VSquared TV Relies On Matrox Monarch HD For Tour de France

After a gruelling 23 days of cycling, with adrenalin pumping, rider Chris Froome raised his arms at the finish line of the 102nd Tour de France. VSquared TV was there to capture his triumph and other jersey-winning moments at every stage of the race.

VSquared TV is a specialist producer and distributor of road and track cycling, renowned for delivering award-winning Tour de France programmes. Clients include BBC and ITV in the UK and sports governing bodies such as UCI and British Cycling.

Keeping pace with the racers throughout the three weeks of the 2015 edition of the Tour de France was the VSquared production truck housing Matrox Monarch HD H.264 encoders to record transmissions. Up to six hours of live coverage was produced each day plus a daily one-hour highlight show. Packages had to be edited and transmitted within two hours of each day’s stage finish so they could be aired on ITV 4 in the UK.

Matrox Monarch HD encoder.<br />

Matrox Monarch HD encoder.

Issues with DVD copies

In the pre-Monarch HD days, VSquared customarily made two DVD copies, one with timecode, of all transmissions to satisfy legal compliance requirements. Because the recordings were made during transmission, a DVD recorder was needed for each copy. VSquared found making these DVD copies cumbersome and unreliable and the copies were bulky to store. When a recording failed, it cost them time and money to recreate the programme. In addition, playback of the DVDs with desktop software was less than ideal. To more easily view the content, producers created MP4 files, but that entailed running a conversion process on the recordings, which would take several hours.

Inside the VSquared TV truck, showing multiviewer wall.<br />

Inside the VSquared TV truck, showing multiviewer wall.

Simplified workflow

Using the Matrox Monarch HD, H.264-encoded MP4 files are created on-the-fly from the output of the switcher; no transcoding is required. Using the source as video input with burnt-in timecode, one Monarch HD generates a file with timecode and another Monarch HD generates a clean file without timecode, all recorded into local NAS storage. Copies are instantly available from the NAS following the airing of the programme and can be easily distributed by email or pushed to a drop box. 

A one-hour highlights programme using the “Matrox YouTubeLive 720p” preset keeps the file size below 1 GB. Because those are viewing copies, full 1080 resolution is not required. Production assistants can now complete the compliance paperwork (music returns, transmission forms, etc.) immediately after the transmission, viewing the recording right in their desktop web browser.

Complementing the TV programming, VSquared produces additional feature material and a nightly podcast for ITV’s website. Because viewing copies of that material also are required, the Monarch HD generates a MP4 version of everything produced for the web.

Setup and workflow

The live programme output from the production switcher goes to two SDI-to-HDMI converters. From the converters, the HDMI outputs (one with timecode overlay) are fed into two Monarch HD devices that encode the signals to MP4 files and write them to Corsair USB 3.0 flash drives. To store and distribute the recordings, VSquared transfers the files from the USB drives onto a local NAS drive. All recordings can then be immediately viewed and accessed with a standard web browser.


The result is that VSquared’s workflow has been modernised. Previously, space and power had to be allocated for a bank of six to ten DVD recorders. Now all the team needs is two Monarch HDs.

James Venner, Senior Producer and Director of VSquared TV commented, “The Monarch HD transformed what was a very clunky way of doing things with DVDs and editing and brought us into modern age. It means handling of viewing copies, logging copies and legal compliance copies is just so much more flexible than it was before.” He continued, “Previously we would only have a limited number of DVD copies. If these had to be sent to someone they could easily get lost. Now, we can distribute infinite copies and we always have the master. Monarch HD allows us to create viewing media that is more convenient to use, easier to store and access at a later date.”

James Venner, Senior Producer and Director of VSquared TV

James Venner, Senior Producer and Director of VSquared TV

Future Plans

For the next big cycling event, the World Track Championships to be held in London in February, VSquared’s client will run a live updating website alongside the TV coverage. Live streaming is increasingly becoming a requirement and with the Monarch HD streaming and recording devices already part of their workflow, VSquared is well poised to meet their client’s future requirements.

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