The 2022-23 season of Italy’s football Lega Serie A, which began on 13 August, is broadcasting from Italian communications and broadcast transmission specialist EI Towers’ new International Broadcast Centre (IBC). The broadcast hub is set up for centralised contribution and distribution of audio, video and data in Italy and around the world for broadcasters and rightsholders, capable of scaling sufficiently and delivering a high quality viewing experience to football fans over multiple platforms.
Located in Lissone, north of Milan, the IBC will collect 12 primary signals and 12 backups, from each stadium in the country holding matches in Serie A TIM, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa. Graphics, replays and branding will be added at the IBC before being distributed via fibre links to Italian broadcasters. EI Towers also supplies international feeds, with commentary in English, Italian and Arabic language for international satellite and fibre distribution to all rightsholders located all over the world.
Multiplatform Distribution, SDI/IP Conversion
To support the varying facilities at each stadium and the requirements for international and multiplatform distribution from the new IBC, EI Towers needed a flexible platform that could handle legacy SDI content and IP signal processing by using both SMPTE ST 2022-6 and ST 2110, as well as several different output formats.
For instance, the platform needed to support 4K UHD and HDR, as well as 3G-SDI (1080p50), and deliver in different frame rates to meet the needs of international customers. EI Towers used Imagine Communications Selenio Network Processor (SNP), which has a broad range of processing functions and an open-standard design.
Fabrizio Falcini, head of systems engineering at EI Towers, said, “We have been using Imagine signal routing and management for some time. However our sports content in particular makes complex, time constrained demands on our operations. The SNP is elastic enough in terms of services and compatibility, and scalable in terms of capacity so that we can meet those requirements of our clients.”
The 1RU SNP handles conversions between ST 2110 and SDI, including 12G SDI as required. It performs up-, down- and cross-conversion between HD/UHD and SDR/HDR formats, and automatic, uninterrupted changeovers to maintain a consistent on-air output.
SNP also has low-latency, HDR-capable production multiviewer functionality, SNP-MV, which integrates content from different video formats and HDR systems into a consistent display environment.
If needed, custom LUTs can be imported to the SNP in order to match conversion and processing settings to the production conditions of a particular day. Also, to set up a signal processing standard, either automatic signal detection or manual control is available.
The MV service has a reconfigurable nature that makes it a good match for the large network of multiviewers deployed at EI Towers. The design means the operators can reconfigure the software for different workflows and upgrade it in the field with new functionality. For example, the SNP-MV can be configured to create up to 8 unique multiviewer layouts, with only a single frame of latency in many configurations.
The SNP can ingest SD, HD and UHD, and create multiviewer layouts on HD and UHD canvases simultaneously. With HDR awareness, the SNP can ingest a variety of different services and normalise them for display on layouts. This is important for displaying mixed HDR/SDR content in the correct colour space, which creates an extra layer of complexity.
Fabrizio said, “What impressed us about Imagine’s approach to this project was the open standard and flexible architecture of the SNP, which we can use for format, resolution and colour space conversion, as well as a bridge between SDI and IP.
“Imagine demonstrated to us that we would be able to manage complex routing and workflows and meet our operational requirements efficiently – that is, without over-provisioning equipment – now and into the future.”
Italy’s football Lega Serie A
During the Serie A season, EI Towers’ IBC needs to support outputs from matches happening simultaneously – managing, routing and converting numerous signal types – and return video feeds to the stadium. Each control room needs a different monitor setup, so the ability to drive a diverse series of multiviewers from a single SNP makes the system much more practical and efficient.
Mathias Eckert, SVP & GM EMEA & APAC at Imagine Communications, said, “The SNP will help improve the Lega Serie A coverage from EI Towers’ new IBC, reaching football fans across several regions and delivery platforms. It also means EI Towers can simplify their operations and increase their ROI over time with an open-standard system that can be upgraded as Imagine continues to develop their software.”
The entire asset management, signal processing and distribution network at the IBC, including third-party products, operates under the control of the Magellan Control System. Operators are using Magellan Touch, a new operational control framework that allows operators to tailor their own control user interface. www.imaginecommunications.com