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The FINA 2019 World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju, South Korea was a huge broadcast undertaking with months of planning for the event. The contract to provide commentary equipment and engineering staff for the event was awarded to Coil and Wire (CNW) after a rigorous period of submissions.
The Host Broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) contracted CNW to provide all commentary units and manage all commentary positions, including the Commentary Switching Center at the International Broadcast Center.
MBC entrusted CNW to provide commentary systems for this significant FINA event, largely because CNW and Tieline have successfully provided commentary solutions for global sporting events such as the 2017 and 2019 U-20 FIFA World Cup, the 2014 Asian Games and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2013.
In fact, during the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Poland in 2019, the three Korean broadcasters KBS, SBS and MBC all used Tieline codecs to broadcast live back to South Korea.
After CNW was appointed as a provider and operator of all commentary systems, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the Host Broadcaster MBC entrusted everything related to all commentary systems to CNW, including planning of network configuration over IP and ISDN. This was due to CNW’s track record working in this area successfully for over 10 years. CNW also liaised directly with Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) to test links according to their booking requirements.
In total, 31 Tieline i-Mix G3, 19 Commander G3 codecs and seven ViA codecs were used to cover numerous aquatic sports including swimming, diving, artistic swimming, water polo, open water swimming and high diving at the FINA 2019 Swimming Championships.
All commentary positions streamed live audio over IP, with backup audio over ISDN to each country’s MCR from each of the six main venues. No satellite feeds were available, so IP was the primary option for live commentary. The codecs could be fully configured and remotely controlled from the IBC over IP and fail over seamlessly between the IP and ISDN connections if required.
Each commentary position had a dedicated public IP 5 Mbps connection and 128 Kbps S type EU ETSI UDI ISDN capability. CNW continuously met directly with KT, the telco network provider for FINA 2019, to discuss any issue or test circuits between venues, the IBC, and all MCRs. CNW’s experience with troubleshooting networking issues for broadcasters during major events was invaluable and KT were always willing to listen to our advice and opinion.
i-Mix G3 codecs connected to Commander G3 rack mount codecs via an IP network link between each venue commentary position and the Commentary Switching Center (CSC) in the IBC. An ISDN link was also established between each venue commentary position and the MCR in each home country. ViA codecs were configured using SIP between each venue commentary position and the home country MCR. The Tieline codecs had to be interoperable with a wide range of codecs over IP and ISDN, and from this perspective performed flawlessly. They connected to a wide range of brands, including AEQ, Comrex, Prodys, AETA and Glensound.
There were two type of RHBs: “Fully equipped” or “Partially equipped.” Partially equipped RHBs like NBC brought their own broadcasting gear to the event and only network lines were provided. Fully equipped RHBs, like FINA for providing standard English Commentary, RAI and NOS etc. did not send any equipment or engineers to the event. In this situation, CNW provided a Tieline IP and ISDN capable audio codec and headsets and offered engineering assistance.
In early June CNW started testing all IP and ISDN connections between South Korea and each RHB’s MCR in their home country. Testing was thorough and all decisions like who dialed were very carefully decided with the customer well in advance. When connecting between Tieline codecs MusicPLUS encoding was configured with a fixed jitter buffer of 100ms on all sides. Configuring a fixed jitter buffer was very important because commentary audio streams could not arrive later than any other IS video sources from each venue. After carefully testing various jitter buffer values, it was determined that 100ms was the sweet spot for reliability.
When the Tieline codecs connected over IP using SIP they were configured to use G.722 or MP2 encoding in full duplex mono. They generally connected peer-to-peer without using SIP accounts. Over ISDN, G.722 was used to encode audio in full-duplex mono at 64Kbps. Sometimes a special request from a customer was received, like RBB in Germany, whereby MP2 was used instead of G.722.
NO CCR REQUIRED
Unlike most major sporting events, there was no Commentary Control Room (CCR) at each venue in Gwangju. When designing all commentary systems for the event, CNW outlined that the Tieline equipment could deliver a solution without a CCR that was much more efficient and cost effective. The LOC and MBC agreed and instead of using a CCR at each venue, all feeds were routed directly back to the Commentary Switching Center (CSC) in the IBC.
The Tieline codecs at each venue could be completely remote controlled over IP using the Tieline Toolbox and Cloud Codec Controller software back at the IBC. Codec settings, input levels and connection status were readily adjustable in real-time. The level of remote control, coupled with the support provided by Tieline, is one of the key reasons why CNW and Tieline codecs were selected for this event.
Feedback after the event from the Local Organizing Committee and FINA was extremely positive. Any minor technical issues were ironed out well before anyone went live. Usually this was the result of tweaking a setting at the CSC, at the venue, or a customer’s MCR in their home country.
The host broadcaster MBC expressed their gratitude to both CNW and Tieline for their services at the Championships. Audio was streamed successfully over the dedicated public internet lines between all venues and the IBC and there was not a single technical issue during the event.
The FINA 2019 World Aquatics Championships have proved beyond doubt that IP broadcast workflows are providing new levels of control and streamlining the way large events can be covered.