The football championship in Qatar marked the first opportunity for South African sports specialist to take UHD to air.
MultiChoice, the operator of Africa’s premier sports broadcaster, SuperSport, took UHD channels to air for the first time using a hybrid SDI-IP playout and infrastructure foundation from Imagine Communications.
A long-established user of Imagine playout and automation technology, MultiChoice added two UHD channels based on the Versio integrated playout platform to provide sports fans with comprehensive, premium-quality coverage of the championship football tournament in Qatar.
The MultiChoice playout centre already delivers 32 channels from a fully redundant Versio architecture, ensuring robust and secure operations for its existing channels. The new project added two more channels — also with full N+N redundancy — to support the mission-critical premium sports content from the tournament. While the existing system is predominantly used for HD playout, the Versio IOX storage network enables easy scaling to accommodate additional bandwidth needed for UHD applications without affecting existing media or interrupting on-air operations.
Julian Ankiah, Head of Technology Engineering & Support at MultiChoice, said: “We have worked with Imagine Communications for many years and are familiar with their playout and automation architectures. Working with Concilium, Imagine’s partner in South Africa, we integrated UHD for the World Cup into our existing playout centre, with minimal disruption to existing operations, while delivering on flexibility and quality that our audience demands.”
Gerdus Van Eerden, Group Chief Technology Officer at MultiChoice, added: “These new UHD channels are leading the way for us, and part of a rolling redevelopment programme that will see all our outputs moving towards IP.”
The two new channels support SMPTE ST 2110 IP inputs at 4K, 50fps and HLG BT 2020 HDR from the host broadcaster. These are seamlessly switched in the Versio platform with stored content in SDR and HDR, at 25 and 50 fps. Audio is input as PCM (ST 2110-30) and output as PCM or Dolby (SMPTE ST 2110-31), with track shuffling as required, source substitution and Dolby up-mixing. A dedicated UHD workstation was configured to provide offline graphics creation for the duration of the event to alleviate any impact on the existing playout operation. The whole sub-system runs on COTS hardware on-site in Johannesburg.
Imagine Selenio Network Processors (SNP) provide IP/SDI interfaces, as well as other video and audio processing, and operate under the control of the Magellan Control System, Imagine’s operator-centric management environment. Coupled with the Magellan Control System, the SNP enables media companies to efficiently and cost-effectively transition to UHD and HDR workflows over traditional or COTS-based, IP networking fabrics.
The new UHD channels are under the control of D-Series, which is integrated into the existing playout management system and is familiar to the operators. It also integrates seamlessly with MultiChoice’s advertising management and traffic system, which uses Imagine Landmark Sales and Landmark Rights and Scheduling software, ensuring that the broadcaster maximises its revenue opportunities during this period of extremely popular viewing.
Mathias Eckert, SVP & GM EMEA and APAC at Imagine Communications, stated: “MultiChoice is a large and complex operation, serving among others, the sports market, which depends on delivering a flawless experience for its viewing audience. This project really plays to our strengths by leveraging components from across our entire portfolio ― from automation and playout to network infrastructure and advertising technology ― which enabled us to support the delivery and monetisation of these premium UHD channels during this marquee global tournament.”
Eckert added: “MultiChoice already rely on our mission-critical integrated solutions, and we have been working together for some time to transition their operations at their pace. The additional redundant channels we implemented for the football tournament fit seamlessly into their existing infrastructure and will be a key part of their operations in the future. This allows MultiChoice to maximise its capital investment while providing a valuable step forward.”