The Emir Cup in Qatar recently saw the first regional use of the Sony 4K Stitch, the I-Movix X10 UHD 4K ultra-motion camera and a live production using Dolby 5.1. BroadcastPro ME finds out how Al Kass Network integrated all of these technologies to create a superlative viewing experience Doha-based Al Kass Network has been […]
The Emir Cup in Qatar recently saw the first regional use of the Sony 4K Stitch, the I-Movix X10 UHD 4K ultra-motion camera and a live production using Dolby 5.1. BroadcastPro ME finds out how Al Kass Network integrated all of these technologies to create a superlative viewing experience
Doha-based Al Kass Network has been broadcasting the Emir Cup since 2006. With more than five million people watching the football tournament live on TV, it is Qatars most popular sporting event. Over the years, under the leadership of Samer Younes, Technical Advisor at the network, Al Kass has used the broadcast of Emir Cup as a technology showcase, deploying a full range of products.
Every year, the broadcaster attempts to do something new. 2010 saw the first broadcast of the Emir Cup final in 3D, with footage beamed from Arabsat using the full transponder for 3D. Last year saw the first deployment of cameras using 300 frames per second in slow motion.
This year saw the Sony 4K Stitch technology and the regions first Dolby 5.1 live production. Al Kass also tested the I-Movix X10 UHD 4K ultra-motion camera with 4K zooming technology in a live sporting event a first for the region.
Al Kass has been using the best technology to give its viewers a memorable experience, claims Samer Younes.
The Emir Cup is the most popular tournament in Qatar, broadcast throughout the MENA region and streamed live worldwide on our website, he explains, adding that coverage of the three-week event brought together more than 100 crew at the various stadiums, with the finals taking place on May 23 at Thani bin Jassim Stadium.
The Sony 4K Stitch
We wanted to ensure that the viewer did not miss even a split second of the game. In order to achieve that, we had the entire field covered so that we could show every goal, the hits and the misses. Based on our requirement, Sony put together the design for the events coverage for broadcast, says Younes.
Sony Middle East and Africa and Fifty One East, a Qatar-based retail chain for professional broadcast equipment, partnered with the Qatar Football Association (QFA) for the fifth consecutive year to be the official sponsor of the Emir Cup 2015. A renewed three-year agreement was signed with the QFA in 2014, confirming their sponsorship for the tournament in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
In order to test the Sony 4K Stitch, the Sony team, including Diaz Ernesto, Takeshi Shibagaki and Takuma Wada for equipment installation and Vinod Nair for coordination with Al Kass Network visited the stadium a month before the start of the tournament to check possible camera positions. Two Sony F55 4K cameras were positioned in such a way that each camera could cover half of the field and the footage received from these was then stitched together.
The 4K Stitch software allows you to view the stitched image whilst enabling dynamic extraction of high definition images from any part of the composed view.
The servers and other equipment were kept in the patch room and connected to the OB van parked in the stadium. Sony also trained Al Kass staff to use the system, and testing was conducted with the help of the broadcasters operations team.
The Sony 4K stitch allowed us to cover the entire football field in a single frame. At any given time, the entire playing pitch is in the field of view, which allows the operator to use virtual cameras to focus on any part of the field and take HD cut out of that section and use it for live broadcast. The stitched image can also be used for game analysis, and to verify on-field infringements or fouls, explains Younes.
As a pilot project, the 4K Stitch system was only used for the Emir Cup and then returned to the vendor.
Our new 4K stitch system has been used at many prestigious football events worldwide providing users with a unique view of the action. I am very happy that we could show this locally with the support of our partners and share this amazing experience, comments Rob Sherman, Managing Director Sony Professional Solutions Middle East and Africa.
The I-Movix X-10
Another technical highlight of the live broadcast of the final match was freeze framing within replays. This was possible thanks to the I-Movix X10 UHD ultra-motion system.
Its a recent trend, and it seems to be a must-have feature of top-level sports coverage.Commentary teams, in particular, like the ability to stop the replay at a certain point, zoom in and discuss the action in detail, before continuing the replay. This feature is only available with 4K ultra-motion camera systems like the ones deployed by I-Movix at Thani bin Jassim Stadium, says Younes.
I-Movix had a support engineer on-site to help Al Kass make the best use of advanced performance features. However, the support of I-MOVIX was limited to a training session, since the Al Kass production team was already experienced with the X10 technology.
Usually, when you take an entire field, youre likely to get black space on the top and the bottom of the TV screen, and if you zoom in, it becomes grainy. With I-Movix, we were able to zoom in without losing picture quality and eliminate the black space, comments Younes.
The team chose the X10 UHD at 350fps to achieve the required quality of playback while keeping replays short enough to fit into the overall balance of coverage.
The X10 UHD system integrates the Flex 4K camera from Vision Research and consists of four items: the camera box (camera interface between the Flex4K and the camera control unit); the camera control unit (CCU ) is the core of the ultra-motion system; the operational control panel, which controls all the parameters of the camera, such as colour settings, and helps the operator choose the frame rate; and the slow-motion remote to choose the sequence of ultra-motion images to replay, for example.
According to Stephane Ducobu, Sales Manager at I-Movix: 4K zoom features are also required, and they are now available on any industry-leading production servers. The X10 UHD is the industrys first 4K ultra-slow motion system to support both continuous super-slow motion and ultra-slow motion at frame rates of up to 1000fps. Combining the core X10 ultra-motion technology with Vision Researchs Phantom Flex4K camera, the X10 UHD supports operation in a range of modes to meet different production requirements, and can be instantly reconfigured for new 4K or HD shooting scenarios.
Moreover, the workflow of our camera is standard and the same as any standard broadcast camera used by TV directors all over the world.
Ducobu explains that the camera is connected to the CCU in the OB van by a simple SMPTE fibre connection, and the camera control unit is connected to the broadcasters production servers with a standard HD-SDI connection.
Since Al Kass is one of our historical partners and an early adopter of I-Movix technologies, we will always offer them the possibility to test any new ultra-motion solutions that we will develop in the future.
I-Movix has, in the past also, used the Emir Cup as an opportunity to organise demonstrations of its new products.
The systems used in the Emir Cup finals had been updated with the latest software, which provides increased light sensitivity and other picture quality enhancements, but for events shot at night under artificial light, there is an optional d-flicker system for the cameras, to guarantee flicker-free replays in less than ideal conditions.
We did not use this feature during the Emir Cup, but were ready to use it if needed, informs Ducobu.
The cameras in the stadium were linked to the three OB vans via microwave and DSNG truck. The footage was used as a live signal, and the editing was done on Avid Media Composer.
Two of Al Kass main HD channels were accompanied by full Dolby Digital+ (DD+) 5.1 audio. The soundtracks were 100% natively produced by the broadcasters team and accompanied live coverage, with surround sound adding an extra dimension to the excitement of high-octane football.
Owing to this, viewers could choose from their homes whether they wanted to listen to Dolby or stereo. Working in close cooperation with Axon and Dolby, we recorded it for eight of our channels and attempted the live production of the first live Dolby production in the MENA region. Axon allowed us to use the satellite transmission of the Dolby system and also provided the encoder for the same, says Younes.
Only a few weeks prior to the Emir Cup, during initial live trials with DD+ transmission of 5.1 content, Dolby and Axon worked closely with the Al Kass team to translate the technical requirements into a comprehensive solution, assisting in defining loudness, dial norms, and the look and feel of Al Kass live.
This was an absolute novelty in the region: the very first in-house, natively produced 5.1 production and transmission in DD+. The processing of DD+ was facilitated through Axons Synapse modular range, consisting of the HPD100 PCM to Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus transcoders and the DLA44 providing for the loudness management. We also plan to add DD+ to all the eight HD channels at a later stage, says Mark Barkey, Regional Sales Director, Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Axon Digital Design.