Live 4K sports production goes up a gear with Gearhouse Broadcast

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Written by: Ed Tischler, Managing Director, Gearhouse Broadcast (UK)

Things move quickly these days and where HD was once seen as the gold standard of visual clarity, the race is now on to provide media in 4K and beyond. Content creators are looking to enhance their productions to deliver an even more polished experience to viewers who are becoming increasingly aware of the latest technological advancements and the levels of quality they should expect. While the challenge of acquiring UHD content has put some rights owners and holders off, interest is growing. More organisations are wanting to better understand what new picture formats, video modes and imaging techniques such as UHD, 1080p and HDR can bring to their productions.

The role of broadcast solutions specialists like Gravity Media’s Gearhouse Broadcast is therefore changing. Where they were once kit providers, they are now viewed as technical partners. They are a necessity to overcome these new challenges, especially with live content, where failure is not an option. This invaluable expertise, combined with significant investment they have made in new infrastructures and equipment, is helping to drive the number of 4K and HDR productions.

Gearhouse Broadcast recently partnered with long-time customer ATP Media, the broadcast arm of the ATP Tour tennis, to successfully produce and distributed a 1080p50 HDR test feed at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in November 2018. The test, which covered the live and non-live workflows on site, followed on from the live 4K vs. 1080p HDR test carried out at the Nitto ATP Finals – the season ending finale held in 2017 at The O2 in London.

The Milan test used 4K cameras to capture live match action as part of the workflow to produce high-quality 1080p HDR content for broadcasters to distribute via their 4K HDR services. It was notable for being the first time that HDR content had been natively incorporated into replays and edit workflows on a live-sports outside broadcast. It demonstrated the technology’s ability to significantly increase the picture quality of tennis matches for fans at home.

Another sporting example of Gearhouse’s UHD expertise is the delivery of the biggest supercars event in Australia – the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. The 1,000-kilometre V8 supercars race is held in Bathurst, New South Wales each year. Last year’s live 4K coverage of the race was used to debut Foxtel’s new 4K channel, 444. It marked the first time an Australian sporting event had been televised live in 4K.

Gearhouse solely captured and delivered the race in greater detail than ever before with 28 native 4K broadcast cameras, supplemented by an additional 56 HD sources. Overall, 84 sources were available to the 4K Director, providing comprehensive 4K coverage of the event and an unparalleled viewing experience. This also included providing all the facilities, equipment and outside broadcast trucks onsite at the Mount Panorama Circuit.

By using Gearhouse’s extensive range of the latest equipment, the ability to enhance to 4K from the traditional HD coverage of the 161-lap Bathurst 1000 endurance race was successfully delivered.

With more and more organisations creating their own content, the ability to stand out from the crowd has never been more important. Things like 4K, 1080p50, HDR, can all help to raise the overall quality and make the audience feel like they’re getting a superior viewing experience. The challenge is getting it right, and this is where bringing in the right outside expertise to deliver the technical element of such a production is a real game-changer.

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