Sinclair - Sports monitoring - Production center

Several Imagine Communications products serve as the core of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s new IP-based operations center.

The latest infrastructure of Sinclair has been built around SMPTE ST 2110 and comprises 7,600 square meters. It is primarily dedicated to serving Sinclair’s regional sports networks (RSNs), hosting disaster recovery channels hosted in the cloud. It also has a large-scale ST 2110 production facility to power its Tennis Channel.

Sinclair has been collaborating with Imagine Communications for several years on the development of IP playout and production systems. Following the 2019 acquisition of Fox/Disney’s regional sports networks, Sinclair was forced to develop a new playout strategy.

To address these new needs, it decided to build from the ground up an IP-based facility to serve as a future-proof hub for the new RSNs. This infrastructure, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was built in partnership with Encompass using Imagine’s Versio integrated playout platform, Selenio network processors and the Magellan SDNO control system.

Sinclair - Tennis Channel - Control

Tennis Channel, also with Imagine

At the same time, Sinclair developed a platform for its Tennis Channel, a service that offers the top 100 tournaments in the sport. The channel has a main control center in Santa Monica, California, that uses the flexible Versio platform, both on-premises for primary origination with Imagine’s ADC automation, and as software instances hosted in the AWS cloud for pop-up special events under the control of Versio’s cloud-optimized automation system.

IP connectivity enables simplified hardware architecture, for example, by using Imagine’s Magellan SDNO virtual re-entry software functions to create virtual patch panels, routing paths and workflows.

Selenium, the backbone of development

Central to the Santa Monica center’s architecture is Imagine’s Selenio network processor, which Don Roberts, vice president of sports engineering and production systems at Sinclair Broadcast Group, defines as “a broadcast Swiss Army Knife ― if you have a problem with a signal, throw an SNP at it.”

Each 1RU SNP device houses four independent software-defined processing channels. In the Tennis Channel installations, the SNPs act as IP gateways and support format conversion, allowing the installations to be primarily 1080p, but to adapt to 4K and HDR UHD when necessary, as in the case of the Roland Garros coverage in Paris. The installation also uses the SNP-MV multiviewer, which allows tactical multiview screens to be set up wherever they are needed in the workflow.

The new Tennis Channel ST 2110 infrastructure went live in December 2020. The combination of cloud playout and on-ground master control provided an “especially powerful” solution, according to Imagine, in times of Covid-19.

Sinclair - Tennis Channel - Production Control

IP and cloud: necessary for the future

Roberts believes it is imperative that companies like Sinclair initiate a path to IP and cloud environments: “The transition to IP and the cloud is transformative. We can’t just flip a switch ― we have to redefine how the business works. This is change management as much as technology.” He also previews his near-term plans, which involve making production and distribution processes more efficient: “Each of our RSNs has its own production facilities, and as they need a technology refresh, we will bring them into the ST 2110 world. We see Imagine as a key partner in that process: we work closely with them, we have honest exchanges about the way forward, and we are all learning as we go along. It’s a winning team.”

Imagine Communications president Steve Reynolds believes that Sinclair is an ideal partner for discovering the future of broadcast: “We are privileged to work with Sinclair as their technology partner. They understand, as we do, that we are on the curve of a transition that has the potential to change everything. Along that curve there will be on-prem and cloud systems; hybrid connectivity leading to IP. Sinclair embodies those principles: they use SDI when they need to (with Imagine SNPs as gateways); they use software-oriented technology and IP connectivity; they migrate to the cloud when it is right for them. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with a true broadcast leader.”

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By • 11 Jun, 2021
• Section: Issue, Integration, IP