When Covid-19 restrictions came into play during 2020, Tabcorp’s broadcast arm Sky Racing had to find a way for race callers, producers, and post-production staff to work safely from home, no easy feat for live sports broadcast.
Beaming out thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound racing from 172 venues Sky Racing covers an astonishing amount of territory across Australia. Televised via satellite to a huge network of TABs and hospitality venues, as well as directly via Foxtel, the three main channels Sky Racing 1, Sky Racing 2, and Sky Thoroughbred Central represent a complex and evolving network rivalling the largest public broadcaster.
“At the onset of the Covid-19 lockdown, we had the ability for the majority of our staff to work remotely with ease, but the problem was that we could remote control operations, but couldn’t see all of our outputs,” explains Dennis Dovale, Head of Technology, (Broadcast & Media) at Tabcorp. “Remoting keyboard and mouse is simple, but ability to see what we usually have on large-screen multiviews in our control rooms was lacking.”
Fortuitously, Dennis and his team were already working with Sienna, market leaders in the implementation of the video-over-IP NDI Protocol in broadcast. With Sienna’s ability to deliver scalable, modular, broadcast infrastructure distributed over the internet, it was the perfect suite of products for the problem at hand.
All of Sky’s remote workflows are handled by Sienna’s software, running on off-the shelf-PCs. The NDI Processing Engine replaces racks full of traditional SDI glue modules and is used for scaling, bug insertion, audio embedding, de-embedding and mixing, plus the all-important multiviewer, while the NDI Router provides an infrastructure equivalent to a traditional SDI video router. At the ingest and output points, the NDI Source Multi takes SDI ins through BlackMagic Design ingest cards, and the NDI Outlet Multi sends the final NDI streams back out to SDI through BlackMagic Design output cards.
“We currently have two servers sending to and receiving from 25 remote Sienna NDI video endpoints,” continues Dennis. “Our staff working from home are monitoring multiviews with ultra-low latency vision, sub one second from the source. We’ve integrated AES67 audio from our comms network, supplied extra ins and outs, and enabled remote race calling. Our talent can select, view, and call races remotely. The video goes out to our staff, runs through the Sienna software on their machine, inserts their call into programme, and sends it all back to our Sky control room before it’s beamed out.”
The video over IP space for broadcast applications has evolved quickly the last three years. The NDI Protocol, which is a high quality, lossless video codec that only requires a small amount of bandwidth means broadcasters don’t have to use the expensive infrastructure required to work with larger, uncompressed video over IP formats.
Sienna’s suite of NDI and SDI products are distributed and supported in Australia by D2N – Technology Solutions, headed by MD Jason Owen.
“I love how Sky have taken Sienna NDI software and implemented it so fully in the broadcast environment,” comments Jason. “They have a fantastic IT team that have already found new and interesting ways to use NDI. They’ve really embraced the fact that NDI is perfectly scalable; there’s no broadcast application too big or too small.”