The Roar of the Crowd: BlueRiver® for Stadiums
20 July 2021 / by Gareth Heywood
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, there was a general feeling that it would all be over in six months. Few expected the global shutdown of live events and professional sports. Concert tours were postponed and sports arenas stood empty as the effects of the pandemic rolled on into the year. I had bought tickets to see the My Chemical Romance reunion tour in September 2020, for my son Max’s 18th birthday. But of course, it’s been postponed (twice) and it looks like I’ll be taking him for his 20th birthday instead! Pro sports are starting to open up in many countries, and people like me are itching to go to concerts to see our favorite bands, comedians and theater productions, and be immersed in the collective cheers and applause of the audience again. In the immortal words of the late, great Freddie Mercury, “the show must go on!”
BlueRiver® for Stadiums
Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE™), powered by Semtech’s award winning BlueRiver® technology, is changing the way we transport content in Professional Audio/Video (Pro AV), providing software-defined workflows and greater flexibility using standard IP-based infrastructure. In Pro AV verticals, where low latency performance and pristine, artifact-free image quality really matters, SDVoE is the ideal solution for AV distribution over high performance networks. When it comes to live sports and events, it is critical that the fidelity of video content is maintained when shown on the big screens, and the audio remains synchronized, not only with the video on the screen, but to the actual event itself. Keeping latency to a minimum is key to a flawless presentation; avoiding unnecessary processing such as compression will ensure that there is no perceptible delay between what you see live and what’s on the big screen.
Let’s take a look at the AV infrastructure in a typical large venue or sports stadium, illustrated in the diagram below. At the heart of this AV distribution system is a high performance IP network, utilizing standard Ethernet equipment and infrastructure. All AV sources and displays connect to this network via SDVoE endpoints, or through direct integration of the BlueRiver chipset. The SDVoE stadium delivers:
Crystal clear live action up to 4K resolution
All AV sources throughout the venue, inside and out
Near zero latency which means everyone cheers at the same time
Configurability to meet the needs of sports, live music and exhibitions
Flexibility to support stunning, customized digital signage
Simple centralized software management and control via a single application programming interface (API)
Centralized AV production
Unified advertising and billing systems
Integrated security, control and building management
The SDVoE™ Stadium
Advanced Digital Signage and Displays
The use of advanced signage and displays is commonplace in today’s stadiums and arenas, whether it be your “center ice” display cluster, where you have multiple high resolution displays showing the game live, scoreboards, player stats, or promotional content in between the action. All these displays can be driven from a centralized production center. If you think about a typical sports game, there’s a live production occurring in parallel, with a dedicated crew who is determining what everyone in the stadium is seeing on each of the displays, not only at center ice, but also on the ribbon displays around the arena.
Of course, playing surface projection is very popular in many sports venues, with the ability to project team logos and player information directly onto the ice surface or basketball court. Most modern stadiums also provide very high quality digital signage around the exterior of the venue. You can watch pregame events outside, in the parking lot or while lining up for tickets before entering the stadium itself. All this is tied into the AV distribution system powered by SDVoE.
Don’t Miss a Thing
Outside the seating area of the main arena, there are concession stands and merchandise kiosks where screens are provided, so you can continue watching the live action while ordering food and drinks. How many of you have experienced the roar of the crowd when a player scores, but the display you’re watching above the concession stand is a few seconds behind the live action? You want to be cheering at the same time as everyone else, and you don’t want to miss a thing while queuing for refreshments! Only an AV system with near-zero transmission latency, such as SDVoE, can deliver this experience.
Many stadiums provide private suites and boxes where you are given access to a variety of AV content; not only the video production of the live game itself, but other games in progress around the league, unique programs advertising upcoming events, even regular TV channels to keep guests entertained during breaks in the live action. Again, all this can be sourced and distributed using the power and flexibility of SDVoE.
In large venues, safety and security of both staff and guests is paramount, especially when attendance can be in the many thousands. By giving security staff access to the high quality live camera feeds throughout the stadium, displayed on state of the art control room displays, emergency response teams can be better directed and informed. The advanced multiview processing feature of BlueRiver provides display systems the ability to show many video feeds, placed in custom layouts on a single display.
Why Live Events Need SDVoE™
The key features of SDVoE that are critical for high performance AV distribution systems in stadiums and for live events are:
Low latency: essential for lip sync and audience reaction at live events. There’s nothing more annoying at a concert when the big screens at the side of the stage are not in sync with the music. It can be very off putting to hear an amazing drum solo but see the drum sticks hit the drums a second after hearing it.
Lossless video performance: large venue displays are getting bigger, with higher and higher resolutions up to 4K. With the size of displays used for stadiums and live events, it is essential to maintain the fidelity of a high quality source when scaled up to the size of these displays. Distribution systems that need to employ video compression will introduce artifacts that will be very noticeable (and objectionable) when blown up on the big screen.
Fiber transmission medium: optical fiber is the only way to distribute AV over IP in stadium-scale installations. Fiber is critical to meeting the transmission distances in a distributed AV over IP system which benefit from a centralized source equipment room that may be kilometers of cable distance away from the remote displays.
Leveraging existing infrastructure: many large venues and sports arenas are pre-wired with optical fiber cabling, which is typically provisioned for broadcast signal distribution, where the broadcast team rolls up to the venue and hooks in to this fiber network. This same fiber network can be utilized for SDVoE, so when event crews using SDVoE-based equipment arrive at the venue, they simply plug directly into the stadiums AV network and take advantage of all the displays within the venue, saving time and rental costs.
SDVoE is the only fully interoperable AV over IP standard that delivers pristine visually lossless image quality, up to 4K resolution, with imperceptible latency. Join the growing team of SDVoE adopters today and reap the benefits of a rapidly expanding ecosystem of products and services that enable the next generation of AV distribution systems for stadiums.
The Roar of the Crowd
As lockdown restrictions ease, many will feel the need to gather and experience that sense of community that can only be derived from cheering for our favorite sports team, or pumping our fists into the air collectively to the musicians—who need our support more than ever. At the same time, providers of Pro AV systems for live events are poised to take our entertainment to another level, with ever more sophisticated displays, sound systems and lighting displays, and SDVoE as the backbone of their AV distribution solution.
You can learn more about the power and flexibility of BlueRiver solutions for SDVoE in the webinar, “BlueRiver ASIC: Enabling a New Class of SDVoE Products,” and why key Pro AV verticals such as entertainment and live events require the power and flexibility of SDVoE in the “Spotlight on Key Verticals for BlueRiver” webinar.
Semtech, the Semtech logo and BlueRiver are registered trademarks or service marks of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates. SDVoE is a trademark or service mark of the SDVoE Alliance.