EVS Server Technology Dramatically Expands After 20 Years of Super Bowls

EVS’s XT3 server technology is used by virtually every high-level broadcaster in the world. For proof of that, one only has to survey the broadcast compound preparing for the 2017 Super Bowl to be played in NRG Stadium in Houston.

About 80 EVS XT3-series servers will be used on the site, interconnecting broadcast technicians, producers and editors from throughout the world by the most extensive 10 gigabit Ethernet network ever used at a Super Bowl.

It’s a gigantic operation and major expansion of EVS’s server infrastructure, plus a long way from the two servers the company supplied to its first Super Bowl 20 years ago.

EVS XT3 Servers in Game Creek Encore Mobile Unit. Click to enlarge.

EVS XT3 Servers in Game Creek Encore Mobile Unit. Click to enlarge.

FOX Sports is set to use 41 EVS servers in the Game Creek Encore complex, a group of three 53-foot double expanding side broadcast trucks that fit together as interconnecting modules. Encore Unit A will handle audio, video, transmission and two multi-purpose edit rooms. Unit B will house production and graphics, while Unit C will handle replay, maintenance and storage.

Along with the EVS servers, the Encore trucks, based out of Hudson, New Hampshire will use a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher, Calrec Apollo Surround audio console, Evertz routing and Sony HDC4300 cameras at Levi’s Stadium.

Outside of the FOX Sports infrastructure being used for the U.S. domestic broadcast, there are other trucks, ranging from NFL Films, NHK and a group of other broadcasters from around the world. Most will be interconnected.

James Stellpflug, EVS vp of product marketing

James Stellpflug, EVS vp of product marketing

“The EVS servers provide ingest, playback and replay for the entire operation,” said James Stellpflug, vp of product marketing for EVS. “Most of our servers will be doing the 720p production that FOX does and a handful of them will be focused on a 4K workflow.”

Game Creek Encore Fleet. Click to enlarge.

Game Creek Encore Fleet. Click to enlarge.

Improvements that EVS has added to its server technology offer significantly enhanced multiviewers for this Super Bowl broadcast, Stellpflug said. “It’s a much more integrated multiviewer that is flexible and lets the users see their content much better. The Game Creek Encore unit has implanted a 10Gbit fabric for all the file contribution and workflows of the servers, including ingest as well as playback, and extends that network between trucks and other broadcast gear.

In addition to the EVS servers, the company is providing its IPDirector, a content management system that works with the XT3 servers. With the power of a central database and search engine, IPDirector enables the broadcasters access to the desired content.

EVS Xsquare. Click to enlarge.

EVS Xsquare. Click to enlarge.

Also, being used is EVS’s Xsquare, a manager enabling transfer or transcoding of media and the scaling of processing power. It provides a flexible architecture that leverages the EVS’s XTAccess engine and provides monitoring and control from a web-based interface.

Xsquare controls media transfers, media transcoding and the orchestration of all load balancing tasks. XTAccess allows high bandwidth file exchange networking over the 10Gbit network.

“It’s not just about the replays on the air or the playback of content, but its about getting and moving all that content around the entire Super Bowl compound to allow more producers to access content and let more editors tell better stories,” said Stellpflug. “For this year, they have probably expanded the number of people with content access by 20 to 30.

“That 10Gbit fabric allows them to extend between the different trucks and the game day operations, the pre-game show, the half-time show and the red carpet show,” he said. “It will be shared over a peer-to-peer network of EVS servers but also shared with editors working on Avid workstations as well as other producers sharing with other outlets like the web. It allows them to get every member of the Super Bowl event all touching and accessing the live content from the games.”

Game Creek Encore Layout. Click to enlarge.<br />

Game Creek Encore Layout. Click to enlarge.

Finally, EVS is working on a proof of concept involving 360-degree video that will debut at the Super Bowl. “We are doing this with FOX and another company that I can't yet name,” said Stellpflug. “We would show how to use 360-degree cameras to execute very flexible and dynamic replays in a different way to tell the story of the event.

“When you’ve seen VR used in broadcasts, they have traditionally been very static workflows. When you have a 360-camera, someone has to pick one viewpoint to do a replay. That becomes a static commitment to that viewpoint out of the 360 space,” he said.

“We have put together a concept where the person doing the replay alongside the announcer can perform on the fly a replay and at any moment in time in that 360 space they can dynamically change the replay view and look at something else. They are not constrained to the traditional limits of 360 views. This is an innovative way to merge replay and 360 cameras for a different point of view.”

Since this is experimental software, it is not known yet whether FOX will actually use it on the air. "If they feel it is really compelling to the story, we hope they would choose to put it on the air," Stellpflug said. “But we don’t know.”

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