Ronen Artman, VP of Marketing, LiveU, chats with Broadcast Sport about the capabilities of the LU-800 and the various projects undertaken this year.
It’s fair to say that in the build-up to the launch of the first LiveU product in 2008 there was some industry scepticism about the viability of the underlying technology we were pioneering – cellular bonding. It didn’t take long for people to realise, led by the broadcast news industry, that this was a truly disruptive technology, ushering in new ways of thinking and working. Our technology now dominates newsgathering. From there it’s been an exciting ride as our technological capabilities have grown and the use cases have expanded, especially across the sports market.
We have witnessed a huge rise in the use of LiveU across sports over the past few years – from single-camera streaming to complex, multi-camera production, often on the move. From the Rugby World Cup, where our technology was used not only to gather content but also as a disaster recovery solution by ITV Sport, to the FIA World Rally Championship, Austrian football and facilitating coverage of the Spanish lower leagues, we have achieved success around the world. But we also knew that to continue our expansion across the sector and into more Tier 1 sports use, we had to develop a true production-grade product family with all the capabilities highlighted above and that is the LU800, more of which shortly.
There are several clear trends that we’ve all seen evolving in recent years: the development, testing and initial deployments of 5G; the rise of remote and multi-camera production, especially across the sports market; the growth in remote working more widely because of the considerable challenges presented by remaining safe during the spread of COVID-19; and the aforementioned increasing use of LiveU technology across the sports sector globally.
In terms of remote production, we had already established a powerful reputation in this area with LiveU used in a variety of ways to achieve this including using our wireless At-Home Production solution, using LiveU Precision Timing™.
A prime example is the work that UK-based all-things-cycling production company did, with its technical partner WilkieTV, for British Cycling across 2019. Having tested LiveU extensively, they live streamed inner city criterium races and well as the UCI Paracycling road race World Championship in Yorkshire. Footage was also streamed to six big screens around the course. This was all produced remotely from WilkieTV’s facility in near Guildford. The use of remote production – including LiveU Central, our cloud-based, centralised management system – allowed the number of crew travelling onsite to be dramatically reduced, with only camera operators, motorbike pilots and a producer onsite. Equipment setup was simplified: camera operators could each be responsible for their own kit, meaning no need for an onsite engineer.
In early June we launched the brand new LU800 – the first production-level field unit. Combining multi-camera production with mission-critical transmission over native 5G, the LU800 changes the rules of the game for dynamic sports content. It combines multi-camera production and superior video and audio capabilities with mission-critical transmission in a native 5G unit. Of course, the LU800 also works excellently over 4G.
The LU800 supports up to four fully frame-synced feeds in high resolution from a single unit, using powerful IP bonding of up to 14 connections. The unit also offers the highest-quality video performance, with up to 4Kp60 10-bit HDR transmission for optimal colour depth and richness, as well as up to 16 audio channels for high-end productions. For the sports market, this is truly next-generation technology. The LU800 live feeds can also be shared with a larger audience base using the LiveU Matrix IP content management and distribution solution as part of an end-to-end content workflow.
We strongly believe that for production of sports, LiveU smart 5G-bonding over mature 5G deployments will enhance the sustainability of video quality even in densely packed venues and other similar scenarios. As bonding provides not only bandwidth but also additional reliability and resiliency, transmitting over mature 5G deployments will be compete head-on with satellite and fibre methods in ever increasing number of use cases.
In terms of social distancing, the LU800 minimises the number of people required on site, offering high-quality and reliable multi-camera remote production. Live events can be produced from your centralised studio using your existing equipment, with only essential personnel required on site.
With today’s budget limitations, this is an important advantage. There’s no need to send an expensive OB production truck to the venue, and no need for cabling. Events can be simply be covered using cost-effective wireless technology, instead of traditional transmission methods (satellite/fibre).
Today’s COVID-19 situation is also making long-term planning a challenge with some organizations in survival mode and others struggling with reduced sponsorship revenues. CAPEX expenses are hard to justify at this time so our OPEX model is of even greater benefit now.
Over the last few months, LiveU has been used to cover NASCAR races and PGA golf in the US where no one needed to be close to the athletes. In China, LiveU technology was used to stream live the Simulation Game of the International Skating Union (ISU) Championships in Beijing within the strict limitations of the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s a massive demand for live sports: we’re proud to be making it happen.
The LU800 takes this to the next level, bringing together 5G and remote production in a multi-camera unit to provide customers with both the flexibility and premium production qualities they rightly demand. Remote production was already rapidly growing as a methodology and we see this expanding as the world gradually opens up again, looking for cost-effective solutions, which also minimise the number of people required onsite.
Industry reaction has been brilliant, led by responses during the launch. As you can see in that video, we had major players like Fox Sports and CBS News taking part.
I’ll let our CEO, Samuel Wasserman, have the last word, “Launching this ground-breaking product has taken on extra relevance, with the industry experiencing social distancing and budget limitations. There is an acute and growing need for high-quality, reliable and cost-effective solutions, supporting remote production (REMI) workflows. The LU800 offers unlimited possibilities for customers to enrich their productions and cover more events at a fraction of the cost of traditional transmission methods.”
(This is a sponsored article in association with LiveU)