CP Communications Shakes Up Marathon Transmission, Comms Plans for NYC Half

In a ‘paradigm shift’ in marathon coverage, bonded cellular offers reliable, cost-effective transmission

As the NYC Half Marathon snaked its way through Brooklyn and Manhattan for 13.1 miles last weekend, CP Communications had the race covered with an entirely new transmission and communications plan. For the first time, CP deployed 4K bonded cellular and a 4K COFDM Smart Car to cover the race and a full IP communications network on the Smart Car.

“We built the Smart Car for [last year’s] full marathon [in New

York City], and we did traditional bonded-cell and traditional COFDM off the car,” explains CP Communications CEO Kurt Heitmann. “This year, for the half marathon, we changed and went to 4K. We created a partnership with Mobile Viewpoint — they are part of the Triple Group in the Netherlands — and we came up with a 4K solution for both bonded-cellular and traditional COFDM coverage.

“4K moves a lot of data,” he continues, “so you always have to have your backups. We decided to do 4K on the Smart Car because nobody’s done it before, and we wanted to push the limits. And we did.”

CP Communications leveraged Mobile Viewpoint’s Agile UltraLink 12G 4K-enabled encoder and Wave Central’s 4K transmitter/encoder/decoder, taking four 3G streams off a 4K camera to create a 12G stream that would transmit over bonded cellular. The company also ran a 4K COFDM at 8 Mb and took a traditional (non-4K) transmit from the cameras.

“We started with this hybrid model of doing COFDM and bonded cell at the marathon two years ago,” says Heitmann. “We just continue to move away from COFDM because the bonded cell is so good now.

“It’s not just about moving video anymore,” he continues. “It has to be about moving data. And the way [the Agile encoder] moves data, we can prioritize the video over the audio, we can prioritize the communications over the video if we choose. So we’re just prioritizing the way we move our data. I think that’s why they call it Agile; it gives us so many handles and so many technical possibilities.”

As the capabilities of bonded cellular improve, says Heitmann, a paradigm shift is occurring. Previously, bonded cellular once filled in the gaps of a COFDM system; now COFDM is being used to fill in the gaps that result from using bonded cellular. For the NYC Half Marathon, CP kept the COFDM on as a backup while the bonded cellular was tested, in case the congested cellular networks in New York City caused a problem. But, he adds, the bonded cellular held up, and the team never had to resort to the COFDM.

CP also relied on a full IP communications network, using Dante and the Clear-Com LQ system, and UNITY cellular communications on motorcycles and scooters. The city-wide communications setup was located atop the Conde Nast building in Times Square; a second rooftop setup was atop the Millennium Tower on West 67th Street. The broadcast truck for the race (ABC was the broadcaster) was located at the finish line on 77th and Central Park West.

“We went from six rooftops last year at the half marathon to two,” says Heitmann. “There’s some [communications] integration that has to be done further, but, for the most part, we were very, very pleased with the result and will continue to use UNITY and LQ in the future and thus eliminate citywide radios and citywide intercoms — again, eliminating another rooftop. IP is the future.”

In addition to the Smart Car, CP deployed two motorcycles for course coverage and two additional motorcycles and scooters to cover the wheelchair race. ABC deployed a helicopter and two ENG setups: one at the start line in Brooklyn and one in the middle of the course. All cameras were streamed via IP.

CP also introduced a Red House Streaming Virtual Press feed, enabling journalists to log into a website and see streams from the various vehicles, the program feed, and audio feeds. Although the half marathon is an important event for runners and race aficionados, the success of the transmission and communications plan will benefit full-marathon coverage in the future.

“The half marathon is a smaller event, and smaller events allow us to introduce the new technologies we’ve been working on,” says Heitmann. “The full marathon is massive, and we would really do ourselves and our customers an injustice if we’re experimenting on a full marathon. The half marathon allows us to experiment.

 

“But we had belts and suspenders,” he continues. “We had full citywide analog comms if the UNITY failed. We had full citywide comms if the LQ failed. We had COFDM if the bonded failed. We never go into an event without having the belts and suspenders. But the only way to prove a concept is to have a real test case, a live event. We use these proofs of concept to say, we can do this for half of what it would traditionally cost. And so that’s why we keep doing it. Our customers want it, we want it, and the half marathon was a perfect example of working up to a final product.”

CP Communications Chooses BLUESHAPE As New Power Provider For Their Wireless Camera Solutions

CP Communications has made a large investment in BLUESHAPE Granite Mini batteries for their rental inventory.

“After testing the batteries under real world circumstances we have decide to use the BLUESHAPE battery products as our battery of choice moving forward. The low profile and high capacity as well as the charging technologies makes the choice the right one for our technologies and therefore for our clients,” CP Communications CEO Kurt Heitmann says.

“The selection of BLUESHAPE batteries and accessories to bear the CP Communications logo is an exciting confirmation of the quality and innovation for the broadcast and image acquisition market.  We are pleased to provide the hardware and support services with our US marketing partner, BOLD Distribution of Nashville,” BLUESHAPE Managing Directors and Founders, Pietro Vignali and Enrico Ferretti says.

CP Communications And Mobile Viewpoint Sign Strategic OEM Agreement

CP Communications, a provider of live-event broadcast production solutions and Mobile Viewpoint, manufacturer of IP contribution products, have signed an agreement to deliver Mobile Viewpoint’s portfolio of bonded cellular products and solutions in the US.

Dedicated IP encoding and decoding technologies, developed in close cooperation between the two companies, will be gradually rolled out in 2018. This cooperation enables both companies to complement their core strengths and to push forward innovations for remote video production to the next level using SaaS and IP technologies.

“We are extremely excited to offer MVP’s IP and bonded cellular solutions to our customers in the United States.  MVP’s platform is above and beyond anything else on the market.  It fits perfectly with CP’s core values regarding technologies, engineering and customer service,” CP Communications CEO Kurt Heitmannsays.

We are pleased to have been selected by CP Communications to develop dedicated appliances for their live broadcast product line. This agreement validates the quality and effectiveness of our product portfolio and opens up a whole new market and group of customers for Mobile Viewpoint in the US,” Mobile Viewpoint Managing Director Michel Bais says.

VidOvation’s Bonded Cellular System Rides Along During NYC Marathon’s Women’s Wheelchair Race

VidOvation has announced that AVIWEST’s DMNG PRO180-RA bonded cellular system reliably provided live broadcast coverage of the women’s wheelchair race during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5. As AVIWEST’s exclusive distributor in the United States, VidOvation supplied the AVIWEST gear to CP Communications, the New York-based production service and digital media technology rental company whose expert technicians designed the video acquisition and transmission solutions and operated the equipment during the marathon.

“The only way to get live pictures from the course during a marathon is to use wireless technology. From there, bonded cellular is a good option for ensuring video gets where it needs to go, even in a dynamic, uncontrollable environment with millions of people taxing the network,” says Jim Malone, Director of Technology for CP Communications. “VidOvation’s AVIWEST system not only delivered a solid feed during the women’s wheelchair race, but its command-and-control capabilities gave us far more control over the video than we’ve had with some other systems we’ve used. Our technicians were happy with how it performed and found it to be a valuable production tool.”

CP Communications had more than 50 technicians and nine vehicles at the marathon. Teams were tracking alongside selected runners and wheelchair contestants, capturing live video from the course, and relaying that video to viewers of ABC, ESPN, and other Disney properties.

For the women’s wheelchair race, CP Communications mounted a 5.8-ounce package, provided by Inertia Unlimited and consisting of a camera, battery, and microwave transmitter, onto a wheelchair. The camera was positioned over the athlete’s right shoulder to capture the competitor’s perspective. A scooter equipped with a microwave receiver and an AVIWEST DMNG PRO180-RA unit rode along about 25 feet away from the wheelchair.

The wheelchair’s POV system transmitted video to the scooter on a microwave channel, and then the scooter’s receiver handed the video off to the AVIWEST bonded cellular unit for transmission to the internet. From there, the crew in the production truck grabbed the video from the internet and passed it to the production switcher. An AVIWEST DMNG StreamHub studio receiver inside the truck accepted the signals from the scooter’s AVIWEST unit, while built-in AVIWEST SafeStreams technology applied special stream-grooming techniques to improve link quality and reliability.

CP Communications used bonded cellular technology as a backup for the traditional microwave feeds related to the men’s and women’s lead runners and other selected athletes, but in the wheelchair race, the AVIWEST bonded cellular system was the only means of transmitting video from the scooter to the production area.

“During the women’s wheelchair race, bonded cellular proved to be the most convenient way to get the wheelchair video from the scooter to the production truck because it reduced the complexity and amount of hardware we had to put on the scooter to get the feed. All it took was the microwave receiver and the bonded transmitter,” says Malone. “Having the AVIWEST unit on the scooter made for a very simple and efficient bidirectional connection that came together quickly, and most importantly, the unit responded well and gave us very consistent video coming from the relay on the scooter.”

The AVIWEST DMNG PRO180-RA is a live-video transmission system that uses up to eight 3G/4G cellular connections, two IP Ethernet connections, Wi-Fi, and satellite. Patented antenna technology, superior cellular radios, and the SafeStreams resilient and robust transmission protocol make the DMNG PRO180-RA one of the most reliable live transmission systems on the market.

“AVIWEST’s DMNG PRO180-RA solution gave CP Communications a portable, cost-effective, and reliable transmission method for delivering high-definition footage of the women’s wheelchair race to the production crew and on to viewers around the world,” says Jim Jachetta, executive vice president and chief technology officer at VidOvation. “It is a pleasure to work with Jim Malone, Kurt Heitmann, and the CP Communications team on exciting projects such as the NYC Marathon. The broadcast industry is now experiencing bonded cellular reliability at a higher level, and we are proud to represent one of the world’s most reliable bonded cellular systems.”

Live From the NYC Marathon: CP Communications Runs With New Tech; NEP ND5, Atlantic Power Coverage

Increased reliance on IP, bonded-cellular technologies support large wireless-video effort

When the TCS New York City Marathon once again takes over the streets of New York’s five boroughs on Sunday, a couple of technical advances, increased reliance on IP and bonded-cellular technologies, and the use of a smart car promise to transform coverage.

A smart car will be used for on-course coverage during the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

NEP’s ND5, Atlantic, Arctic, and ESU units are on hand, and HD 21 from CP Communications is onsite to support the largest wireless-video effort the company has taken on for the New York City Marathon. Six regular motorcycles, three lead trucks, two cameras on wheelchairs, a smart car, and a seventh motorcycle for performance data via SMT will be used to cover the action from the course. The two wheelchair cameras are built by Inertia Unlimited and rely only on bonded cellular for transmission.

“The wheelchair cameras are on two actual pro competitors racing the 26 miles and the size and weight is less than five ounces for everything which is rather remarkable,” says Jeff Silverman, Inertia Unlimited, president.

NEP’s Atlantic will be at the start line in Staten Island and produce coverage of the start, and ND5, located at the finish line, will be used for the core production of the race.

From left: NEP’s Errol Foremaster, John “JT” Tomlinson, and Dave Greany at the New York City Marathon

“Arctic is being used as a support truck for SMT graphics and world-feed audio while the world feed will be produced out of the ESU, where we have a Grass Valley Korona panel,” says NEP Broadcasting Project Engineer Dave Greany. “ESU also has a lot of fiber, as we are providing fiber for not only the broadcast but the Road Runners, and all the screens are being fed through fiber. The coverage from Atlantic will come into ND5 as a source with the motorcycles and vehicles filling the middle of the race coverage.”

That coverage and the vehicles are taking a leap forward this year. A smaller smart car is replacing one of the standard-size lead vehicles, and, if all goes well, all four of the lead vehicles next year could be smart cars.

Kurt Heitman (left) and Jim Malone of CP Communications are introducing new technologies to NYC Marathon coverage.

According to CP Communications SVP Kurt Heitman, the smart car has a 3.5-GHz transmitter with comms being sent via IP. “This is the first time we’ve done all of the comms with IP,” he notes. “Every rooftop and receive site is IP back to [our compound in Central Park]. The bigger challenge here is not frequencies but IP addresses, as we have gone from worrying about RF to worrying about hundreds of IP addresses. We spend weeks mapping out IP addresses to ensure there are no conflicts.”

The move to IP means that three IP racks with Haivision IP encoders are replacing ENG vans and providing bidirectional audio, video, and communications. One each is in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and on First Avenue and at 123rd Street in Manhattan.

“We just plug the encoder into our decoders [in the compound], and the signal pops right up,” says Heitman.

A city-wide IP network has been deployed, with four systems — at the start line, Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, Trump Tower, and the Millennium — providing connectivity via Verizon fiber to the production team in Central Park. In addition, eight high-powered PL channels and four city-wide IFBs for communications have been deployed. Five conventional microwave paths and 10 bonded cellular paths are also in the mix.

Jim Malone, director of technology, CP Communications, says he is most excited about a 4G private network that has been set up in Brooklyn. He has been working with local TV stations on similar projects, but the one in use at the Marathon is the first of its kind.

“We believe that bidirectional 4G technology in a private band has 100% quality of service because it is not impacted by people [using the network],” he adds.

The use of both bonded-cellular and RF signals could become the new norm, each having strengths and weaknesses that complement the other’s. For example, at the Marathon, the areas of the course that have bad RF-signal strength have good bonded-cellular signal strength and vice versa.

“The use of bonded cellular fills the holes on the course,” says Malone. “It’s a very good combination of technologies.”

Just because IP addresses may be the biggest challenge doesn’t mean that frequencies are not. Marathons are notorious for RF dropouts: the course inevitably finds location where RF signals are difficult to transmit. That is one reason CP Communications this year is using bonded-cellular units from TVU, Cogent, and AVI West.

Shure 1.4-GHz microphones are also being used, something that has been more accepted in Europe.

“We will use them at the finish line, and they have been performing really well,” says Malone. “You have to get an STA license, but that is okay because it gets you out of the noise and the muck.”

CP Comms Purchases DiGiCo S21 Compact Digital Consoles to Support NFL, College Football Productions

New York-based CP Communications has purchased 17 DiGiCo S21 compact digital consoles. The acquisition of these consoles was mainly to support CP Communications’ ongoing work with Fox Sports’ and CBS Sports’ broadcasts of NFL and college football games, where they will primarily be used as effects submixers, with additional sports-broadcast applications expected in the future.

CP Communications purchases seventeen DiGiCo S21 consoles

The consoles are assembled into flight-pack configurations for use in a variety of sports venue environments, taking full advantage of the S21’s compact form factor and the console’s processing power — based around its FPGA core and new ARM QuadCore RISC processor — allowing the S21 to be deployed in virtually any broadcast location and environment.

These 17 new DiGiCo S21 desks join the more than half-dozen DiGiCo SD10B broadcast consoles already in CP Communications’ inventory, being used in remote-production vehicles.

“The S21’s compact form factor was the most enticing thing about it initially,” says CP Communications Executive Vice President Kurt Heitmann. “But once you look deeper, the case for the S21 becomes even more compelling.”

He cites the S21’s connective versatility, through its expansion ports: “We can have the console ready to work with MADI or Dante or Hydra, or whatever the situation calls for, thanks to the S21’s expansion slots,” he says. “That’s important because at the A-level games it can easily connect with the Calrecs in the trucks, and below the A-game level, broadcast crews never know what they’re going to face week to week. The S21 means they’ll be able to handle anything.”

Heitmann says that the S21’s compact size means it can fit into even the smallest of broadcast booths, where effects submixers are often positioned for game broadcasts. “So it’s a console that fits anywhere but is also multilayered, so we’re not giving up channels, and it can be expanded when needed, so we’re not sacrificing connectivity,” says Heitmann. “And the S21 is more powerful, with true DSP, than the consoles we’re using it to replace.”

Finally, he says the S21 offers remote diagnostic and maintenance capabilities. “That’s very important,” Heitmann emphasizes. “We won’t buy a console unless we can ‘talk’ to it remotely. As the number of sports broadcasts increases and the knowledge level of operators varies more, we need to know that we—and DiGiCo, through their great support infrastructure—can be there virtually if a problem arises during a game a thousand miles away.”

Heitmann says that while he saw the benefits of the S21 early on after its introduction in 2016, it was critical that CP Communications’ clients also recognized the console’s value to them. “We put the S21 in front of Fox Sports and CBS Sports, and they could see how the console’s form factor, processing power and flexible connectivity were huge advantages,” he says. “Buying the S21 was absolutely a customer-driven decision, and it’s been a very good one.”

CP Communications Relies on Calrec Audio’s Brio for Quality Sound During Fox Sports Coverage

CP Communications has relied on a quartet of Calrec Audio’s Brio compact digital audio consoles to deliver high-quality live sound for Fox Sports’ marquee coverage of pro golf, baseball, and football. CP Communications first deployed the new Brios for the U.S. Open in June, where they worked in concert with several other Calrec desks on a Hydra2 network to help overcome the complex logistical challenges of audio mixing from Erin Hills golf course in Erin, WI.

“Capturing and broadcasting golf is challenging on so many levels. You have to cover all 18 holes simultaneously at tee boxes, greens, and fairways. Then add in scores of players to cover — at the U.S. Open, there were 156 — and you can see what an enormous task this was,” says Kurt Heitmann, senior vice president of sales and marketing, CP Communications. “One of the big reasons we chose the Brios is their ability to talk to each other and other Calrec desks on a production. For the Open, Fox Sports was already using Calrecs in its trucks, and putting the Brios on the course gave us instant connectivity with those other desks via Hydra2.”

“The Brios may be compact, but they pack some powerful and flexible functionality. For instance, we were able to use each Brio in a split formation that let us mix the action on two holes at the same time. That setup helped us make sure we didn’t miss any aspect of play.”

At the Erin Hills course, CP Communications deployed the Brios to work in concert with EVS servers for tape replay. The new desks were networked over Hydra2 with two other Brios, two Calrec Artemis consoles, and a Calrec Summa and Apollo installed in Fox Sports’ hired production trucks.

“You just can’t beat Brio’s form factor for a wide-ranging outdoor event like a golf tournament. It fits our rental business model really well, since we ship audio-mixing consoles out in our flight packs rather than installing them in trucks,” says Heitmann. “Calrec is the undisputed leader in this field, so we were excited when they came out with the Brio — it meant we could finally bring Calrec desks into our repertoire.”

In the split operation, each Brio console gave the engineer a left and right router for covering any two combinations of live holes, greens, tees, or taped holes. Each desk had access to more than 3,000 inputs that delivered the mixed audio over a single, 64-channel MADI stream. Each Brio also handled monitoring for both left side/left speaker and right side/right speaker. Multicam audio/video synchronization was easily managed thanks to Brio’s ability to provide two inputs on each channel, with independent delay times.

Following the U.S. Open, CP Communications used combinations of the Brios to provide tape-release submixes for the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Senior Open, and the U.S. Junior, Girls’, and Women’s Amateur Championship tournaments. With one of the Brios still in use for golf, the other three are now being prepped for Fox Sports’ pro baseball and football coverage.

In addition to the Calrec desks, CP Communications also has a very large installation of audio consoles from DiGiCo, Calrec’s sister company, including 17 DiGiCo S21 desks that are able to communicate seamlessly with the Brios over MADI connections. The Brios also provide an ideal complement to the company’s fleet of six RF trucks, all of which are equipped with DiGiCo SD-10B 32-channel audio consoles.

CP Comms, White Cherry Entertainment Call Upon Barnfind for Fiber Transport System at 2016 Tony Awards

CP Communications called upon Barnfind Americas (U.S. presence for Norwegian manufacturer Barnfind Technologies) to design and supply a fiber-based signal transport system to White Cherry Entertainment, the production team responsible for the American Theatre Wing’s 2016 Tony Awards.

“CP Communications was tasked with providing White Cherry Entertainment with a system that could not only offer up the versatility required for a live broadcast, but do it from a very small footprint,” says John McCluskey, Director of Sales at Barnfind Americas. ”Maximizing functionality in compact quarters combined with uncompromising reliability were key. The BarnFind BarnOne BTF-02 fiber optic system proved ideal for the situation and became an essential component of the overall project and its success.”

vcsDistributionEmail_519858_91532_b4c8cebe-8a89-4fa0-abe3-6f1aca051df2_0Barnfind Americas designed a modular system comprised of two BarnOne-02 frames, each with 8 channels of HD/SDI to optical conversion and a pair of BT-House-LGX-CWDM-16 multiplexers, and one (1) pair of Ethernet to optical SFPs. Producers were able to occupy up to 8 HD/SDI electrical sources from BNC to optical fiber either individually on a one-to-one basis or multiplex them together over a single fiber link. The system also allowed them to transport Gig-E network traffic over the same fiber link and offered CP Communications’ support technicians the modular flexibility they sought while saving valuable rack space.

“One of the advantages of using the Barnfind solution was the refined modular configuration, which ended up being a key element of the deployment,” says Michael Mason, President of CP Communications, “Throughout the setup week, the video distribution was somewhat of a moving target as production elements changed. Using the BTF-02 matrix capability, we were able to revise signal flow as it became necessary. We also had the luxury of routing the spare fiber and video signals beforehand so when the add requests started coming, the paths for the newly desired feeds were already in line.”

“From an operational standpoint, this compact 1RU frame packs quite the punch,” adds McCluskey.

CP Communications Transitions DiGiCo Consoles From Trucks to Flypacks for U.S. Open

There are more and more sports events on television than ever before. That means the companies that support broadcast sports need more flexibility than ever. A perfect example of that took place at the recent USGA US Open Championship, when NY-based CP Communications was able to transfer four DiGiCo SD10B consoles from its remote-production trucks and configure them as on-site record-edit flypack suites for Fox Sports.

DiGiCo_US_Open_1These are some of the same DiGiCo SD10B audio consoles that CP acquired in 2014 as part of an expansion that saw the company grow its fleet of HD RF mobile production vehicles, capable of handling the most demanding sports and entertainment events. At the time, the SD10B was chosen to become the default-standard console for CP’s new 53-foot “expando” fiber transmission HD11 (NBC) and HD21 (FOX Sports) trucks, as well as fully refurbished 53-foot RFHD5 and RFHD7 trucks, and an overhauled 40-foot trailer known as DSM1, which typically provides digital submixes for MLB and NBA all-star games.

For this year’s U.S. Open, four of those consoles were simply transferred and used as the central hubs for record-edit flypack suites for the event. The SD10B’s flexibility enabled this remarkable transformation, giving CP Communications the ability to respond to the network’s needs for this complex sports event, which took place June 13-19 at the Oakmont Country Club.

“The SD10’s ability to deliver as much processing power and sonic excellence as it does in such a small form factor is what lets us do this,” says CP Communications Senior Vice President Kurt Heitmann. “Then there’s the connectivity of the SD10, which through Hydra lets it communicate directly to the Calrec consoles also used in the broadcast. We’ve done this kind of flypack adaptation of the DiGiCo consoles over a dozen times now, as well as for use as routing desks and for submixing effects. They will also be used as submixers for studio sets, feeding to the main production mixer, and it brings us tremendous added flexibility.”

Heitmann says the SD10B consoles are connected to the rest of the broadcast infrastructure and each other through MADI, which is also FOX Sports’ choice of connectivity format for remote-production broadcast operation. The DiGiCo consoles have MADI as native, as are the consoles’ D-Rack I/O racks and 32×16 D-Rack stage interfaces. Heitmann also cited DiGiCo’s “family” connection to Calrec and the enhanced connectivity options that will soon be available between the two brands, as well as “anxiously awaiting” the arrival of DiGiCo’s forthcoming Orange Box that will create seamless audio paths between Hydra 2, Optocore, Aviom, AES, Dante, and other audio formats.

“The SD10 just gets easier and easier to use, in all sorts of situations,” he says, adding that CP will have two flypack suites at both the Women’s Open from July 7-10 in St. Martin, California and the Senior Open at the Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio from August 11-14. “They travel well, perform well and sound great. You can’t ask for more.”