IP Broadcasting with Blackmagic Design
As Chief Technical Director here at GlobeStream Media, one of my guilty pleasures in life is talking about production gear. It's so second nature to me that I have to be really cognizant of when I start going off on a tech tangent and make my producer's eyes glaze over. Without a doubt, the 'tech' of live production is what got me into this business, and as cloud computing, IP networking, and live production continue to converge, I can't think of a more interesting and fun place to be then right in the middle of it all.
Since our founding, GlobeStream has always been a "Blackmagic Design shop." While there are many hardware (and now software and even cloud) solutions in the market, we have always felt Blackmagic Design delivers exceptional quality and reliability at an affordable price point. While there are certainly less expensive systems, as well as systems that are more full featured, for us, Blackmagic Design provides the best "bang-for-the-buck" when it comes to SDI-based video switching, routing, and live video infrastructure.
Two years ago we reached a fork in the road for our company. We were looking to expand to meet the needs of larger productions, but were torn between investing in a OB trailer or building an IP broadcast facility to support remote production. In 2019, we brought online a small proof-of-concept facility to support a 4 camera remote production using LiveU's remote integration technology. We integrated an LU-2000, 4 channel server into what was essentially a flypack built around a Blackmagic Design ATEM 2 M/E Production switch.
The first event we produced was the 2019 USA Softball Girls 16u and 18u National Championships, which were held in Plano, Texas that year. For the semi-final and final games, we set up 4 cameras on the field, and connected them to LiveU LU-200 field encoders. Audio from our commentator was sent into two of the cameras (so we would have primary and backup audio), and all four feeds were transmitted from the softball fields in Plano to our production facility in McKinney, Texas. In our proof-of-concept master control facility, we overlaid graphics, switched the program, and streamed it out to USA Softball's web site.
To say that the event was a success was an understatement... the LiveU system hit it out of the park (sorry, had to get a softball pun in there).
After the National Championships, we set about engineering what would become version 1 of our IP broadcasting facility. We started with a Blackmagic Smart VideoHub 40x40 6G, an ATEM 1 M/E Production switch, and an ATEM 1 M/E Advanced control panel all pulled from one of our flypacks. From here, we added in 6 HyperDeck Studio Mini for playback and recording and added an UltraStudio HD mini connected to a Mac mini running Softron's On the Air Video Express for video playout. Our graphics system runs on a Mac mini as well, and is housed in a Sonnet Technologies xMac mini server enclosure with a Blackmagic Decklink 8k video card while our replay system, a Mac Pro running Softron's M|Replay software is also housed in a Sonnet Technologies enclosure and has a Blackmagic Decklink Quad 2 video card. To round out our remote facility, we added an SDI to Audio de-embedder to separate audio from an SDI video channel to send it to our audio mixer, a SmartScope Duo for signal monitoring, and a Blackmagic Design Audio Monitor.
After getting a few productions under our belt, it was time to expand and add additional capability to our production facility. The first step was adding a much more robust switch, and we moved all the way up to the ATEM Constellation. This 4 M/E powerhouse gives us plenty of room for expansion, outstanding keying capability, 4 multi viewers, multiple media players, and much more. Next, we added more capacity across the board; a second UltraStudio HD connected to a Mac mini running On the Air Express video for an added video playout channel, a second SDI to Audio de-embedder, an Audio to SDI embedder for adding a separate audio channel into a production, a Web Presenter for integrating with Zoom / WebEx / GoToMeeting or other video conferencing applications, a NewTek vs 4000 to integrate 4 channels of Skype into our production environment, and eventually, an ATEM 2 M/E Advanced Panel. The expanded version of our IP broadcasting facility was brought on-line mid-2020, just in time for a busy fall of remote production. With the COVID pandemic in full swing, it was a fortuitous (lucky) decision for us to chose the remote production path in lieu of building out an OB trailer. With LiveU, Skype, and Blackmagic Design, we've been able to put together a professional, robust, and high-quality IP broadcast facility that can scale to meet the needs of a wide range of live streaming productions.