Amedia closes the gap on live graphic production despite 1,550-kilometre distance

By Tord Selmer-Nedrelid

Amedia

Oslo, Norway

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At Amedia, we like to try new ways of doing things — especially when it comes to video. We also try to play to the company’s strengths, one of which is the fact we have 75 media outlets spread throughout the country.

Over several years, we built an award-winning live sports vertical, Direktesport, from nothing to 5,000 live sports events in 2020 by doing just that. It would not have been possible without having our audiences and our own people in nearly every fjord and valley. It probably would not have been possible if we had a lot of legacy television production infrastructure, either. We were free to find new, streamlined, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solutions.

Toppserien

The Norwegian national women’s team has been a force to reckon with in football since the 1970s. It has won the World Cup, the Olympics, and the European Cup twice. Some of the sport’s biggest stars are Norwegian, with Ada Hegerberg shining the brightest. However, audience interest in the domestic league has been modest until recently. But during the last couple of years there has been a marked rise in audience attention.

Commentator Thomas Karlsen in Lillestrøm (outside Oslo) runs the reruns on his production Mac. The laptop behind is showing a monitor feed from Lakselv with graphics included. Photo: Thea Langkaas
Commentator Thomas Karlsen in Lillestrøm (outside Oslo) runs the reruns on his production Mac. The laptop behind is showing a monitor feed from Lakselv with graphics included. Photo: Thea Langkaas

Toppserien, the women’s premiere league, consists of 10 teams located in the southern half of the country. 2020 is the third year Amedia has held the live broadcasting rights for the league. We share them with national broadcaster NRK. They produce one match per round, and Amedia produces the remaining four.

This year, in cooperation with the Norwegian Football Federation, we wanted to give the viewing experience a boost by improving the productions’ graphics. Until this season, we have used our standard production software LiveReplayer, which is great in many ways, but has limitations when it comes to custom graphics.

We could, of course, just add more hardware and personnel on location for every production. That would be the tested and traditional way of doing it. Instead, to keep cost in check and find a solution that would scale, we immediately started looking for an off-site solution.

Go north

The Internet has made distance inconsequential. We found the solution far away from the arenas — 1,550 kilometers as the crow flies from the southernmost area, Klepp, to the Lakselv office of Amedia’s iFinnmark newsroom, north of the polar circle. To put this in perspective, it is more than a 2,200-kilometre drive from Klepp in the south to Lakselv, if you take the shortest route. This is about the same distance as it is from Klepp to Monaco.

The drive from Klepp to Lakselv is 2,200-kilometres.
The drive from Klepp to Lakselv is 2,200-kilometres.

Finnmark is a special place. It is home to North Cape, the northernmost place in continental Europe. The county is twice the size of Israel, roughly equal to Slovakia. If it were a sovereign nation, it would rank 133rd in size out of 259 nations on the CIA Book of Facts list.

Finnmark is huge but sparsely populated with only 75,865 inhabitants. The towns and villages are far apart. Driving to the next town takes hours. In winter, there are snowstorms and the sun never rises. For a news outlet in Finnmark, streaming video makes perfect sense. It brings people together and lets them experience what’s going on elsewhere in that huge county.

Amedia’s presence in Finnmark consists of a staff of 28 people, 22 of whom are editors and reporters. They publish three newspapers and one Web site, and have an impressive live video operation.

The graphics control room in Lakselv with Marius Aronsen and Roy-Arthur Myrheim. One person handles two matches at a time. Photo: Stian Eliassen
The graphics control room in Lakselv with Marius Aronsen and Roy-Arthur Myrheim. One person handles two matches at a time. Photo: Stian Eliassen

In the village of Lakselv (population 4,000), you’ll find one of iFinnmark’s offices. It is headed by Amedia’s video wizard Stian Eliassen. With ingenuity, creativity, and elbow grease, Eliassen has been at the forefront of our video development. He outfitted several OB trucks with Livereplayer and Vmix software and AviWest bonding encoders. And he built a remote production base with several studios and control rooms in a community with 4,000 inhabitants.

Stian Eliassen, Amedia’s video guru and handy man extraordinaire in Finnmark.
Stian Eliassen, Amedia’s video guru and handy man extraordinaire in Finnmark.

Before the season started, we sent out at tender for the graphics production to companies in the broadcasting field in Norway. It was with no small amount of pride we, at the head office, discovered that none could match the price nor the efficiency of our own Finnmark video crew.

The technical setup

The game is produced by a two-person crew. The commentator runs replays locally at the arena. A clean feed with commentator on one audio track is streamed via a AviWest 4G bonding encoder to an AviWest Streamhub server in the cloud.

Here the stream is passed on to two different destinations. One goes to our office in Lakselv, and the other is streamed into Mediabank, the football federation’s video archive and distribution system, which is run by NEP in Oslo. Metadata is added here. Based on this, clips and highlights packages are produced and distributed.

The control room In Lakselv receives the stream on computers running Vmix, where graphics are added and the sound is mixed. At the moment, one operator handles up to two simultaneous matches. For sports with more goals and events, like handball or basketball, we would probably need one person per match.

The finished stream is then sent back into the cloud to our online video platform (OVP), Flowplayer, transcoded to HLS, and distributed to our viewers at Direktesport and the Direktesport SmartTV app. A monitor stream is also sent back to the arena where the commentator can see the broadcast with very low latency.

About Tord Selmer-Nedrelid

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