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Sky takes F1 on the road

13 February 2012

Sky promises to take viewers of its Formula 1 coverage under the skin of the sport as never before and will do so with a new flyaway server and edit kit built by Gearhouse Broadcast and using fibre connectivity managed by the EBU and AT&T, writes Adrian Pennington. The broadcaster is launching Sky Sports F1 HD with the first race in Melbourne, March 18. Gearhouse Broadcast has built a series of interconnecting flyaway pods weighing 17-tonnes to Sky criteria. “Everything from Sky Sports F1 news to packages and promos will be produced in HD and with 5.1 audio,” said Darren Long, director of operations, Sky Sports . “F1 is not just about the pictures but the equally amazing sound such as the individual sounds of each car or the sound of the race when switching between feeds.” SIS Live built the HD system in use by the BBC for its F1 coverage. “We chose Gearhouse because of its expertise in World Cups and flying equipment around the world,” said Long. Sky is also taking a different approach to storage and workflow. Omneon MediaGrid shared storage systems will be housed at Sky Studios and in the flyaway pods and hooked into Avid ISIS for media management. Final tests are being conducted at Sky and Gearhouse. “Traditionally we might have used Avid ISIS for the whole package. MediaGrid is cost effective, it is a powerful system and it’s a good way of getting content to the edit. We are looking at MXFServer (developed by FilmPartners) to also allow us to use the storage in an even more efficient manner on the road and at Sky HQ.” The MXFserver project and media management system supports Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, and other edit applications. It allows editors to use different platforms, share content in a single storage pool, and work privately or collaboratively on projects. “We’ve really focused on the quality of equipment, its modularity and the editing workflow,” he added. “We’ve an incredibly large matrix tying everything together in HD and 5.1.” P2 cameras will be deployed with radio links provided by Wisycom, which, “is good at adapting between frequencies and between countries with different frequencies so we don’t have to swap various kit out each time we relocate,” said Long. All seven feeds, allowing viewers to choose between main race, onboard cameras or stats for example, will be sent back to Sky on a fibre optic network jointly delivered by the EBU and AT&T. “We don’t want to rely on satellite so we are sending and receiving feeds via fibre,” said Long. “At&T are already onsite delivering data for teams and it has an extensive worldwide network.” Sky will air Formula One races for the first time in a deal starting March until 2018 (with half the races also broadcast on the BBC). Sky will TX all the races, qualifying and practice sessions. None of Sky’s F1 production will be in 3D but Long is not ruling it out in future. “We will always try and develop alongside FOM (the F1 host broadcaster) and we will grab that opportunity if and when it comes.” Sky will provide coverage through its mobile app Sky Go, on its website and is also promising innovative second screen applications. www.sky.com

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