Field Report: Political Convention Coverage Goes IP

Every four years, the attention of the entire United States is focused on two singular events of political and national importance, the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Since the first nationally televised GOP convention back in 1952, television remains key to bringing those events to viewers.

This past July, the Democratic and Republican national conventions were primetime, public broadcast events carried live to millions of viewers around the world. This year, the conventions were also viewed by a large streaming audience. In some cases, content being delivered was unedited and free of commentary, allowing viewers to experience the conventions live without interruption.

Media Links solutions were at the heart of the transport of this content, providing multicast video-over-IP media delivery from each convention hub (the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio for the Republican national convention and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Democratic national convention) to eight different national broadcast facilities located across the country.

The challenge

Demand for delivering content over IP during live and widely viewed events is increasing and often met with mission-critical challenges. The solution is a robust and reliable media-over-IP transport platform that performs reliably and consistently.

Convention centers in Cleveland and Philadelphia were the main venues, but video transport coverage also extended into other locations in each city.

Convention centers in Cleveland and Philadelphia were the main venues, but video transport coverage also extended into other locations in each city.

In this case, a key challenge for the customer was to transport high quality content from each national convention venue to broadcast facilities around the nation, all with 100% up-time, minimal signal latency, and the ability to operate in a two-way remote production capacity to enable broadcast facilities to remotely control convention-located equipment.

The solution

Media Links provided the transport network equipment, network management software, and support services for both events. The installed system included dual redundant network uplinks and diverse wide area network links.

Each convention location was initially a “clean slate” with minimal transport and support equipment. The Media Links’ support services team assisted in the provisioning of the extensive communication, video, and technology upgrades made to both convention sites. These facility upgrades were necessary to provide additional network capacity and redundancy to accommodate the large number of media onsite during the conventions.

Technology details

At the Republican convention site, 84 video feeds and multiple bi-directional GbE circuits originated from the Cleveland Quicken Loans Arena convention site and were transported by a 10G long distance optical network, terminating at the network's broadcast studios across the country.

Video and audio signal conversion and concentration at each location was provided using Media Links MD8000 systems, delivering media-over-IP services for the transport of 3G, HD and/or DVB-ASI video signals. The MD8000 four port universal video cards were used for encoding and decoding to accommodate the mix of video signals and feeds. 1Gb Ethernet line cards were used for bi-directional data traffic.

The cards rely on FPGAs so they can operate in one of four different video encoding/decoding and compression modes: uncompressed, JPEG2000 compression, H.264 compression, and the newest mode: ultra-high definition 4K/UHD. The feature set, diagnostic tools, and status information of these cards are also optimized for each specific encoding and compression mode.

For example, the JPEG2000 version of the UVRX line card, includes detailed per port video output information as well as Forward Error Correction (FEC), Hitless and Auto Protection status indicators. A separate status/diagnostic log file is also maintained for every line and trunk card in a MD8000 chassis.

The UVTX encoder also includes a built-in SDI video test generator that is configurable for a wide range of modes (SD, HD, 3G, 720p, 1080i, 50 or 59.94 Hz), enabling the customer to test newly provisioned circuits end-to-end before any video cameras or other feeds are connected.

Monitoring

End-to-end network status monitoring and performance assurance was provided by Media Links’ ProMD Element Management System (EMS), a comprehensive device and service manager with extensive alarm, trap, and troubleshooting capabilities.

In addition to providing real-time video circuit monitoring, ProMD’s diagnostic proficiency extends down to the interface/port level of every card in the MD8000 chassis, including optical transmit and receive signal levels and packet-level Ethernet monitoring and statistics. The ProMD EMS system also supported multiple concurrent operators and remote access, ensuring that the customer and Media Links technical experts could be engaged quickly and efficiently, regardless of location or time of day.

Podesla is Senior Product Manager at Media Global Links.

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