities at each venue for the HBS as well as for individual broadcasters. Gearhouse also supplied engineering staff for each of the TOCs.

In addition, Gearhouse provides a variety of on-site services, including systems integration and construction of studios and facilities at the IBC. At these facilities, individual rightsholding broadcasters can personalize their productions and transmit the content to their home countries.

Beyond North America
Gearhouse supplied one HD OB facility for all of ITV’s (a British rightsholder) pitch-side presentations. The unit provides two-way capability for pre- and post-match interviews and presentations and pitch-side reporter facilities during the match. The small, four-camera unit built out of Gearhouse’s flyaway rigs is installed in a small vehicle that travels around the country. Gearhouse also supplies engineer, sound, and camera crews.

An IBC facility designed and built for ESPN Brazil houses a production-control room, studio facility, 12 ENG kits, EVS servers, and integrated Avid editing and storage servers. On-air approximately 14 hours per day, this facility shows matches and background stories edited in the four edit suites on-site.

Gearhouse facilities for Argentinean broadcasters TyC Sports and Telefe Argentina include monitoring, distribution, production galleries, and studio facilities. Torneos y Competencias S.A. was responsible for hiring the equipment, and Torneos y Competencias ARG is in charge of the production for DirecTV Latin America, Fox Sports, TELEFE, Canal 7, and TyC Sports.

Extraordinary Planning, Logistics
In preparation for its extensive work in South Africa, Gearhouse made significant investments in Canon HD lenses, Sennheiser microphones, Sony HD monitors, and Sony HD cameras and camcorders. In addition, the company acquired Pro-Bel HD/SD routers, Tektronix test equipment, Evertz VIP multiviewers, and Harris distribution products. Gearhouse also purchased 14 XT[2] EVS servers,  boosting its inventory to 46.

“The size of the country means that our planning and logistics needed to be extremely well organized so that everything was there and in place with plenty of time prior to the start of the tournament,” says Moorhouse. “We’ve got a six-person team just handling logistics from a large warehouse in Johannesburg from which all equipment and materials will be prepared and distributed and a small satellite workshop for our service engineers.”

Gearhouse Broadcast’s Project Solutions and Systems Integration teams also played a substantial role in the massive production. More than 70 Gearhouse staffers were on the ground putting in 2,650 worker-hours in the weeks leading up to the event. Once all the equipment had been shipped to South Africa, they had just 16 days to build and run system checks before kickoff.

“In other countries, we would normally be able to source new equipment if we needed it overnight; in South Africa, we had to be more prepared,” says Moorhouse “We’ve had to bring extra equipment with us because there is no source of broadcast equipment available in the country. If we needed another VTR, I would have to fly one in, so our planning had to be so much better.”

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