How To Broadcast From Remote LocationsLocal TV stations, national networks and sports and entertainment producers are no stranger to broadcasting from remote locations.
Whether it’s a live shot from a reporter outside city hall, a foreign correspondent reporting from the site of civil unrest or a sports producer contributing live game production for distribution nationally, remote broadcast has been a staple of television for many years.
During that time, successive waves of technology have influenced how those live remotes are broadcast. Electronic newsgathering (ENG) has leveraged analog and then digital point-to-point microwave transmission, mobile earth stations – known as satellite news gathering (SNG) and then (DSNG) for digital—and eventually wireless phone networks to enable remote broadcast.
But one thing remains the same across all of the technologies: the ability to contribute live and recorded video from the field to take viewers to where the action is—whether that’s the site of breaking news or a football stadium jammed full of screaming fans.
A short history of remote broadcasting
While revolutionary for their time, ENG and SNG were expensive, required skilled operators to get on air and at times were dangerous. Especially when it comes to ENG, the occasional pneumatic mast raised into power lines has extracted a heavy toll on the truck operators and vehicles involved.
But as the new millennium began, there was a glimmer of hope that a viable alternative would one day be available as preliminary 3G rollouts brought the possibility of 2Mbps within view. As 3G technology advanced offering greater throughput, the mid-2000s saw IP newsgathering come into its own.
Not only were 3G networks expanding and improving, but the IP transmitters used to transport video packets were undergoing rapid improvement. For example, TVU Networks developed its IS+ technology (in its initial version called IS), or Inverse Stat-Mux technology that not only distributes a video signal source across multiple wireless modem channels for re-aggregation at the receive site but also mitigates bandwidth constraints and intelligently monitors connections in real time to adapt to network performance conditions.
As time has progressed, so has available network bandwidth with 4G, 4G LTE and now 5G offering even greater upload speeds. According to Fiercewireless.com, 5G upload speeds will range from 25Mbps to 100Mbps tops—at least 30% greater than available 4G LTE upload performance.
On a parallel track of development has been a series of successive video compression algorithms that offers the ability to do broadcast remotes using fewer bits. At a comparable quality level, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) H.265 encoded video is between 32% and 62% more efficient, depending on certain parameters, than Advanced Video Coding (AVC) H.264.
Together, the availability of greater upload throughput, more efficient video encoding and fundamental transmission technologies like IS+, paint a bright, ever-expanding picture of remote broadcast.
Making Remote Broadcasts Happen
A variety of options is available to stream live video or edited packages for integration into a production.
For producers on extremely tight budgets, the TVU Anywhere app loaded onto a smartphone or tablet is the right choice. A high-quality, low-cost solution, TVU Anywhere uses TVU IS+ technology and HEVC encoding to transform these devices into powerful, professional video cameras that enable robust delivery of HD-quality video and audio via wireless IP networks, including wireless internet service and Wi-Fi connections.
TVU Anywhere is simple to integrate with TVU Producer, which enables live switching between multiple cameras and pre-recorded segments. The app also makes it possible for a producer in the studio to remotely control the camera’s pan and zoom. It supports return video feedback of the switched show from the studio and provides for communications between the studio and the field via TVU Partyline.
Other solutions may make more sense for remote broadcasts with higher budgets where professional video cameras will be used. In cases like newsgathering or otherrun-and-gun-type productions, TVU One is best.
TVU One 4K, with IS+ technology and HEVC H.265 encoding, is widely used in broadcast and for professional productions to deliver ultra-low latency HD and 4K HDR/HLG 10-bit remote broadcast contribution from a single camera. With six embedded modems ready for 5G, it can transmit 100Mbps over 5G infrastructure today. Four additional external modems can be connected via USB.
Videographers can connect their HD or 4K cameras to the unit via SDI or HDMI, and up to eight channels of embedded audio are supported.
For productions in which 4K is not required, TVU One V3 is the right solution. Like the 4K model, V3 has six embedded modems and support for four more external modems via USB, offers IS+ and AVC H.264 and HEVC H.265 encoding, supports SDIand HDMI camera inputs and up to eight channels of embedded audio. The main difference between the two is that V3 does not support 4K contribution.
The pocket-sized TVU Nano, weighing in at just over a pound, is easily mounted to pro cameras without adding bulk or diminishing mobility. With two embedded modems and the ability to add two external modems, TVU Nano leverages TVU’s IS technology and H.264 compression. IS+ and HEVC H.265 encoding are available as options.
TVU Nano also hosts the entry-level version of TVU Router, a convenient solution for basic wireless network access. Similarly, a professional version of TVU Router runs on TVU One. Both offer a reliable means to do high-speed transfers of files from the field, such as stories shot and edited on location that must be transported to a studio. TVU Router supports Aspera and FileCatalyst to accelerate transfers as well as Panasonic’s AVC-ULTRA camcorders and P2 Cast cloud-based news production system.
Getting The Most From Your Equipment
While the specifics of getting the best performance from any of these live contribution solutions will vary from device to device and application, there are a few general guidelines that will help ensure satisfaction across the board. They include:
Sufficient bandwidth: How much data throughput necessary to contribute remote broadcast video and audio will vary depending of several factors, including the resolution of video being transported –i.e. SD, 720p 1080i or 1080p HD or 4K (with or without high dynamic range) and the type of encoding being used—i.e. AVC H.264 or HEVC H.265. But here’s a rule of thumb.
For AVC H.264 encoded HD video that’s crisp, 5Mbps of upload throughput is needed. If network conditions fluctuate, TVU’s Smart VBR (variable bit rate) will direct the encoder to drop back to half HD quality or lower, thereby reducing how much bandwidth is required, allowing the transmission to continue. When more bandwidth becomes available, Smart VBR will restore HD. Audio is given priority over video.
In the case of HEVC H.265, 3.5Mbps of upload bandwidth is sufficient. As with AVC H.264 encoded video, Smart VBR is available to handle bandwidth variations.
Wireless network diversity: Whether it’s TVU One or TVU Nano, having access to multiple different wireless networks built into the transmitter is important. Not only does network diversity negate the ill effect of putting all of one’s eggs into a single basket—in other words the bad fortune of using a single carrier’s modems and having no access to that carrier’s network, but it also protects against network conditions that can vary from area to area among providers.
Select the right latency: All TVU Networks transmitters, like TVU One and TVU Nano, enable users to dial in the amount of network latency anticipated. Before ever going live, a test shot should be done to confirm that the selected latency is appropriate for real network conditions. If it’s not, the process should be repeated until the right latency value is determined. Once done, latency will not drift.
Battery power: Whether it’s a smartphone running TVU Anywhere or a TVU One transmitter, knowing how much life to expect from of your battery is critical. While smartphone battery life will vary dramatically depending on the product, TVU One’s internal battery life is 4.5 hours. With an external PowerPac, it’s 8 hours.
The final word on remote broadcasts
The fact of the matter is that it has never been more affordable nor easier to plan for and execute a remote broadcast.
With the availability of wireless IP-based transmitters, the latest codecs used to compress video signals, tools that optimize transport of packets across multiple wireless networks and the ability to monitor and react to changing network conditions, remote broadcast production solutions have become a staple for everything from news and sports to corporate, government and institutional video applications.
With the rollout of 5G wireless networks and the successive advancements in compression efficiency that are sure to come, things will only get even easier, more reliable and less expensive.
Understanding what options are available in this environment means that regardless of the size of budget for a specific project, remote broadcast is always a powerful option.