Bridge-IT codec in the rack
Darren McKenzie is a seasoned broadcast professional and Chief Engineer at Loft Productions in Melbourne, Australia. “I started out like many other broadcasters in the community radio sector, before progressing to roles as a panel operator and technician with 3AW, MMM and ABC radio in Melbourne. These days I am mainly involved in broadcasting live audio from wide range of sporting and other live special events,” he said.
Each year Loft Productions provides broadcast technical services for the Australian Open Tennis Championship. “I was first approached by Genesis FX to provide technical equipment and production services around 6 years ago,” Darren said. “We started out without much fanfare with enough equipment to mix a couple of commentators and one remote journalist and strung together a broadcast which Tennis Australia and Tennis Radio Network (UK), who provide the commentary, were pleased with.”
“At that stage I was familiar with the Tieline audio codecs as I had used them for a range of live OBs like football over several years, mainly over POTS lines,” he said. “When I first used the Commander G3 at the Aegon International it transported the program audio very reliably over IP from the UK back to my studio in Melbourne where we streamed it back out to the world.”
“Over the years our requirements and funding have grown substantially and this allows us to provide enhanced programming over a variety of media. This year we operated a completely self-contained and fully digital broadcast setup for two weeks on behalf of Tennis Australia and the Tennis Radio Network, which provided audio for local onsite broadcasting, internet streaming services and radio broadcasting.”
“We operated a commentary box on centre court for the full two weeks of the tournament. The Tennis Radio Network supplied commentators and our live programming was broadcasted daily from 10am until the end of play each day. This consisted of commentary of the play on Rod Laver Arena as well as regular score updates from outside courts, player interviews, news and feature reports,” he said.
The Tennis Radio Network Control Room
“We also configured a program feed for a local 2 Watt transmitter located at Melbourne Park, which listeners could tune to on 99.7FM. Program audio was also fed to IBM onsite for distribution to Akamai for live streaming. Streaming was available to the public by visiting AO Radio online at australianopen.com, or via the official Australian Open i-Phone and Android app.
“Stereo program audio was also routed to the Sirius Satellite Radio network in the US. They requested an ISDN feed, so we connected another Tieline codec at Melbourne Park over ISDN using G.722 over SIP to provide interoperability with a non-Tieline codec at the other end. This was a simple process and worked really well.”
“We also sent a stereo program feed to RSN 927AM in Melbourne via a Tieline Commander G3 codec they supplied. We connected in Stereo using the Music Plus algorithm at 128kbps, which I’m a big fan of. We broadcasted using the Tennis Australia IP network supplied for media use and this network proved to be very reliable. The transmission was also simulcast on their digital radio station and when I listened at home it sounded awesome!”
A Social Media First
The Social Shack
“A new initiative at the Australian Open this year was the Social Shack, which was a first in Grand Slam event broadcasting. It was designed to provide relevant and fun content via a range of social platforms throughout the tournament,” said Darren.
“Located in Garden Square, the Social Shack was online daily between the day and night tennis sessions from 6pm to 7pm. A Tieline Commander G3 codec at the Social Shack used a dedicated LAN cable to send pristine linear audio to a Tieline Bridge-IT XTRA codec at the main OB site where it was integrated into programming.”
“The Social Shack featured two of its own announcers who conducted live interviews with players and guests. It operated like a ‘Social Media Mission Control’ and featured live postings from the tennis world’s most active social media users, including current and former players,” said Darren. “The emphasis was on encouraging the public to interact with their idols in real time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”
Inside the Social Shack Studio
“This year’s Australian Open broadcasts were a huge success and the feedback from everyone was extremely positive. The Tieline codecs worked brilliantly and in my experience the equipment has always over-delivered.”
“Each year we are reaching for and achieving new levels of excellence and I anticipate that next year will be no different. Already I am planning to use a larger WheatNet-IP desk and will look to integrate Tieline’s Merlin PLUS with WheatNet-IP for seamless end-to-end links to and from the OB.”
For more information about Bridge-IT XTRA and other Tieline codecs, visit http://www.tieline.com/products.