Production Companies Deploy Temporary Fiber Network For Live Sports Production

Recent television coverage of the13th CrossFit Games involved the deployment of a fiber-optic network encircling the 20-acre Alliant Energy Center complex in Madison, Wisconsin to ensure bonded cellular network connectivity during the three-day (August 1-4) multi-discipline sports tournament.

Production company Carr-Hughes Productions hired production services provider CP Communications to establish a base at the exhibition center outside the Alliant Energy Center and build a fiber infrastructure from its 40-foot CP-1 Digital Communications Trailer to cover the entire competitive course. The fiber infrastructure also delivered the live event production feeds that were distributed throughout the complex, allowing fans, participants and sponsors to watch the events in real-time.

The fiber infrastructure was based around four, 48-strand fiber trunks to a demarcation point, where anywhere from 24 to 60 fiber strands were run to the various competition and spectator areas. This network accommodated all audio, data, and video acquisition, transport and distribution services required between these locations and CP-1, which served as CP Communications’ production workspace in the broadcast compound.

CP Communications built a fiber infrastructure from its 40-foot CP-1 Digital Communications Trailer to cover the entire competitive course.

CP Communications built a fiber infrastructure from its 40-foot CP-1 Digital Communications Trailer to cover the entire competitive course.

A series of MultiDyne VF-9000 high-density video fiber transmission frames and MD-3000 fiber transceivers were used at all locations to move and process signals between any point, with a Dante audio-over-IP network deployed to support audio and intercom on the same fiber backbone.

Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications, said they employed six bonded cellular rigs to cover events outside the Alliant Energy Center campus, including the ruck race and the swimming events downtown.

“All of our wireless audio, communications and video systems worked seamlessly both inside the coliseum and outside at North Park Stadium, including our traditional CODFM wireless cameras,” he said. “While we remain RF specialists, we can simplify the overall infrastructure and ensure 100 percent coverage by leveraging the power and flexibility of IP and bonded cellular networking.”

CP Communications’ technical personnel helped cover the event outside using multiple cameras (a mix of wireless RF handhelds, PTZ and POV cameras, and hard cameras on scissor lifts), with multiple Mobile Viewpoint Airlink compact encoders used to convert and deliver signals over the bonded cellular network.

Numerous Airlink wireless encoders were used to convert and deliver signals over the bonded cellular network.

Numerous Airlink wireless encoders were used to convert and deliver signals over the bonded cellular network.

The CrossFit organization also served as the World Feed host broadcaster, providing a completely IP-based world feed to various websites and social media services (including YouTube and Facebook) in multiple languages. CP Communications engineers monitored the fiber, IP and bonded cellular feeds on board CP-1. This included the acquired signals coming back to the trailer, and the world feed transmissions going out.

Heitmann said they provided H264 video from the Airlink units and managed the bitrate with a ceiling of 16 Megabits per channel.

“Using the Mobile Viewpoint LinkMatrix, a cloud-based management portal, we could easily make adjustments and troubleshoot on the fly,” he said. “We are able to adjust parameters like bitrate in real-time to ensure continuous high-quality performance from the bonded cellular transmitters.”

CP Communications also took advantage of the public Internet by deploying a Unity Intercom system for crew communications.

“We communicated with our entire team over a standard public network, which enabled us to react quicker to technical issues and even use Wi-Fi hotspots as necessary,” said Heitmann. “The Unity system is a cellular system that also matches with our bonded cellular cameras. It gives us the freedom to move as needed and still keep the lines of communication open, which is vital to the success of a project of this enormity.”

The 13th CrossFit Games featured aerobic, weightlifting and gymnastics events involving nearly 200 male and female participants.

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