Inside FIS Alpine World Ski Championship in Åre (Sweden): The largest remote IP production ever

Adde Granberg, SVT CTO

Interview with Adde Granberg, CTO and Head of production at SVT.

Remote IP production is a reality. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championship was held in Åre (Sweden) from February 5 to February 17 and featured an unprecedented achievement in the broadcast world: 80 cameras, 270 microphones and many other signals were produced 700 km from the venue, in Stockholm, using a redundant 100 Gbps circuit.

Adde Granberg, CTO of SVT and technical responsible for the event, explains everything about how this massive production of InFront and SVT took place and tell us about the benefits, challenges and future perspectives of this type of production.

Let’s start talking about your previous experiences. You undertook the 2012 Summer Olympic Games of London with a remote-set up. What are the differences between that production and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships?

The mayor change from the past is that this time we do not have technical facilities on-site in the hills, except for the cameras and the power supply. That means that everything was controlled from our base at Stockholm. So it is basically the first time for me especially of this scale, when the technical set on-location in Åre in a regular production would be at least 2 OB trucks worth around 10 million EUR.

What were your media-partners in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship production? What have been the functions of each one?

We had Ravenna and Lawo for the sound, Clear-com for the communication, EVS, Arista and NET Insight for network equipment, Telia for connectivity and Grass Valley for cameras.

How much time did you need to design this production?

I should say that, more or less, we spent six month designing it, but we also used that time to try and test the system.

Some media said that this has been the largest remote IP production ever…

Yes. As far as I know, nobody had claimed anything bigger.

Control Room remote production Are SVT
Control room in Åre (REMOTE)

You were 700KM far from Åre. In addition, you operated under snow, wind and rain conditions. What were the main challenges of a remote-production under those conditions?

Remote production makes it easier under these conditions, because I can make sure if the systems are working or not on a computer, or if the camera will work or not from the computer, without anyone having to go up to that camera. So, even under really shitty circumstances, it is much easier and much quicker to set up all that. And the other good way was that rework for two world championships: Åre will host the Alpine Championship and Östersund the Biathlon world championship. And we should switch really fast and that would not be possible with trucks in the same way. A few days instead of weeks saves money.

You used 100 Gbps fiber circuits from Telia. Is fiber the definitive solution for the transmission of information in remote productions?

We use redundant 100 Gbps circuit from Åre. And we did it on a big scale because everything was uncompressed. In the future, and the future is almost already here, we will be able to make a production with 5G if there’s not fiber.

Have you done any test on 5G in this kind of productions?

Not yet. We will do it, but I’m not sure when. We just finished the world championship right now and we are converting that technology we used in Åre to use it in our studios, which are based around Sweden. We will do remote production from our studios, our regular studios; instead of technical facilities on each location, we will have remote production, having the technical facilities on one location: that’s the future, that’s the key; I’m really in that now. The next step is if we can do transmission in 5G. We need to have a nice 5G network in Sweden and we do not have the infrastructure yet.

Did you decided to undertake the remote production only for economic reasons? Do you think it brings additional benefits?

Lots of them. One of the main is the environmental sustainability of this way of produce, because we need less work on location and fewer travelling for people on whatever production you do. You will use the equipment even more because you don’t need to pick it up on the site and then go to the next location: You can really just swap cables to next event and use the routers and the system and crew. So you can actually go from 25% coverage on an OB Truck to 75% coverage for the same technology and you do remote production, so it is a huge economical scheme of this coming up. For HB productions we could easy add on cameras for unilateral companies so they did not need to come with OB trucks. So you can really extend the scale in this kind of way you can produce to make the OB productions much, much more and effective and environment friendly. You get out more content in the house that we built to handle content.

Could you describe the workflow of the remote production at FIS Alpine World Ski Championships? From recording the content in Åre, to its production in Stockholm…

The cameras work with fiber. We put the power to the camera locally to where they’re standing. Then we have it for fiber into the network to the Arista switchers, and then we bring it out in Stockholm, where we receive those signals again and we target them wherever they are supposed to go. The sound is the same: we had 270 mics on stage in the hills in Åre: we put that into the Ravenna system and we bring that back to the network to Stockholm, and have it into the sound router and sound mixer that is located in Stockholm. We brought the multiview and mixer panel back to Åre for the director. The frame was still in Stockholm. All broadcast signals that was needed in Åre were transported back. EVS operators with machines where in Stockholm.

Control Room Stockholm remote production
Control room in Stockholm.

Was all your equipment remote-production-ready? Did you adapt the devices that SVT already had?

Most of the equipment is based in Stockholm, so we just have to transport the information from the site. So is an IP production from Åre to Stockholm, but in Stockholm is baseband production. This way to produce you can do it in a fully IP environment or in a mix environment without any problems. This is a combination of both, because we couldn’t afford to be the new technical room just to be IP. Our solution was just extending the cables to IP, so no we used our old equipment as far as we could.

Could you think of a specific problem that you had face during this remote-production and how have you solved it?

The biggest challenge is to make network people to understand broadcast… and to make broadcast to understand network, then you need to understand network and the issues it has. That’s the big collision: to understand how we manage the networks, how should it work, why should it work, what is the latest in the broadcast industry when it comes to publishing and communication etc.; and understanding the whole architecture when you really use it, that the biggest challenge. That is technology, and technology can be discussed on different ways and we have it solved.

Due to your experience… Do you think that remote-production is the best solution for these kinds of events?

Anywhere we have an infrastructure; I think this is the best and most effective way to do it, especially knowing that the director just sits wherever he or she would like to sit. So, yes, it would be a killing nightmare to put out a 5 million EUR truck on the road with insurance, I’d never seen that to be done for setting out this kind of production. You can read and look in the computer if it will go out or not and you’ll be able to go out to the arena or location with less equipment and less crew. That cannot be a bad thing.

Since the remote productions with IP transport are a reality. What is the next step? Is it perhaps the cloud-based productions?

Yes, I think that cloud production is next step if you don’t like to have it on your own premises, because as IT or as a broadcaster right now, the studio they will do cloud production from their perspective, because the technical facilities is in the computer in Stockholm. And we will do what you called cloud production on our own premises; it is something that already is here… So of course, that’s the next step. The next step is that you can really buy services from the service provider instead of buying a box. And the other revolution of this would be the 5G in wireless networks; you don’t need a physical connection. That would be the next step.

Rack room IP production SVT
The only teq SVT had in Åre. The green pboxes are power sheds. No XCU or basestations Åre. Full teq stack. Fits in a regular car.

How long would it take?

I definitely hope it does not take more than 5 years. But you should not do it just for doing it: you need to have a reason for it, and there are technical rooms for focus on programs production. I think that in 5 years the possibility will be there and of course everybody has to have good infrastructure even not in Europe. But we have done remote production from Germany, Italy, Spain, Rio de Janeiro… The network is there, you might change some equipment to get the capacity of the network and we have to focus to push all the net to all arenas and places we are producing on.

Which is the next event that SVT will produce remotely?

We’re doing quite much on remote production. First of all, we will do the studios around in Sweden compatible with remote production on regular, daily basis, that the next task. And then we will begin 10 shows on remote production…  And the reason for that is because there is no latency.

I understand that Sweden has applied to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. How do you imagine that remote production done?

If Sweden get the Olympics I hope, it will be a 5G remote production because of the environment, the infrastructure and less travelling, so that the way it is. I think it would be fantastic. It would be definitely possible if we like to do it.

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