Field Report: AEGraphics Bowled Over by Vizrt and Matrox Video 4K Solutions

Cricket is not just a game, it is considered more sacred than religion in many parts of the world! Passionate fans all around the globe — the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the illiterate to prestigious school educated — follow the game and their favorite players faithfully by watching all the matches, live on the cricket grounds, or on television.

The Cricket World Cup (CWC), held every four years with the top 14 teams in the world competing, is a much anticipated event with a large viewership, typically in hundreds of millions. The 2015 Cricket World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand. Star Sports, the host broadcaster for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, covered every match live. All the matches played by India, plus the semi-finals and final, were broadcast live in 4K to local cinemas in India.

Alston Elliot (AEGraphics), one of the world’s leading providers of television graphics and data solutions, was asked to deliver 4K graphics on Star Sports’ live 4K coverage of the CWC games. AEGraphics wanted to ensure successful implementation of this project, so they approached Vizrt, their primary graphics platform provider, for a specialised solution. Vizrt, in turn approached Matrox for the necessary video cards for the project.

The Challenge

The process of delivering 4K graphics was hitherto uncharted territory for AEGraphics. Because others had encountered difficulties and performance issues in using 4K graphics, the company wanted to be sure the selected graphics solution elements were suitable for the 4K solution.

Generating graphics content in 4K, which is four times the normal HD resolution and double the frame rate, requires more processing — eight times the processing power needed for normal HD resolution.

4K graphics driven by in-house software applications from AEGraphics.

4K graphics driven by in-house software applications from AEGraphics.

Testing and Deploying the Solution

Early testing relied on two Matrox DSXLE3/4KO/550 SDI video cards installed in an HPZ820 chassis. Stringent testing revealed that the workflow for 4K did not differ significantly from previous AEGraphics workflows.

Each Matrox DSXLE3/4KO/550 card fed four 3G-SDI signals to carry one 4K feed. One card provided the fill signal and the second card provided the key signal to the switcher. The system performed well for 4K in testing and was shipped to various outside broadcast sites at the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Installing on site

AEGraphics provided the output of its UHD Vizrt machine direct to NEP Australia (the facilities provider), who provided both the 4K production and broadcast facilities. There was initially some concern about keeping the eight SDI channels of the fill and key signals in sync, but the Matrox cards proved up to the task.

Viz Engines driven by AEGraphics software were used for the host broadcast main graphics feed. A clean feed was provided for Doordarshan, the Indian terrestrial state broadcaster. In addition, the ICC (International Cricket Council) needed an independent feed for the large arena screens, which required bigger fonts for better legibility. The signage graphics were driven by in-house software, which enabled quick population of images with data and also removed the chance of errors.

For their regular HD graphics delivery on Cricket World Cup coverage, AEGraphics used 24 HP Vizrt machines with Matrox X.mio2 Plus SDI video cards.

AEGraphics uses Matrox cards extensively. Three Matrox X.mio2 Plus cards are used in each of their eight OB (outside broadcasting) vans in the UK for regular HD workflows.

The Result

Star Sports broadcast live all the matches in the 2015 Cricket World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand. All the matches played by India as well as the semi-finals and final matches were broadcast in 4K to external set top boxes located in cinema locations throughout India. These were the world’s first true 4K broadcasts, and the stunning picture quality was enriched further with 4K graphics, provided by AEGraphics in collaboration with Vizrt and Matrox.

The eye-catching 4K signage graphics was developed by the same vendors. This included current scoreboards as well as player walk throughs and other player and game data.

4K graphics displaying the scoreboard during the quarter final match between India and England.

4K graphics displaying the scoreboard during the quarter final match between India and England.

The graphics displayed kept the millions of viewers (peaking at a billion for the match between India and Pakistan) well informed and engaged in the game. The 4K imagery, enabled AEGraphics to generate smaller graphics without losing the important details they contained.“UHD brought extraordinary clarity to the pictures, particularly for crowd shots, and full-frame graphics could be displayed without any artefacts,” said Nick Baily, CEO, Alston Elliot.

“Without assistance from Matrox we would have been unable to deliver 4K graphics for this event,” stated Stuart Coles, Sales Director, AEGraphics. “We are pleased to be one of the first graphics companies to deliver 4K graphics and Matrox enabled us to achieve this. The client was extremely happy with the results produced and a proven ability to deliver 4K graphics is another tick in the box for our company.”

A newer generation Matrox X.mio3 SDI video card, supported by Vizrt, was demonstrated at the 2015 NAB show. A single Matrox X.mio3 card is capable of handling fill input plus fill and key output signals for 4K. AEGraphics plans to invest in at least two of these Matrox X.mio3 cards to assist with some further 4K testing with their clients in India.

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