27-person crew handled 14 RF cameras, 50,000 ft. of fiber, comms connectivity

By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor SVG

CP Communications has been a staple at MLB All-Star Games for many years, but the company set a new bar with its largest presence ever at the event in Washington this week. Running out of CP’s RF7 mobile unit, the 27-person crew rolled out 14 total RF cameras for MLB, Fox Sports, and ESPN; laid down a whopping 50,000 ft. of fiber; and provided full communications connectivity to all clients via Omneo, Dante, and/or analog headend.
“This is by far our biggest All-Star [presence] ever,” says CP Communications President Michael Mason. “With the addition of all the new things MLB Network has taken on this year, it has been a big increase. And we also have so many clients on top of that. Between all the different shows — the game, Home Run Derby, red carpet, [MLB] digital shows, the communications for the league itself — we’re really all over the place here. Trying to wrangle all [the clients] together, get all their needs lined up, and then deliver it all on time is no small task, but we’re up to it.”

In addition to providing a full arsenal of equipment at All-Star, CP Communications handled RF coordination for all events at Nationals Park.

“RF in this town is no picnic,” adds Mason. “The RF Coord team cleared more than 420 frequencies for wireless mics, IFB, and PLs. And that number does not include any of the high-power comms or RF-camera frequencies.”

MLB Network Growth Gives Boost to CP Communications’ Ops
MLB Network’s expanded role at All-Star this year meant a major expansion for CP Communications as well. The company not only supplied equipment for the network’s studio shows, Red Carpet Show, and world-feed production as it has in the past but also provided equipment for Play Ball Park (across the street from Nationals Park), MLB’s digital productions, and MLB Properties.

CP Communications RF technician John Mureddu tests out Fox Sports’ MōVI Rig at MLB All-Star in Washington.

MLB Network’s onsite pre/postshow productions at All-Star featured an RF Steadicam (shared with Red Carpet Show), an RF handheld (shared with the world feed), and RF batting-cage POVs (two Flare cams). CP also managed the Dante audio network for control of the main set on field and a secondary set on the concourse, four high-power PL (HPPL) two-way intercoms, 12 channels of digital repeater, and approximately 100 radios. CP also provided Shure Axient digital mics for MLBN’s Red Carpet Show (along with the Dante audio network and 1.4-GHz mics) and Play Ball Park.

In addition, CP served the MLB Digital shows with an RF handheld (with Wave Central integrated transmitter and paint receiver on a Sony HDC-4300 camera head) and MLB Properties with a Pliant CrewCom system for coverage of the Home Run Derby. The wide-area coverage was integrated with ESPN and the Nationals scoreboard control and further integrated with Fox for the All Star Game.

Plenty of Gear on Hand for Fox Sports, ESPN
For Fox Sports’ All-Star Game and Media Day efforts, CP provided a pair of RF cams (a MōVI with a Sony P1r and a Sony HDC-2500 handheld), the field EFX audio-submix package, 39 RF mics (four talent, six player, two ump, eight FX, three bases, and 16 in-ground), nine parabolic dishes, three HPPLs, and 80 radios for comms.

ESPN was once again a major client for CP at All-Star, its Home Run Derby production using four RF cameras (shared with the Baseball Tonight onsite studio show), eight RF player mics, eight RF EFX mics, four RF handheld mics with talkback, four RF IFBs, and four in-ground microphones. In addition, both the Home Run Derby set and the Baseball Tonight set required six Sennheiser head-worn microphones and six stereo RF IFBs (Baseball Tonight also used a Clear-Com Freespeak comms system with four beltpacks). Pardon the Interruption was onsite for live shows on the field, using four Sennheiser head-worn microphones and four wired IFB listen boxes.

For ESPN Deportes, CP Communications provided an RF handheld mic with talkback, an RF IFB, four Sennheiser head-worn microphones, four Studio Technologies announce consoles, and a wireless PL.

CP Communications deployed 34 RF cameras and 38 miles of fiber mesh.

 

A significant contributor to the production team the past three years, this year marked the first time that CP Communications was entrusted with all RF transmission responsibilities. This included the management of 34 RF cameras, including five RF 4K HDR transmitters for live broadcasts by Fox Sports. CP Communications also managed three RF X-Mo cameras for slow-motion and on-air playback, one RF Stedi-cam, and four (of 21 total) HD cameras reserved for Sky, TV Asahi, and other international broadcasters.

“The sheer scale and enormity of the U.S. Open inspired Fox Sports, the domestic rights holder and primary broadcaster for the event, to split RF responsibilities among two vendors in previous years,” says Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “This year, all acquisition responsibilities previously assigned to another vendor were transitioned to CP Communications, based on our proven track record and recent enhancements of our 4K production capabilities.”

As the sole RF vendor, CP Communications also managed 38 miles of fiber, a MIMO mesh control system for entire course coverage — the largest-ever mesh deployment for golf — and an extensive Dante audio network from Audinate with 56 RF intercom channels (using an RTS ADAM system) and 40 RF microphones across 18 holes. Additionally, the team handled all signal distribution, routing, and troubleshooting between three CP Communications mobile trucks, two broadcast compounds, and a remote RF Communications Center.

CP Communications brought its flagship HD-11 and HD-21 RF production trucks and its RF8 Fiber B-Unit truck, which accommodated Fox’s fiber-optic and communications systems, to this year’s event. The two RF production trucks were positioned adjacent to each other in the main broadcast center, where Fox Sports produced more than 40 hours of live, unique content across four channels each day to broadcasters in more than 140 countries. A split compound strategy was utilized this year, divided by a distance of over 3000 feet, to provide more space for Fox Sports oncourse technologies and staff. The remote RF Communications Center was set up near Hole 13 for managing and routing intercom channels and other audio — including 600 portable radios across more than 40 channels all tied back to the two broadcast compounds.

Brad Cheney, VP of Field Operations and Engineering for Fox Sports, notes that CP Communications’ continued investment in technology and personnel were paramount to the success of a live sports production of this scale.

“CP Communications has worked with us since the start of the USGA on FOX to advance the way we see, hear and interconnect systems to provide the most compelling multiplatform content for our viewers. CP’s continued investment in 1080p HDR and now 4K HDR transmission systems enabled another large step forward in image quality for viewers,” says Cheney. “We were able to receive multiple 3Gb/s signals across a single fiber. This allowed us to push 4K/HDR forward without incurring additional costs or time, while having the same full camera control via their IP mimo-mesh control network. This was the first show that I’m aware of that used five 4K/HDR RF cameras simultaneously for live production. We knew we were pushing the limits, and if you’re going to do that you need to have the right people to help you adapt these new technologies in real time.”

The company was responsible for all live RF transmissions of this year’s tournament.

Both HD-11 and HD-21 featured RF routers with a fiber interface to allow the trucks to work in conjunction with each other. Each truck also applied MultiDyne VF-9000 fiber transmission platforms to natively accept 3Gb/s (4K) and HD camera feeds over RF from Sony cameras in the field. The signals remained in pure RF across the entire architecture before being handed to the Fox Sports team in raw form.

Heitmann ensured that he had a specific crew on top of monitoring and troubleshooting given the advanced technologies and large-scale infrastructure in place. “With the 4K cameras operating in 64QAM and running 32MB/s, we were managing a very large data payload to enable the best possible 4K and HDR pictures,” he says. “If we noticed a trailing effect in the motion of a golf swing, for example, we adjusted the data rate down to 28MB/s so that the Wave Central RF encoders and decoders could keep up with the movements, and better manage the payload.”

He continues, “There will always be glitches in live production, but we achieved complete coverage with very minimal flaws. This was a mission-critical, high-pressure event that dwarfed the Super Bowl in RF infrastructure, and we are proud to have played such a significant role.”

By SVG Staff

In an effort to reduce configuration headaches and strengthen connections for fiber-optic transport in live event production, CP Communications has purchased and installed multiple VF-9000 bulk fiber transport systems from MultiDyne Fiber Optic Solutions. Installed in their flagship HD-11 and HD-21 RF production trucks, the VF-9000s solve the per-show scalability, performance and technical limitations of their previous fiber solutions.

The VF-9000 enables a host of new technical services for CP Communications, including support for native 3Gb/s signal transport on HD-11 and HD-21. 3Gb/s transport is a requirement for the high-profile sports productions that CP Communications routinely handles for FOX, NBC and The Golf Channel. The VF-9000 allows CP Communications to natively accept 3Gb/s camera feeds over RF into its fiber transmission infrastructure, and is downward compatible for standard HD feeds.

Operationally, the VF-9000 outperforms their previous fiber transmission platforms in several important ways. This includes the flexibility to hot-swap, add or reduce SFPs to meet specific production requirements – a limitation of the previous system, which required connecting drop-down units, including external multiplexers, to the main frame.

The VF-9000’s value proposition is extended through automatic recognition of SFP module connections as inputs or outputs, as well as by format and application. The flexible architecture allows CP Communications to have an imbalance of input and outputs based on the needs of each production, instead of being limited to a certain number of each. In addition to video and Ethernet SFPs, the VF-9000 allows their production teams to transport MADI audio as part of the video feeds. Following automatic recognition, the VF-9000 then transitions to the proper setup upon coming online, eliminating additional configuration steps.

“There is enormous value in not having to manually communicate what is an input versus an output during configuration,” says Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “Live production moves very fast, and the VF-9000s automatic recognition features remove what was often a very time-consuming process. Before, the process required adding an SFP and assigning it to the corresponding BNC, and then programming the connection as an input or an output. In addition, my cable lengths are now shorter, and there is no need to re-patch the entire system from show to show.”

The VF-9000’s scalable flexibility complements its unmatched signal density. The compact units deliver robust multiplexer features, effortlessly combining up to 18 signals over one single-mode fiber for efficient, high-density signal transport. At just 1RU, the VF-9000 returns valuable two rack unit spaces that the previous systems absorbed in each truck, freeing more space for additional RF gear.

In both trucks, the VF-9000 seamlessly integrates within the complete RF infrastructure, which includes a high-density routing system, mesh technology, and wireless cameras and microphones. The VF-9000 also seamlessly connects to signal monitoring systems on both trucks, allowing operators to keep an eye on the health and performance of each feed and connection.

“MultiDyne has simplified our entire fiber operation, and has done so at a very attractive price point,” says Heitmann. “They are clearly a very service-oriented company, with the robust performance and high product quality to match.”

By: Philip Stevens, SVG Europe

Headquartered in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, Mobile Viewpoint works worldwide through international sales offices and distribution networks across more than 100 countries. In today’s fast-paced world of changing linear TV viewing behaviour, live streaming to social media and changing business models, the ability to deliver live video is more important than ever before. Mobile Viewpoint offers portable and fixed encoding devices to enable fast and reliable video contribution with just a click of a button. The company’s goal is to help users to go live, edit, stream and share your high-quality live video anywhere, anytime. Our Sit Down with managing director, Michel Bais, began with a description of a key product from the company’s inventory.

Mobile Viewpoint’s Michel Bais

You have described the LinkMatrix is ‘the centre of the Mobile Viewpoint universe’. Can you tell us why this is so important?
The LinkMatrix is the control and management centre of all our devices and services. You can remotely access our units and make settings, and by viewing what the guy in the field can see, we can support him in making the right changes. For our multicamera unit, we not only support web-based PTZ control but also, for example, shading and colour correction.

Next to remote support, the LinkMatrix is also the access to all our services like forwarding to social media and connecting video feeds to specific decoders (SDI, MPEG TS and SRT). New in The Linkmatrix is the mixing of video streams, overlays insertion/creation and the scheduling of playout on, for example, social media channels. With these new features, the LinKmatrix also becomes the playout system for your content. We do not see this as a replacement, but a cost-effective alternative for social and other web channels.

Can you tell us more about the 4G action cam you launched at BVE?
Our 4G action cam is named EyeLink. It is a combination of a small bonding system and an action camera. We call it a GoPro on steroids. The EyeLink contains a 1080P camera, two LTE modems, battery Pack, WiFi, storage and WiFi access point. It is also possible to connect Ethernet using a USB converter, but this will jeopardise the water-resistant design.

The camera in the unit is of a swivel design making it possible to use it horizontally behind a windscreen or vertical in your pocket. The video encoder adapts according to the available bandwidth of all available IP connections.

How do you see the move to IP playing out in the immediate and medium term?
We are already doing everything on IP, but the general discussion about the introduction of IP is in most cases important for our decoders. Customers require us to support IP out, next to traditional SDI and ASI. At the moment we are really waiting for the customer who really wants to move forward.

What future developments for over the top (OTT) solutions do you envisage?
OTT television is not something we are directly involved with. However, we try to make the tools and services that enable customers to make OTT. For example, our latest mobile bonded encoder has two video inputs enabling the synchronise transmission of two cameras of which one can be a 360 degrees camera which can go directly to YouTube.

What do you see as the major challenge facing your company when it comes to sports broadcasting demands?
Our products enable by default the live transmission of camera images and within sports this is most of the time productions of cycle events, marathon, triathlon and car sports. The major challenges we see are the requirements for lower delay, 4K, seamless integration with coded orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (COFDM) transmission.

Does HDR have any impact on the services and kit you provide?
We are implementing HDR in our next 4K unit, but that will be later this year.

Tell us more about your recent partnership with CP Communications.
In February we signed an agreement with live event provider, CP Communications, to deliver Mobile Viewpoint’s portfolio of bonded cellular products and solutions in the US. The dedicated IP encoding and decoding technologies will be gradually rolled out in 2018.

This cooperation will enable 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. The first time the combined forces of our two companies were used at the recent New York Half Marathon. This agreement opens up a whole new market and group of customers for Mobile Viewpoint in the US.

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 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, 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 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.”

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.”