Concluding the review of the three IBC Accelerator projects in which Net Insight has been involved during the past 12 months, 5G & Remote Production in Live Sport is the subject of a detailed video session that can be viewed now on the IBC website.

As with the other Accelerators, the 5G & Remote Production project called on some of the biggest names in broadcasting and media technology. While an eight-strong list of Accelerator Champions includes Al Jazeera, BBC, beIN SPORTS and SuperSport, it is supported by no fewer than 10 technology providers – including Grass Valley, Mobile Viewpoint and Net Insight – as well as academic partners Doha College and Evolution Sports.

5G application in content production

The starting point for this scheme, led by Al Jazeera, was to assess the current potential of 5G production for live sports ahead of two major global sporting events in 2022 – the recently-concluded Winter Olympics in Beijing and the FIFA World Cup, which will take place in Qatar at the end of this year.

Introducing the session, IBC Innovation Lead & Adviser Mark Smith highlighted the intensive “six months of planning and network architecture” work on 5G and content production that had taken place prior to technology trials at the FIFA Arab Cup in Doha last November and December. From the innovative use of drones to AI-enabled cameras, the Accelerator was “really showing the way through for the future of broadcast production,” said Smith.

Grant Totten – who is Head of Cloud, Analytics & Insights at Al Jazeera Media Network – said that the Accelerator team wanted to explore how “5G could potentially enable multiple coverage opportunities and make the logistics of events ever-easier. And we wanted to set this up with remote production, AI and edge computing as they really work together to provide that experience.”

Ultimately, the Accelerator made progress on several key fronts: the trialing of state of the art contribution technologies, including video compression from Net Insight; the assessment of new live remote 5G production workflows; and the development of immersive fan engagement experiences via a dedicated app.
Fathi Albatie, Broadcast Services Engineer at Al Jazeera Media Network, said that the ability to purpose-build a 5G network at Doha College was especially useful: “It would have been difficult to do this in a public space, [especially in terms of] using drones, but at the college we had the necessary permits. It was very beneficial for the project.”

Kristian Mets, Head of Sales Business Development at Net Insight, highlighted the Accelerator’s desire to “look outside the box” in terms of how 5G production might enrich media creation within numerous industries. One part of the trial, he said, involved a 5G/cloud integration and the distribution of 16 sources to 58 destinations. “To be able to explore these [kinds of set-ups] for the first time was a huge benefit,” he said.

The potential of integrating UGC (user-generated content) from fans into broadcast output generated excitement across the panel. As John Lennon – Manager, Technology Projects & Strategies at beIN SPORTS remarked – “there is the opportunity to effectively turn a 26 or 30 camera production into a 1036 camera event. And it wasn’t a case of ‘what if?’ – we were actually able to test it in real-time. We saw it working and very well too.”

Dheshnie Naidoo, Head of Production Operations at SuperSport, indicated that this joint project, delving deep into the possibilities of 5G and content production, underlines the importance of continual innovation around fan engagement – “sports organizations must be agile is a big learning here” – as well as 5G’s potential to make live production more efficient. There is scope, she said, “for more cost-effective production and making the logistics less intensive. How can we redefine operations in terms of what gets carried out on site, and what happens at the broadcast center? There are opportunities here for lowering the carbon footprint and improving sustainability.”

The future of 5G and content production

There is plenty of reason to expect 5G to play a sizable role in the future of live production, not least in sports. “Ultimately the aim is to make the most immersive experience possible for the fans at home and in the stadium, so we are hugely excited by the results of this project,” said Lennon.

The future opportunities of 5G application in content production are endless. 5G has the potential to become a key part of workflows in the live and remote production space within numerous industries and areas. However, there’s a lot to be done before 5G can be fully adopted by and integrated in the content production sector. 5G could also influence the future of connectivity by creating new opportunities and avenues for advancement.

Stay tuned for more information about our IBC Accelerator projects to gain additional insights into 5G application in content production and what the future of 5G production in live sports will look like.

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