Friday, April 29, 2016

DCI provides White House pool in Havana

When the White House announced an historic visit by President Obama to Havana, DCI was chosen to provide the official US TV travel pool coverage of the event.  As the most experienced American satellite uplink company operating in Cuba covering 5 different events in the past 3 years, DCI was the clear choice to provide this important pool feed service.  We sent two flyaways to Cuba for Obama's trip- one for the US TV pool and another working for the Eurovision feeds.  Each dish provided 4 path HD feeds in a mux back to the states.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pope Francis in Cuba 2015

When the Vatican announced Pope Francis would visit Cuba and the United States for the first time in September 2015, we knew it would be a busy time for us.  DCI covered Francis' election from Buenos Aires a few years earlier, and as the first pope from Latin American the Cuba visit would be big.

Having just returned from doing pool coverage of the US Embassy opening 3 weeks before, the flyaway kits were turned back around to head for Cuba.

The 1.2m Patriot system was setup as a 24/7 feed point at the Nacional Hotel in Havana, where we had 4 paths supporting live standup positions and tape feeds.

Setup went pretty smoothly, except for one transmitter that would turn on but not respond to any of the front panel buttons.  After being told by the manufacturer they would not help us because of export control regulations with Cuba, we had to fix it ourselves!  The problem ended up being a connector that came loose in shipping, a common problem when shipping sensitive electronics as baggage on airliners.  If you have ever watched a baggage handler throw your bag on the conveyor and cringed, it's much worse when its a heavy and sensitive piece of satcom equipment!  Of course we always travel with 2 of everything for spares, so we had another working unit but after some minor surgery inside the amp we fixed the loose connector and were back online with a redundant set of transmitters.

While the feed point dish was humming along, the "travel dish", our modified Norsat system, set out across town for the live shots during the mass in Revolution Plaza.

There was a large compliment of uplink antennas here, from CNN's 2.4m, 4-port monster down to a 1.2m Swedish fly-n-drive system belonging to Overon.  AP was in town from London with a nice 1.8m C/Ku Advent dish, and Reuters had a custom-made 1.0m system.
CNN's 2.4m Ku antenna was running 6 paths plus comms, on both polarities of the satellite (4-port feed), very uncommon to see on a flyaway dish.  

 Since our setup was all L band, we mounted the dish on one side of the compound and instead of putting up a tent, our equipment lived under the press riser with two cables running to the dish- the transmit L band and the satellite return + IP signal for running the amps.  This system had 2 paths online.  We had a huge downpour of rain during setup day but for the mass the weather was perfect, and the pope drove right past our setup.
Take Cover! Rain on setup day.

 The difference between this mass and the one 3 years ago was very noticeable.  Pope Benedict said the mass at the base of the large monument and the general public was kept across the street, about 200 yards away.  This time the mass was said right in the middle of the plaza with the general public all around, and the pope spent almost an hour greeting people before and after.  
When we arrived at 3AM, the plaza was already packed.

Unlike the previous mass with Pope Benedict in 2012, Francis did not separate himself from the public.

When we were finished here, we packed the dish and camera equipment up into vans for its overnight drive to Santiago.

We were supposed to fly out on a 5:30 AM flight, however it kept being delayed.  To make it worse, the terminal was freezing and there was nothing more than some small snacks available.  The bathrooms were not even properly supplied!

The flight was pushed back to 10:30, but that time came and went, and so did a 11AM flight to the same location, which really made everyone upset.  Our plane finally left around around 1:30 PM, about 8 hours late!  We had live shots that afternoon so we went directly to the feed point in Santiago and were on the air less than an hour later, which is pretty fast for a flyaway setup.  Our van drivers/technicians did help by running the fiber and unpacking everything they felt comfortable doing, so that helped a lot.

Continental 1.8m C band (left) and our Norsat 1.0m Ku looking far west to Galaxy 18.

The dish was setup on the roof and too far to run L band cables to the control point inside the hotel so we tried a new technique- we used an available fiber to run ethernet control of everything upstairs like we were sitting up there, including the video router.  On another open fiber we ran the output of our multiviewer back down to the control point so we could see the quad split on the monitor.

At the control point we had the quad viewer sent from the roof, plus full monitor and control of the router and uplink chain from the laptop.  We used a Fiber Media Converter to get ethernet control between the two points and a standard SDI video link to get the multiviewer back downstairs.  

During the two days in Santiago we had two large rain downpours, but because when they happened we had only 1 SD path to do, we changed the modulation down to S2 QPSK 1/2 and even though we had a completely flat spectrum on return, they had a 11 dB margin back in DC!  This quick thinking saved the day during the rain storms.

Rain storm moving into Santiago from the mountains north of town.

After we packed up the next day was spent visiting some of the sights around Santiago- El Castillo (a fortress overlooking the entrance to the harbor), the cemetery where many prominent Cubans are buried including Jose Marti and Emilio Bacardi (and most likely Fidel Castro will be buried here too) and the shrine at El Cobre, where the pope said mass the day before.  The flight back to Havana was later that day and the next we flew back to Miami and on to DC.

Friday, September 11, 2015

US Embassy in Havana

Workers add the "Embassy of the United States  of America" signage to the front of the building in the early morning before the opening ceremony.  

When the United States Department Of State reopened their embassy in Havana, there was a lot of interest from broadcasters around the world.  Many setup live positions at the balconies surrounding the building, however with the limited space on the embassy grounds, the State Department came to Washington's premiere satellite company for two shared uplink systems that would be made available to broadcasters.   

The State Department chartered a flight from Baltimore to Havana and we loaded two flyaway systems along with all the government's equipment for the opening ceremony.  Each dish was setup for 4 HD paths, for a total of 8 paths coming out of Havana.  Like usual, we used muxes, DVB-S2, and H.264 encoding.

The State Department worked with both Eurovision and Associated Press to make 4 live shot positions (2 each) available to media worldwide.

 During the ceremony, two of those paths carried the official switched feed of the program and a cuts camera, which was made available and carried live on many outlets worldwide.    DCI Teleport downlinked the official feeds for the State Department and fed them live via fiber for further distribution and webcasting.

Some might say the Cubans "out-flagged" us.  Most of the US networks had live positions on these balconies and dishes on the roof.   Some used microwave to shoot from the media riser at the embassy.

Live shot going to Europe on the EBU network via the DCI dish.  

Crowd of Cubans watching the event across the street, and a camera platform for Cuban TV.

Secretary Kerry applauds as a cheering crowd looks on.  The 3 men facing the color guard are the US Marines who lowered the flag the last time, in 1961. They vowed they would return to raise it.  

The second dish was setup at the Ambassador's residence, which served as a feed point and interview spot where 2 paths were used by the State Department to feed B roll of various diplomatic events around Havana, and the other 2 paths were used by the US networks to feed video from their sit-down interviews with Secretary Kerry.

Ambassador's Residence in Havana (known as Chief of Mission when the embassy was an Interest Section)

After a busy day for both uplinks, we packed up and headed back to DC the next day, another flawless field transmission in the books.

Contact DCI to see how we can put our expertise to work for your challenging satellite needs!

More photos of this event can be seen here.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

DCI expands HD capacity with Ateme

DCI recently added new Ateme  hardware to our encoder and decoder inventory.  Three DR5000 receivers were added to our teleport, expanding DCI's capacity to decode ultra low-latency feeds and high quality encoding such as 10-bit 4:2:2 and higher-order modulation up to 32APSK.

On the transmission side, DCI added two CM5000 "Dual Kyron" encoders for on-demand use in the teleport and field.  Our CM5000's feature TWO encoders inside the same box, allowing us to have the most portable 4-path flyaway available in the United States.  The two dual encoders are part of a package which will be broadcasting the pool feeds of the American Embassy opening in Havana on Friday.

These new acquisitions compliment DCI's previous investment in Ateme hardware, which power our ESPN-certified "HD1" uplink truck with high quality H.264 4:2:2 video and 16-channel audio.

Our Ateme hardware is completely software-driven, with enough hardware power for future expansion. In fact, both the CM5000 and DR5000 have the processing power necessary for the new H.265 High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and DCI will be adding H.265 capability sometime next year with a new firmware release from Ateme.

As one of the oldest independent teleport and SNG operators in the United States, DCI remains committed to staying on the cutting edge of video compression technology.  Contact us to see how we can put this powerful new hardware to use for your next event.

Two Dual Kyron's in a flyaway rack for the American Embassy opening in Havana. Also in the case is a Starcast DVB-S2 L band modulator, Adtec multiplexer, and UpCom IRD.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Live Surgery in Miami and New Orleans

Once again, DCI worked with Boxline Box medical media company to broadcast live surgeries at the Urology on the Beach event in Miami and the American Urologists Association (AUA) the following week in New Orleans. We used a mix of tools, including remotely-controlled satellite ground stations, for another very high quality HD broadcast, although this year it was 2D only. (We did the first-ever live 3D case in 2013 and again in 2014).

The Urology on the Beach event is held around the same time as AUA and attracts a lot of the same attendees and exhibitors.  It is held at the Eden Roc hotel on Miami Beach, and features live surgery broadcast from the University of Miami Hospital about 8 miles away.

The layout of the Eden Roc prevents a traditional satellite truck from parking there, so we used our new second-gen airline flyaway in a receive-only configuration, and using remote control of its receivers so the DCI uplink truck at Miami Hospital could run both sides of the link and maintain full quality control. We used ultra-high quality H.264 10-bit 4:2:2 with AAC-HC audio running at a amazingly low 16kbps for awesome picture and video quality, getting over 13mbps in a 6MHz satellite slot.

Full Remote Control- the receive flyaway was controlled remotely via IP from the SNG truck parked a few miles away. We even requisitioned the hotel room TV as a monitor.

Because of the location of the balcony where the dish was, we had to use Galaxy 18, on the extreme west end of the satellite arc, in order to clear the adjacent building, resulting in a look angle that is much lower than typical for Miami.

Among the palm trees: DCI's 2.4m "HD1" uplink truck shooting at Galaxy 18 from Miami Hospital

View of the remote real-time signal strength monitoring of the Miami Beach flyaway, and some of the DaVinci robotic surgery being broadcast to the convention.

After Urology on the Beach was wrapped, we packed the truck with the flyaway inside and headed 12 hours west to New Orleans for the large AUA show, where DCI arranged transmission for dozens of live cases in both exhibitor booths and the official AUA convention symposium.  We utilized our compact SNG truck for two days of live surgery in Philadelphia, and turned the flyaway around as a transmit source at nearby Tulane, with full remote control of "HD1", which was acting as the downlink facility at the New Orleans Convention Center.  
Cargo SNG truck: Fully-redundant HD flyaway in the back of our "HD1" uplink truck.

Full House: Thousands of urologists from around the world watch our live cases.

Bob Zajko running the flyaway in the back of a pickup truck at Tulane University hospital, with full remote control of the receive truck a few miles away at the Convention Center. We had full router control, live signal strength monitoring, and were able to check video quality of other live cases going on at the same time by receiving them on the flyaway.

A simple but high quality uplink setup inside a crew-cab pickup truck with remote control of the receive truck.

Left: Our modified Norsat mid-setup with a single 400w BUC mounted to custom made bracket and 1:1 redundancy switch.  The second BUC was added next.  Right: Mike Evans of BoxLine Box in scrubs after configuring the Tulane OR site.

"HD1" at the Convention Center was the receive site for all satellite-fed cases at the AUA, including 4 from the Tulane Flyaway, 3 from the DCI truck in Philadelphia, and other brokered trucks around the country that we arranged for the event.  

If you are interested in how DCI can bring this high level of transmission quality control and management of your corporate events, contact us.  If you need to produce a live event or recording of a live surgery in the unique setting of a working operating room, contact BoxLine Box.