Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Inauguration Day at DCI

Inauguration Day is the single most busy day for broadcasters in DC, and it was no exception this time.

Our teleport had dozens of liveshots coming though our facility via fiber and satellite.

Our flyaway antenna was setup on the roof of the Newseum doing a single-hop to Germany on Hispasat to provide backhaul for a German network's coverage of the event.  Like on election day, the flyaway was operated remotely from DCI using remote desktop control.

Our HD1 satellite truck was parked at the Convention Center doing 3 paths for network coverage of the event.  Transportation on Inauguration Day is always a challenge, so bicycle was the mode of transport between the truck and hotel on the other side of the mall.

Unlike other years, when everything was over we had another job right away.  The Convention Center cleared at midnight and it took almost an hour to drive a half mile across town, with all the traffic and road barriers being cleaned up.

We had two trucks working at the Women's March, which had so many people we could hardly move around.  One truck was doing 1080p for a high profile webcast of the event, and the other was providing coverage for Eurovision.

Its another successful inauguration in the books for DCI!








Monday, May 2, 2016

Ecuador Earthquake

Our team in Pedernales

On April 17, a powerful 7.8 earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador.  DCI's airline baggage flyaway was dispatched several hours later to cover the damage and recovery efforts.  The flight into Quito went without issue, and after all our equipment arrived we visited a supermarket to stock up on supplies, since once arriving in the disaster area there would be no option for food or shelter.  We bought packaged foods, a propane camp stove (for heating water) and tents.


The drive from Quito to Pedernales typically would take about 5 hours but due to the many landslides along the route, the trip took closer to 7.   After arriving in the main square in Pedernales, we espatblished a standup location and begain broadcasting, less than 2 hours after arrival.  We used the Eutelsat 113W (Satmex 6) satellite to single-hop the signal back to the United States.



Due to limited satellite capacity, we utilized advanced DVB-S2X 16APSK modulation to fit two muxed 9 megabit HD signals in a signal 6MHz slot.  This technology not only saves money on space segment, but also allows feeds to be done when satellite space is limited, as normally happens during large events.  The 16-phase modulation chosen for this broadcast works well with the medium-sized (5 meter) antennas that are common at broadcast facilities.  The next step up, 32APSK modulation often requires much larger antennas for acceptable bit error rates.


We transmitted live standups and tape feeds all day, for European clients, ABC's Good Morning America, and several stations from Latin America. Occasionally the search teams would request we shut down out generators so they could listen with microphones lowered in the rubble pile.  Unfortunately there were no rescues while we were on site.



On the morning of the 20th, we had a magnitude 6.1 aftershock, which caused some alarm in the town but there was no additional collapses we knew of.

The following day we packed up our equipment and drove back to Quito for a flight the following day.


























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.