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Lawo powers SA OB

2 July 2009

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has taken delivery of the first of four new OB vehicles for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, each equipped with Lawo mc_56 digital audio consoles.

The first two vehicles have been delivered by integrator Sony, and have immediately been put to use on the Premier Soccer League broadcasts for SABC, and international fixtures that were broadcast in stereo in other countries. These events were the perfect warmup for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, which, in turn, gives SABC and Host Broadcast Services (HBS), the host broadcaster appointed by FIFA, a testing rehearsal ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

The four-yearly ‘Confed Cup’ tournament runs from 14th to 28th June and sees the national teams of Brazil, Italy, Spain, USA, Egypt, South Africa, Iraq and New Zealand descending on South Africa, with games being played in four cities across the country. Broadcasters in all these countries take audio and video feeds from the host broadcaster in South Africa, so HBS cannot risk the slightest technical uncertainty.

Mervin Buthelezi, technical manager of the OB Units for SABC, highlighted reliability as one of the chief reasons for choosing Lawo for the sound side of the OB vans. “After evaluation, research and testing by our own sound engineers, we all felt that the Lawo mc_56 had the power, flexibility, reliability and redundancy we were looking for. It also integrates perfectly with Virtual Studio Manager.”

For their busy season of sport, which will include the SA Athletics Tour at the start of 2010, SABC will deploy all four of the new Obs. Identically specified, each 30-ton vehicle is equipped with 18 cameras, and wired for 24, including 3 super-slo HD cameras. The interior is divided into four main areas; Production, Sound, Video Tape Area (VT) and Vision Control.

The Sound Area is equipped with a Lawo mc_56 console with a 64-fader stereo fully-programmable control surface in a 32-16-16 configuration. There is built-in full processing for each channel and the HD Core offers 128 AES inputs and 128 AES outputs. A Lawo DALLIS frame provides all the other AES and analogue I/Os; the routing capacity of the HD Core is 8192 crosspoints. Additional general specifications include 3 x Glensound commentary stations, 5.1 Surround monitoring, Dolby-E Encoding/Decoding and a Pyramix audio workstation. Communications are via a Riedel Artist 144 x 144 talkback system, with complete interfacing to the Audio Router.

Audio-wise, the Confederations Cup has a requirement for different mix outputs that can only be achieved by two sound engineers operating the mixer together, but independently; this method will also be used by the SA Athletics Tour in February 2010, and such versatility is one of the great strengths of the Lawo mc_56 console.

With so many international broadcasters taking feeds from HBS – the BBC will be broadcasting Confed Cup matches live and adding local commentary – there are varied delivery requirements such as mono, stereo, and surround. There is also demand for the audio perspective to match the selected video. For instance, when a camera angle from one side of the pitch has the reverse left-to-right perspective of a similar angle from the other side of the pitch. Overhead pictures from a helicopter or blimp would also have a different, unique, sound perspective. The Lawo mc_56 consoles offer the audio-follows-video feature, which allows different sub-mixes to be assigned to up to 128 events.

The mc_56, with its diverse panning characteristics and multiple audio output formats, makes what might otherwise be daunting tasks like these a relatively simple process. With built-in redundancies for its PSUs, its DSP boards and its router board, the mc_56 is as fail-safe as a live OB mixing console can possibly be.

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