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FIFA Drives Audio Innovation In Brazil

LAS VEGAS, NV—During the DTV Audio Group’s annual meeting before the NAB Show, Jeffrey Strößner, director of Lawo’s global events division, provided a preview of the broadcast audio infrastructure that has been put into place for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

A total of 30 Lawo Commentary Units (LCUs) will be in use at each of 12 venues hosting 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. LAS VEGAS, NV—During the DTV Audio Group’s annual meeting before the NAB Show, Jeffrey Strößner, director of Lawo’s global events division, provided a preview of the broadcast audio infrastructure that has been put into place for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. The month-long soccer competition, between eight groups of four teams, kicks off on June 12 in Sao Paulo.

Strößner’s presentation was made possible with permission from HBS (Host Broadcast Services), which is based in Switzerland with its planning headquarters in France. The organization was originally established to produce the television and radio broadcasts for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. “We are lucky to have HBS as a partner since they always strive for the best result in broadcast,” said Strößner. “They are eager and keen to use new technologies, which for us, as a manufacturer providing technologies, is great.” Lawo has been involved in various global events, including the Olympics, since 2006, beginning with the World Cup in Germany. “We also act as a partner for consultation, design and planning.”

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will take place in 12 cities spread across a country with a landmass slightly larger than the 48 contiguous United States. The venues will be interconnected with the IBC (International Broadcast Center), located in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, over a fiber infrastructure provided by Brazilian telecommunications company Telebrás. “During match days, there are four venues active in parallel,” said Strößner, each connected over triple-redundant 10 Gbps links.

This year, for the first time, HBS is replacing one-third of its analog commentary systems with Audio-over- IP units developed with Lawo. “They wanted a future-proof system, and the decision to base that on a layer 3 IP infrastructure was pretty obvious,” said Strößner.

As a result, 30 Lawo Commentary Units out of a total of 240 will be in use at each venue; 120 will be in use at the opening match. The LCUs are connected using off-the-shelf switches and remotely controlled by a single administrator at a PC.

The signals produced in each venue are collected on a central audio router and distributed to multiple control rooms: “We have four control rooms: main production, multi-feed production, unilateral production and infotainment production.”

The audio and video control rooms were built into custom containers— four for each venue—that were shipped from Europe. The concept of a pre-commissioned Equipment Room Container (ERC)—essentially, a containerized machine room—was tested during the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil in mid- 2013. That container will be used as a backup unit for the World Cup. A dozen new ERC units, one for each venue, were subsequently built and shipped.

The regular international feed is stereo and produced at each venue, but the international 5.1 feed, comprising 40 stadium atmosphere microphone signals but no commentary, is mixed in two audio suites at the remote IBC. “Why would you do that? The main reason is audio quality and consistency. Having the surround mix centralized, you get full control over every feed,” said Strößner. Larger than a truck audio booth, the rooms provide plenty of space for a 5.1 monitoring environment.

“Another reason is, if you have an engineer who is just doing the surround mix, he can focus; there’s less distraction.” There are also cost savings. Instead of 12 surround-capable rooms, HBS only needs to build two.

HBS supplies every international media rights holder with both a stereo and a 5.1 feed. There is also a satellite-distributed, extended broadcast international feed, or EBIF, comprising 40 minutes of pre-game and 20 minutes of post-game content, with announcer, which is offered to all rights holders.

Lawo auto-mix technology capable of handling stereo and surround sources enables just two operators in two audio rooms at the IBC to produce the EBIF in 32 different languages. According to Strößner, “This gives the operators the confidence and the ability not to have to monitor all the feeds all the time.”

The distribution matrix is located next to the contribution matrix at the IBC. Signals that need to be distributed everywhere are multicast over the network, which acts as a virtual DA. Private signals are fed over unicast streams.

Commentaries may be accessed via analog punch block, for instance. Media rights holders can access their program feeds, on-air feeds and mix-minuses. Stereo and surround audio mixes are available on the embedded video feeds.

“But for the first time, HBS is also offering RAVENNA/AES67 distribution in the IBC,” he reported. “That means the broadcasters can get a package with all these feeds on an IP-based distribution.” HBS also provides MADI.

Strößner concludes, “With this infrastructure in place, there’s extreme potential for further enhancements.” With Brazil also hosting the next Summer Olympics, “HBS is going to push the envelope further in 2018.”