Listening in on player-coach comms promises peek behind the scenes

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director, SVG

While Fox Sports was putting plenty of focus the past month on its execution of a 1080p HDR-production plan for Super Bowl LIV, another part of the team was focused on development of a production plan for this weekend’s kickoff of the XFL on Fox. There will also be one unifying element: the graphics package that debuted last week will be at the center of the XFL broadcasts.

“I like it a lot,” says Judy Boyd, SVP, Fox Sports Production, Fox Sports, of the new look. “It pops a lot, and I liked the touchdown-hero element. And keeping the quarterback’s statistics up wasn’t intrusive.”

Fox Sports is clearly no stranger to producing everything from massive football games like Super Bowl LIV to smaller college football games. NFL productions are known for three levels: A level for the top games of the week, B level, and C. The XFL broadcasts will rival a B-level game, with about 12 cameras — six of which will be capable of high-speed capture — deployed along with a Skycam for the game.

Sports-TV historians may recall that the original XFL introduced the cablecam to football coverage, changing TV production forever. Can the XFL do the same? There will be some innovations on the audio side that could ultimately change the way things are done.

“From the get-go, [the XFL’s] mantra [has been] to be the league of yes, and they have lived up to that,” says Boyd. “We have really pushed them on the level of access we can have, whether it is cameras in the bench area, next to the coaches, and even talking to the head coaches in their headset during the game. And the XFL has been open to it.”

A test game in January proved out many of the concepts, and Boyd says that viewers will be able to get a peek behind the curtain to see what happens on the sidelines and hear the chatter that occurs in the headsets.

For example, four players per team will be miked up during the game (most likely the QB and a skill player and the defensive play callers), and Fox will have full access to coaching communications.

“The cool thing is that the XFL will not close down communication between the coach and the quarterback at the whistle,” says Boyd. “The coach will be able to talk to the quarterback during the play, and we will have full access to that and will be able to air it. But it will be a fine line of how much is too much, given all of the football jargon.”

Also expect greater access to the communications during replay reviews.

“We’re lucky that the head of officiating for the XFL is Dean Blandino [who works for us on NFL broadcasts],” says Boyd. “We’ll be able to listen in on the replay conversations and even the conversations between officials on the field. It’s not meant to embarrass the officials but rather to show what is going on and why things are decided a certain way.”

All that access has caught the attention of some of the coaches, but Boyd says the Fox production team will make sure not to reveal too much and possibly hurt the competition and integrity of the game. But the coaches will be interviewed during the game, with Fox analysts allowed to talk to them via the headset following a key play.

The audio access will be complemented by expanded handheld RF access: RF cameras will be allowed in the bench area and also next to the coaches.

“We tested out the on-the-field RF access to see what kind of things could allow us to be on the field more,” says Boyd. One rule difference compared with the NFL is that, on kickoffs, the players are not allowed to move until the ball is caught by the receiving team. That opens up the opportunity to have a handheld on the field when the ball is kicked and then have the cameraman leave the field while the ball is in the air.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the Fox Sports production will be the director/producer combination: Chuck McDonald, who produces Fox college football, will work with Rich Russo, who directed Super Bowl LIV.

“We’re really happy to get those two guys together,” says Boyd. “They don’t get to work together so it will be interesting to merge the two different types of football production.”

Technical-services providers include Game Creek Video, whose brand-new Gridiron truck will be at the center of Fox coverage and Bravo will handle the other game. CP Communications is providing RF audio, RF video and coordination and Fox RF audio, and Riedel will provide XFL coaching and player communications. Bexel is on hand to provide the signal distribution and fiber connectivity for the XFL and Fox, and 3G Wireless will handle additional RF video demands. CenturyLink will provide fiber transmission back to Fox headquarters in Los Angeles.

“We’ve gathered some of the best football people we have,” says Boyd, “and we’re excited to see the melding of the different NFL and college football crews.”

XFL on Fox coverage kicks off on Feb. 8 from Houston’s TDECU Stadium when the Los Angeles Wildcats play the Houston Roughnecks. The next day, the Tampa Bay Vipers play the New York Guardians at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor, SVG

A new era of pro football kicks off this weekend when the XFL opens its inaugural season with a quartet of games on ABC, ESPN, and Fox. The XFL is looking to differentiate its on-air product from more-traditional NFL and college-football broadcasts in three ways: a faster pace, more big plays, and plenty of inside access for viewers. With that in mind, the league has granted ESPN, which will combine with ABC to carry a 22-game slate this season, unprecedented access both on the field and behind the scenes.

ESPN’s XFL productions will feature RF cameras on the field and more-liberal use of the Skycam during the huddle; access inside locker rooms during halftime; live audio from coaches, players, and officials during the game; in-game interviews with coaches and players on the sidelines; and more.

“I think what’s going to make this product unique is the audio access and the access that our cameras will have to make [viewers] feel like they are truly part of each play,” says ESPN Operations Manager Dick Mullen. “We’re not reinventing [football coverage], but we are excited about these little tweaks that are going to make the game more intimate, with more access to players and coaches, make it quicker with less dead time between plays, and give people an inside look that they’re just not going to see elsewhere.”

New Trucks for a New League: NEP’s Supershooter 9, MTVG’s 46FLEX
ESPN will have the luxury of working out of two brand-new mobile units for this XFL season: NEP’s Supershooter 9, which is making its maiden voyage this weekend (check for a full story on the new truck), and Mobile TV Group’s 46FLEX, which debuted for the NFL on Fox last season and is making its first appearance for ESPN. Both trucks are IP-based, with Supershooter 9 (working ESPN’s Saturday games) featuring a Lawo/Arista IP router and 46FLEX (working ESPN’s Sunday game) based on an Evertz EXE IP router.

“One of the main factors in deciding which trucks we were going to go with was the fact that both trucks are IP-based trucks,” says ESPN Remote Operations Specialist Brian Ristine. “That allows us to take a brand-new product in the XFL and bring it into the most current and cutting-edge technology. You have the opportunity for growth with IP, and you break the proverbial barrier that you had with traditional baseband infrastructures. It allows you to remain flexible, and it leaves a large potential for expansion in the future.”

All of ESPN productions (as well as Fox Sport) will be in 1080p, and both the Saturday and Sunday games will have nearly identical equipment levels.

“Internally at ESPN,” says Ristine, “we’ve been trying to migrate as many of our properties to 1080p as possible, and, since this is a fresh start for the XFL, we made the effort to bring it to 1080p right from the beginning. We also are treating both games with the same equipment and facilities levels, rather than as an A and B game. The only major difference between the two games is going to be the production teams.”

Camera Coverage: RF Handhelds, Skycam Go Inside the Game
In terms of the camera complement, ESPN will deploy traditional positions for game coverage, including three mid-level game cameras, a low- and high-end zone, a cat camera, a cabled handheld, and a Skycam wired aerial system. However, the coverage will stray from the traditional football-coverage philosophy with a pair of wireless RF cameras (provided by CP Communications) that will have unlimited access to the field of play, the sidelines, and the locker rooms.

“The RF cameras are going to be very heavily relied on,” says ESPN Associate Operations Manager Leigh Michaud. “We are going to be able to go right onto the field of play, into the coach’s box, into the locker rooms, and be able to do interviews with players and coaches during the game. I think that a lot of our most unique looks are going to come from those handheld cameras.”

ESPN will also have unmanned cameras in the coach’s booth and in the officials’ replay booth.

ESPN will deploy a Skycam just as it does for Monday Night Football and its top college football games. However, the XFL is expected to grant the camera much more freedom to traverse the field before and after the play compared with the NFL and college.

“In terms of the Skycam, some of the things that are verboten with almost any other football league will be welcomed in the XFL,” says Mullen. “Traditionally, on an NFL or college football game, the Skycam can’t get too close to a huddle or to a player. But, with the XFL, we expect to see the Skycam getting down low and hanging right over the top of that huddle to get a better look at what’s going on in there.”

ESPN’s creative-services team has also built a brand-new graphics package for the ABC/ESPN coverage, and longtime partner SMT will provide the 1st-and-Ten Line virtual-graphic system, which will be available on Cameras 1, 2, 3, and 4 (it will not be available on the Skycam).

Audio Coverage: Coach Comms, Player Mics, and Inside the Replay Booth
In addition to more freedom for the cameras, ESPN will have access to plenty of behind-the-scenes audio from coaches and players for its broadcasts.

“What’s really exciting about XFL is the access they’re allowing us to the players and coaches,” says Mullen. “We will be able to tap right into the coach comms system, and we will have mics on several players on the field. “

ESPN will have direct access to the XFL’s coaching comms system (provided by Riedel Communications) and has a four-wire intercom circuit so that announcers and the production truck can have two-way communication with coaches during the game.

In addition, four players on each team — two on offense, two on defense — will be outfitted with RF microphones (provided by CP) to capture in-game audio during plays.

“We’ll also have our own complement of wireless microphones on the side of the field,” says Ristine, “and we are planning on using a boom microphone to get more audio of the players coming on and off the field. We’re going to try to get more intimate and cover the audio on the field as closely as we can.”

ESPN will have a feed directly from the XFL’s Sony Hawkeye replay system so viewers will see exactly what officials see as they’re looking at replays and have direct communication with the replay official supervisor so they can describe what they’re looking at in real time and how they made their decisions.

Sideline Access: Up Close and Personal With Players and Coaches
In addition to the RF cameras covering the action on the sidelines, ESPN will deploy a far-side 50-yard-line camera that will shoot back at the near-side bench to better capture the activity of coaches and players during the game. XFL is also making each team’s PR director directly available on the field to help secure players and coaches for in-game interviews immediately after a big play on the field.

“We have eight fairly well-known coaches in this league,” Mullen notes, “and each one of them has been really receptive to the idea of having a camera in their face throughout the day. That’s not something that the average coach will deal with well, but we have some characters in this league who will be revealed during the season because they’re going to be on the air so much.”

ESPN, along with Fox Sports, completed a rehearsal during scrimmages at the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium (home of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks) last month, allowing production and operations team to get a feel this new all-access style of football coverage.

“One thing that I took away from the first game of the rehearsal was when a player was ejected from the game and we were able to interview him immediately after his ejection,” says Michaud. “The emotion pouring out of him was really interesting to see, and I think the production team is very excited to have the chance to interview a player right after he makes a big play and get firsthand comments.”

A New Style of Football Broadcast: Fast and Furious
In addition to big plays and inside access, the XFL is focused on speeding up the pace of play for its games. With that in mind, ESPN will be working with a three-hour TV window (vs. four hours for an NFL or college game), and it will not host a formal halftime show since XFL halftime periods will be just 10 minutes including commercials.

“The games are very compact because the XFL is looking to have less downtime in the game,” says Mullen. “Since the halftime will be so short, all of our programming will be done onsite from the booth. That said, we will have full access into the locker rooms at that time, so plan to be in the locker rooms to see the adjustments and discussions in there, which will be very exciting.”

More than two years after plans for the XFL were announced, the league will finally take the gridiron this weekend. Inside the truck, producer Josh Hoffman and director Anthony Demarco will handle the Saturday games; producer Mandy Cohen and director Bob Frattorali will man the Sunday games. ESPN Coordinating Producer II Bill Bonnell and Senior Production Manager Vic Morren are overseeing the productions. Although many viewers may not know what to expect, one thing is for sure: the XFL will be a whole new kind of football-viewing experience.

“The XFL has listened to what the fans want and has created a game that is made just for them,” says Michaud. “To able to deliver that vision on television is really exciting. We’ve got a lot of unique and interesting things planned, and I think people are going to want to keep watching after they see that first game.”

Majestic campus erected and designed by Filmwerks is pumping out hundreds of hours of content

By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital, SVG

What’s the point of producing a studio show on-site at a major event, if not to paint the picture of the host locale and to engross the viewer in all that makes it unique. That’s the belief of Fox Sports’ VP, Operations Rod Conti, whose team has outdone themselves with a set to behold on the sands of South Beach in Miami for coverage surrounding Super Bowl LIV.

Fox Sports’ massive studio set activation in South Beach for Super Bowl LIV spans nine acres of production and operations workspace.

Midweek FS1 studio shows (like Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, First Things First, The Herd, Speak For Yourself, and Lock It In) along with game day staples like Fox NFL Sunday will all churn out hundreds of hours of content from the nearly nine acres of production and operations support workspace that Fox has stretched across the southern reaches of Miami Beach. And its all offering a fresh, fun, and eclectic feel for what makes this region of the country so special.

“Sense of place is huge,” says Conti, who has overseen many achievements in set design for Fox, including memorable structures at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow’s Red Square and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower. “What’s synonymous with that place? What’s the first thing that you think of? When we were designing this, I said, ‘this is what I want: Ocean Drive, art deco, palm trees, the sea. What do people think of first when they think of Miami. It’s this beach.

A 55-ft. Technocrane not only supplies sweeping aerial images of the sets, it also is capable of display augmented reality graphics.

Along with its structural and scenic set design partner Filmwerks, Fox Sports has built what is essentially a temporary Fox Corp. campus that is worthy of the Big Game in both scale and scope. For the sports side alone, the network has erected a pair of 50-ft. by 50-ft. production stages bridges by a small demo football field area coverage is large 1.6 mm LED screens that measure up in total to more than 50 square meters.

“How often do we get acres of beach front property to play with?” laughs Conti. “This is TV, we’re used to working in tiny spaces in New York City or a convention center. This is primo.”

Setting the scene of South Beach was far more challenging a task than simply plopping a set in the heart of the strip. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has worked in television production that placing massive structural weight and millions of dollars of gear and personnel onto beach sand isn’t without its obstacles.

Plus, since Fox’s set is set back a bit off of the street of Ocean Drive itself, Conti and his team are utilizing a pair of high-powered camera support systems to help set the scene. A camera on a Strada Crane extends as high as 80 ft. and if offering breathtaking sweeping aerial images of the sets while transitioning smoothly to views of the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, back further inland, a two-point, wired FlyCam system stretches 600 feet along the street the gather in the colors and sounds of Ocean Drive.

The stages are loaded with gear, including a camera complement that featured a pair of RF Steadicams, a RF handheld, and a pair of Technocranes, one measuring 55-ft. high that’s outside on the central football field and a 22-ft. fixture that’s used on the southern-most of the two sets.

Each stage is supported by a control room towards the rear of the room. In fact, each portion of this full structure does an exemplary job of containing everything it needs within a organized footprint, while maintaining clean lines not only for the viewers at home but for those in fans being brought in for live audience of the many programs shooting live here.

There’s more than 10 miles of fiber and five zones of PA speaker systems and one would hardly notice them unless that were pointed out. Set designers took extra care into incorporating real Miami Beach sand for authenticity, while laying down similarly-colored carpet and boardwalk-like wooden boards in the areas where there would be significant crew and talent foot traffic. Blending in the audio wasn’t easy, but Conti found a solution he fell in love with, utilizing an Italian company called K-array, supplied by CP Communications, for thin speaker systems that were installed in the corner walls of the sets, and a special flexible, snake-like speaker strip called an Anakonda that provided inconspicuous in-house audio for the studio audience.

“We wanted to make it all work aesthetically but it’s also completely functional,” says Conti. “Everything is storage or a mini studio of its own. It’s clean. Plus, when you have those big high cameras that pull in cool shots, you can’t be looking down at a mess.”

More than 350+ production, technical and support staff are working here on this impressive campus that began going up way back on January 6. First arrivers raked and matted down the sand before it two approximately two weeks to build the structures themselves before set designers could even begin dressing them. Plus, weather that was unpredictable at time, caused Fox to have to be extra cautious with elements of the build out that could be more dangerous than others.

“It was an ambitious timeline, but not overly tight,” says Brad Cheney, VP, Field Operations & Engineering, Fox Sports. There were definitely spots where we had to play a little bit of catch up because of the wind.”

Fox’s campus at South Beach is supported by NEP Broadcasting’s ND1 series of mobile production trucks. The primary A unit houses a pair of control rooms, while the B unit contains all video and audio, the C unit is filled by transmission and some digital staffers, and the D unit is a hodgepodge of graphics, those overseeing the many big LED screens on the sets, CP Communications staffers managing RF video and audio, and Fletcher executive any robotic cameras.

The full structure also boasts more than 50 square meters worth of 1.6mm LED video wall, including a gigantic screen that bridges between the two main stages.

The campus, while impressive in its own right, is from from a standalone entity. There’s a wealth of connectivity between the various sets here, as well as with Hard Rock Stadium up in Miami Gardens, Radio Row in Miami Beach Convention Center, and Fox Sports’ other home facilities in New York City (they leverage Fox News headquarters), Charlotte, and Los Angeles.

At the South Beach compound, there are 56 transmit paths to five different locations, utilizing satellite, fiber, IP and even cellular. Thirty 30 receive paths from those five 5 locations are coming in over fiber and IP. There’s also 16Gbps of data interconnections on that network.

That level of connectivity has also helped Cheney’s ops team run many at-home production elements to support everything that’s going on at these sets. He says there are, generally, two models of production being done on any given show on the Fox Sports South Beach stages. A majority of programming is sub-switch and sub-mix, meaning a technical director and an A1 are mixing the show alongside a director here at South Beach while communicating with a team in either New York or Los Angeles to insert graphics, run playback, etc. Certain shows, however, like NASCAR Race Hub, which is hosting daily shows on these stages in Miami, are full at-home productions utilizing their home Charlotte facility. Even when game day rolls around on Sunday, major programming like FOX NFL Sunday and FOX NFL Kickoff will be at-home productions with South Beach, the stadium, and Los Angeles.

“We treated this place like we treat the Los Angeles facility in that any control room can be on any stage at any time,” says Cheney. “They can go back-to-back and hop each other and route around.”

Lastly, one of the biggest challenges faced by Fox in South Beach was managing wireless frequency. Cheney noted there wasn’t much frequency in the spectrum to begin with before Fox arrived, and they are utilizing upwards of 40 wireless microphones, 20 wireless IFBs, 24 wireless PLs, and 32 channels of wireless for utility purposes. Plus tie in the fact that ESPN, NFL Network, and a few other media entities are all putting on similar shows in the same area of Miami Beach, all within about a mile of each other.

It all became such a bare that all of the Super Bowl broadcasters actually banded together to hire CP Communications to help frequency manage the entirety of South Beach for everyone.

Two studios each at Lummus Park and Radio Row handle pre- and post-game coverage

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director, SVG

Broadcasting from South Beach is nothing new for ESPN, which has studios at the Clevelander on Ocean Drive. And, for Super Bowl LIV, the broadcaster has upped its presence across the city, with two studios in Lummus Park across the street from the Clevelander and two on Radio Row at the Miami Beach Convention Center. ESPN’s activities culminate at Hard Rock Stadium for the game itself with pre/postgame coverage.

Carlton Young, associate director, remote production operations, ESPN, says it has been a smooth ride this year because the company has worked in South Beach on previous big-time events.

“Permitting is always a process, but we are aware of how that moves,” he says. “You just have to be patient, meet all the deadlines, and then be prepared for the weather, people, and traffic. But we’re in good shape.”

The Lummus Park operations include two stages: a large one for ESPN domestic and a smaller one for ESPN International needs. Shows SportsCenter, Get Up, and PTI have all called the park home, and, on Sunday, it will be home to expanded pregame coverage until 2 p.m. when Fox Sports has the exclusive pregame rights.

Ten cameras are used across those stages, including two jibs and an RF Steadicam that can roam around South Beach. Up the street are two TVU pod locations in a hotel where talent can do quick hits without having to leave their hotel.

“We have two fiber transmit and two fiber return paths installed at the beach,” Young says. “We also have two IP encoders for backup transmission, and the LMG mobile unit that is onsite has a satellite dish. In the event we need to use that dish, we can book satellite space accordingly.”

Key technology providers at Lummus Park include Illumination Dynamics, which is providing power; LMG, which is providing the production truck; CP Communications, which is providing wireless audio and video systems; and NB Pro Sound, which provides the sets.

The Clevelander across the street has also been home to First Take and PTI near the pool on Ocean Drive as well as to the regularly hosted shows from the studio upstairs. The option of both an open-air festive format with fans and an enclosed traditional studio environment proved useful following the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

“The team at PTI wanted to be sensitive,” notes Young. “So they moved inside away from the pool-party atmosphere while Jorge Ramos moved his show to the pool.”

One new addition at The Clevelander is the presence of Mediapro’s 40-ft. 4K-capable Odyssey production unit. It typically works on the Canadian Premier League but made the trip down from Toronto to handle the additional production needs at the hotel.

Terry Dippolito, senior remote production operations manager, ESPN, says the truck has been great and that the production and operations team at the hotel have been amazing. “The shows are a success due to the teamwork,” she says.

According to Odyssey EIC Mitch Lapoint, the truck features a Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher, Sony HDC-4300 cameras, and EVS XT4 and XT3 replay servers. “I like to say it’s small but mighty. “It packs a lot of punch into a 40-ft. space.”

New this year is an expanded presence on Radio Row for shows like Golic and Wingo; First Take, Your Take; The Will Cain Show; and The Dan LeBatart Show. An Azzuro pop-up studio kit allows those shows and social-media hits to be done from two stages. In the past, Young says, ESPN typically took over a small corner of Radio Row, but now it has a bigger footprint.

Explains ESPN Operations Manager Mark Mignini, “We wanted to be bigger, so there are four cameras and a nicer set with lighting. Internal feedback has been really great, and we see that getting bigger and better every year.”

For Carlton and the operations and technical team of more than 200, today marks the end of much of the activity, with The Clevelander operations wrapping up. And, when they head to Hard Rock Hotel, they will have another new remote-production unit to call home: Game Creek Video’s Gridiron, a 53-ft. expando unit that is 4K- and HDR-capable.

Newest member of the STREAM family of content acquisition solutions offers affordable turnkey live production with bonded cellular networking and direct-to-web streaming for broadcast news and AV applications

St. Petersburg, Florida, January 27, 2020 — CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for live event productions, has added a fourth system to its growing Red House Streaming (RHS) family of STREAM content acquisition solutions. Now shipping, ENG Cam STREAM enables broadcast-quality production and bonded cellular streaming at a low price point to provide connectivity from most locations. Ideal for broadcast news and AV applications, ENG Cam STREAM receives its public debut at the 2020 NAB Show, taking place April 19-22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. CP Communications exhibits in the Mobile Viewpoint booth at SU6110.

ENG Cam STREAM provides live 1080p HD content acquisition, bonded cellular networking and IP streaming in an affordable, plug-and-play package. With its quick, easy set-up and integrated functionality, ENG Cam STREAM meets the demands of today’s fast-paced news production requirements, as well as live remote video and webcasting applications. The turnkey solution lets camera operators quickly capture and stream their live shots—via 4G/3G, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet—to TV studio servers, or directly to Facebook, YouTube, and other web URLs.

Shipping in a single flight case, ENG Cam STREAM includes an XDCAM camcorder, tripod and microphones, and can be set up by a single operator. All encoding components fit into a lightweight backpack, making it easy to carry to the best vantage point. Breaking news, political rallies, sporting events, and municipal parades are just some of the newsworthy live events that can be covered and streamed, even from far-flung, connectivity-challenged locations. ENG Cam STREAM also provides an affordable and feature-rich solution for professional AV productions that require direct-to-web streams, including corporate presentations, classroom lectures, and live performances.

“ENG Cam STREAM integrates everything that news teams and content creators need into a lightweight, turnkey solution at an attractive package price,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “The system makes it much easier and more affordable to cover news wherever it happens, which is especially important in a year that includes our presidential election and the Summer Games in Tokyo.”

Technical Elements
As a turnkey live news production and streaming solution, the ENG Cam STREAM employs bonded cellular to provide connectivity from virtually any indoor or outdoor location, including remote spots that can’t easily be reached by ENG or SNG news vans. The system includes
a Sony PXW-X400 XDCAM camcorder with a Canon 18x zoom lens, and supports one or two channels of live 1080p HD video, with up to eight embedded audio channels.

The camera integrates a Mobile Viewpoint (MVP) Agile AirLink (H.265/H.264) encoder to harness the bonded cellular bandwidth of eight separate modems, providing fast upload speeds over Wi-Fi. ENG Cam STREAM users can use any SIM cards and 4G/3G data plan they choose, select their target URL, and start live streaming reliably. The compact package also contains an Elvid on-camera field monitor, Sennheiser ME67 shotgun microphone, Sennheiser MD46 ENG handheld microphone, and camera-mounted LED light kit.

CP Communications introduced the first three STREAM products at the 2019 NAB Show. These systems, which the company will demonstrate at NAB again this year, serve a broad variety of single- to multi-camera productions. All four STREAM systems are available to rent or purchase.

• Cam STREAM, a broadcast-quality, single- or dual-camera acquisition system with streaming over Ethernet, WiFi, and/or bonded cellular
• MultiCam STREAM, which supports up to four cameras, 32 audio channels, and data (such as return tally and four-wire intercom); and delivers separate SDI cameras feeds or a single, multiplexed stream
• Production STREAM, which supports up to seven cameras and sources, with tally and intercom, and integrates Simplylive video switching and Dante-enabled audio mixing

“ENG Cam STREAM expands the capabilities and application range of our broader STREAM family, and strengthen our value proposition as a provider of IP/bonded cellular systems integrated with traditional video production technologies and services,” said Heitmann.

Live event production specialists add new tricks and technologies to the mix that reduce reliance on complex and expensive RF systems

New York, NY, December 9, 2019 — For the 25th year, CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for complex live event productions, managed end-to-end content acquisition for the TCS New York City Marathon. Now in its 49th year, the TCS New York City Marathon is the world’s largest marathon and the signature event of New York Road Runners (NYRR), the world’s premier community running organization. The race course begins in Staten Island and winds its way through Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx before finishing in Manhattan in Central Park.

Over the past four years, as bandwidth and network availability have improved, CP Communications has gradually reduced its reliance on traditional RF technology to cover the race in favor of more cost-efficient IP and bonded cellular systems. CP Communications this year completed that transition, leveraging a 100-percent IP and bonded cellular networking infrastructure for live coverage of the Men’s and Women’s races across all five boroughs.

The company brought back many of the same platforms and technologies that have proved successful in recent years, while making strategic changes to the technical infrastructure and production workflows to ensure reliable coverage throughout the entire 26.2-mile course. Utilizing the expansive fiber network throughout NYC allowed CP Communications to increase flexibility at all locations, and further reduced reliance on traditional video transmission circuits.

Four cars and three motorcycles were equipped with stabilized mounts and lenses, with an additional POV camera for talent installed on two of the cars. Mobile Viewpoint Agile Airlink encoders captured and streamed the live action via bonded cellular with bandwidth-efficient H.265/HEVC video encoding back to CP Communications HD-21 production truck, located at the finish line.

Agile Airlinks were also utilized on two rooftop locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and at three REMI (Remote Integration Model) production locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. The rooftop sites also leveraged traditional microwave links as backup transmission for cellular-congested areas at the start and finish lines. The Agile Airlinks at the REMI sites captured live interviews with racers, NYRR spokespeople and other subjects over the course of the day.

For the first time, CP Communications added a Mobile Viewpoint 2K4 playout server at each rooftop and REMI site, allowing technical personnel to route any signal between any of those five locations. The same technology was added to each vehicle, which CP Communications Technical Manager Frank Rafka describes as an important first for this event.

“Having return video to the cars over the entire course was an important step forward, and overall we had a valuable return system to move video, audio and other signals between all of our acquisition points,” said Rafka. “This was one of the biggest changes to the infrastructure this year, as we could seamlessly monitor all locations and dynamically make changes as necessary — a major benefit of managing IP encoding in the cloud. The hotspots and cellular networks associated with Mobile Viewpoint technology made it very easy to achieve.”

Rafka added that the Mobile Viewpoint systems allowed CP Communications to send IFB return to each vehicle and REMI site. This enabled the team to communicate with talent seamlessly across all locations. Microphones were embedded locally at each site, which allowed all the audio to remain in lip sync with the video.

Vehicle and REMI audio were managed and delivered to the broadcasters via a Dante network, which was managed on board HD-21. CP Communications utilized RTS OMNEO intercoms to link HD-21 to the host broadcaster, which allowed seamless communications throughout the TV broadcast compound. CP Communications separately used a Unity Intercom system deployed over the cellular network, allowing NYRR personnel and spotters along the course to communicate with the broadcast compound.

All video and audio signals were delivered from HD-21 to an NEP broadcast truck at the finish line using a MultiDyne VF-9000 fiber transmission system. On board HD-21, CP Communications personnel monitored bitrates and dataflow from all Agile Airlink devices, as well as signals leaving the truck through its 24×24 routing infrastructure. NEP produced world feed uplinks as well the domestic national broadcast for ESPN2.

CP Communications CEO Kurt Heitmann noted that his team wrote software to interpret data and GPS locations from 28 inbound signals to HD-21, which, when transposed over a Google map, provided valuable information as the race moved into areas and zones with more challenging cellular coverage.

“These technologies and workflows, along with overall better network bandwidth and availability, made it possible to leverage a 100-percent modern network infrastructure to cover this year’s event,” said Heitmann. “Collectively, we continue to push the envelope using traditional technology mixed with secure, reliable and cost-efficient IP and bonded cellular systems.”


Sales and operations professional joins CP Communications’ growing staff in key Senior Account Executive role

St. Petersburg, Florida — CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for live event productions, has appointed Ian McKelvy as Senior Account Executive, AV and Broadcast Services, effective immediately. Reporting to Director of Sales James Monroe and VP of Sales Aaron Segarra, McKelvy will focus on business development around CP Communications’ products and services, including equipment sales and rentals. His initial efforts will focus on broadcast and AV business growth in the greater New York City region.

McKelvy comes to CP Communications with nearly 15 years of sales and management experience in the broadcast and live events space. He spent nearly a decade at Bexel Broadcast Services, working his way up to an Operations Manager role that oversaw key business functions and financial performance. He most recently managed technical sales for Jetwave Wireless’ RF audio business, where he spearheaded product sales, packaged wireless rentals and frequency coordination for distributed antenna systems in the New York City region.

McKelvy’s extensive experience with RF and wireless systems makes him a perfect fit for CP Communications, renowned for its RF content acquisition and broadcast coverage expertise for professional sports and live events. As CP Communications increasingly leverages IP and bonded cellular technologies for these same purposes, McKelvy sees an opportunity to position the company for a much broader array of business opportunities.

“The availability of RF spectrum continues to shrink across the country, which is affecting how companies like CP Communications approach live production,” said McKelvy. “My experience in RF frequency coordination and design will bring value to their more traditional services, as the industry learns how to more efficiently manage our shrinking RF spectrum. However, the growth of their Red House Streaming (RHS) solutions for IP, cloud and bonded cellular networking provides an innovative response to the challenges our customers face in live production, while providing a more efficient price point that will attract a much broader customer base.”

McKelvy points to his experience with large-scale frequency coordination projects, including New Year’s Eve in Times Square, as particularly valuable experience as he joins CP Communications. He also has extensive experience supporting large corporate events – one of many AV verticals that CP Communications is bullish about as their RHS solutions come to market. CP Communications’ homegrown range of RHS STREAM production packages comprise four options to cover single-camera shoots and multi-camera productions, and stream acquired content in real time to multiple viewing platforms. CP Communications is also the exclusive distributor of Mobile Viewpoint products in the United States.

“Ian brings a rare blend of customer and technical skillsets to CP Communications that will benefit our traditional RF, and burgeoning IP and bonded cellular businesses,” said Monroe. “His industry relationships and business development skills will also introduce our innovative RHS solutions and services to new customers in several key growth markets. We are thrilled to welcome Ian to the growing CP Communications team.”

Live event production leader will emphasize AI, bonded cellular and content acquisition innovations from its Red House Streaming family of homegrown and Mobile Viewpoint solutions

CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for live event productions, will emphasize key AI, bonded cellular, and content acquisition solutions from its Red House Streaming (RHS) family at NAB New York this month. CP Communications exhibits at Booth N910 at NAB New York, which takes place from October 16-17 at the Jacob K. Javitz Center in Manhattan.

CP Communications last year launched its RHS brand to accommodate the convergence of IP, cloud and bonded cellular technologies in live broadcast and production. The family is anchored by the company’s homegrown range of RHS STREAM production packages, which comprise four options to cover single-camera shoots and multi-camera productions, and stream this content in real time to multiple viewing platforms. All STREAM production and streaming packages feature encoding and decoding technology from Mobile Viewpoint, a Netherlands-based developer of IP solutions for Media & Entertainment companies. CP Communications is the exclusive distributor of Mobile Viewpoint products in the United States.

“CP Communications has led the industry in RF-based live content acquisition for almost three decades, specializing in video and audio coverage for many of the world’s largest sports events,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “In alignment with the industry’s shift toward IP and cloud-based workflows, we have aggressively adopted IP and bonded cellular technologies for our own projects and innovated new solutions that our broader customer base can benefit from. At NAB New York, we will focus on cost-effective, networked solutions to benefit news production workflows, at-home productions and other remote content acquisition and live broadcast needs.”

Automated News and Live Content Acquisition

The VPilot automated studio solution provides broadcasters with an intelligent, cost-effective solution to automate live news and sports desk programming. The VPilot platform integrates Mobile Viewpoint’s Virtual Director software, which employs AI technology to autonomously and accurately capture news and sports anchors in the studio, and then automatically switch between this content and live interviews from the field. CP Communications will equip the VPilot set with four PTZ cameras and a Dante audio network, with VPilot’s voice and facial recognition technologies automatically switching, controlling and analyzing video and audio signals captured through Production STREAM.

Production STREAM is the largest of four packages comprising CP Communications’ RHS STREAM production solutions, and can accommodate productions with up to seven cameras and live streaming support. Introduced at the 2019 NAB Show, the compact studio-in-a-box system integrates Mobile Viewpoint encoding and decoding, Simplylive video switching, bi-directional Dante audio networking, and Dante-enabled stageboxes and audio mixers. Production STREAM provides the flexibility for local or remote camera control, both enabled through a browser-based interface and accessible through Mobile Viewpoint’s TerraLink-M encoder.

The RHS brand represents CP Communications’ strategic direction as both a supplier and service provider, with options to rent or purchase any of the four RHS STREAM packages. All RHS STREAM packages are simple to deploy and control, with set up completed in a matter of minutes. The result is a range of scalable, cost-effective solutions for remote and at-home productions that eliminates expensive system design and specification, integration and commissioning requirements.

CP Communications will leverage MultiDyne’s “mobile marketing van” for smaller live productions; partnership will be on demonstration at NAB New York

CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for complex live event productions, announces that it will add MultiDyne’s 22-foot mobile van to its growing fleet of production vehicles.

MultiDyne introduced the van in 2018 as a “mobile marketing van” that doubled as an exhibition showcase for MultiDyne products at North American tradeshows, and as a mobile showroom for MultiDyne road shows and training initiatives. CP Communications, a longtime MultiDyne customer, recognized an opportunity for both companies to collaborate on smaller live productions, including high school and college sports projects.

“Many high school and college sports venues have live production needs, but lack the workspace to accommodate a flypack or a large truck,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “The MultiDyne van offers the perfect footprint for a four-to-six camera shoot, and solves our problem of carving out a workspace for live productions in tight spaces. It also provide a professional, low-cost acquisition model for our customers working on strict production budgets.”

“We have long considered how the professional design of this van can be leveraged for more than standard road shows and demonstrations,” said Frank Jachetta, CEO, MultiDyne. “Partnering with CP Communications, among the industry’s premier live production companies, offers a compelling way to provide real value to the broadcast and production community, while also ensuring that the CP Communications team has the best that fiber transport technology can offer for live services.”

MultiDyne will equip the van with its latest-generation SilverBack V cameraback systems, VF-9000 fiber transmission platform, and COMMS-300 fiber extenders to interface party-line intercom audio with analog line level signals. CP Communications will use the additional space to customize the infrastructure for each project, including Dante audio networking, Simplylive switchers, and AJT graphics and score bugs among other systems.

“We have a long history with MultiDyne and believe they have the best and broadest range of fiber transport products on the market,” said Heitmann. “The SilverBack systems provide us with the flexibility to convert ENG cameras to broadcast cameras. We will add those systems to our four handhelds and two PTZ cameras to provide plenty of freedom and flexibility for live six-camera productions. The net result is that we can accomplish a quick plug-and-play setup of under two hours, while still having all the power of real-time fiber transport, live switching, and instant replay among other professional systems.”

CP Communications and MultiDyne will demonstrate the applications and technologies for the partnership at the NAB New York show. MultiDyne exhibits at Booth N937, where the van will be on display, and CP Communications exhibits at Booth N910. CP Communications will use its Production STREAM system, a compact studio-in-a-box solution for multi-camera content creation, to transport signals between the van and each booth. Production STREAM is one of four packages comprising CP Communications’ Red House Streaming STREAM production packages, and can accommodate productions with up to seven cameras.

In addition to the van-equipped systems, MultiDyne will showcase its expanded range of audio monitoring and conversion solutions from its recent acquisition of Census Digital. MultiDyne will demonstrate these solutions along other recently-introduced products, including its MD9200 compression family and next-generation SMPTE-HUT camera transceivers. NAB New York takes place from October 16-17 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan.

About CP Communications

For more than three decades, CP Communications has provided high-quality, cost-effective live event production solutions to major broadcasters, sports leagues and teams, and event and production companies. Our solutions include access to experienced professionals, state of the art equipment, and innovative technologies and techniques for wireless audio & video content acquisition, transport and delivery. Our culture of innovation, coupled with the highest quality assurance standards and passion for customer service, promote collaboration with our clients to determine the best custom solution for each live event.

About MultiDyne

With over 40 years of experience serving the Broadcasters and video production communities worldwide, MultiDyne Fiber Optic Systems leads the industry in developing pioneering signal conversion and fiber-optic-based transport systems for the broadcast, cable, satellite, production, digital cinema, pro A/V, corporate, retail, surveillance, teleconferencing, judicial arraignment, transportation, government, military, and healthcare markets.

New co-branded RF7 event communications and production trailer will support event security and communications along with audio, video and data for large-scale events.

St. Petersburg, Florida, September 25, 2019 CP Communications, a leader in innovative solutions and services for complex live event productions, has partnered with communications specialist DC Rentals to deliver turnkey AV, content delivery, and security services for large-scale entertainment events. The two companies will support music festivals, sporting events, municipal celebrations and other large outdoor events from RF7, a co-branded event communications and production trailer that brings all required infrastructure together into one mobile command center.

CP Communications and DC Rentals bring complementary skillsets to the table; the former is a renowned live broadcast and production expert, and the latter is a leading, multi-faceted communications solutions provider. The partnership ensures that all technology, crewing and expertise is in one place to support all audio, video, data and content delivery (broadcast, streaming) elements, as well as comprehensive event security and communications.

“The proliferation of large, outdoor live events has created a challenging atmosphere for event hosts because more services and assets are required to cover everything from in-house AV and live event streaming to critical public safety,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications. “This partnership brings together 60 years of live production and communications experience as a full-service solution that will enhance the consumer experience and attendee security, while reducing the cost and complexity of hiring and managing multiple production teams.”

The 53-foot RF7 trailer comprises an impressive array of technology to fully support today’s largest live outdoor events. Core services include the acquisition and distribution of video and audio content over RF, IP and bonded cellular networks, and a digital trunking infrastructure to support thousands of two-way radios and hundreds of surveillance cameras. A flexible equipment rack and power infrastructure, along with a 50-foot mast, offers a scalable architecture to add and subtract systems and capabilities as required.

The CP Communications foundation includes a video production space and an engineering room to support transmission and surveillance. Heitmann notes that the AV and broadcast/streaming infrastructure includes six video recording systems, each capable of supporting nine camera feeds; a high-density fiber and/or microwave transmission core; and a flexible architecture to integrate audio mixing and recording systems as required.

The DC Rentals team adds comprehensive communications capabilities that include Motorola and Hytera two-way radios and digital trunking systems, and remote IP monitoring of live and recorded video. The latter is achieved both on board and on the move (via iOS and Android mobile devices), with the flexibility to create sophisticated split views and customized layouts on multiviewers inside the command center.

Chris Laquidara, President of DC Rentals, has supported some of the largest events in the country as well as large-scale public safety communications infrastructure build-outs, which strengthens his company’s expertise for live event operations and logistics. DC Rentals recently provided communications and an event production trailer for Boston Calling, a large, annual, multi-day outdoor music festival in one of the city’s busiest areas.

“We recorded more than 119,000 Push To Talk (PTT) transmissions over those four days with no busy-signals and 100% up time despite local power outages,” said Laquidara. “Our experience in producing safe, memorable experiences for tens of thousands of attendees will create an affordable and reliable one-stop shop when combined with the comprehensive, high-quality media and entertainment services that CP Communications provides for every live production.”

The RF7 event communications and production trailer is now available for live event support, and is deployable on short notice with flexible crewing and technical infrastructure to meet any scale.

About CP Communications

For more than three decades, CP Communications has provided high-quality, cost-effective live event production solutions to major broadcasters, sports leagues and teams, and event and production companies. Our solutions include access to experienced professionals, state of the art equipment, and innovative technologies and techniques for wireless audio & video content acquisition, transport and delivery. Our culture of innovation, coupled with the highest quality assurance standards and passion for customer service, promote collaboration with our clients to determine the best custom solution for each live event.

About DC Rentals

DC Rentals is a multi-faceted communications solutions company with nearly 30 years of industry success. From music festivals to political campaigns to marathons, the company works with clients across the nation to fulfill their unique rental needs. With thousands of radios and accessories in stock, DC Rentals can provide communications for an event of any size. The company prides itself on delivering outstanding customer service, cutting-edge technology and competitive pricing.