Opening night for AFC Wimbledon sets the future of remote production

Systems integrator Broadcast Solutions planned and executed almost two hours of pre-match excitement for AFC Wimbledon – with a crew of just three people. The occasion was the opening match at the football club’s new home, just metres away from its origin

UK(11 Nov 2020)

Broadcast Solutions creates live fan engagement programme; model for low cost, high impact future production 

Systems integrator Broadcast Solutions planned and executed almost two hours of pre-match excitement for AFC Wimbledon – with a crew of just three people. The occasion was the opening match at the football club’s new home, just metres away from its original stadium in Plough Lane. 

This first game marked the climax of almost two decades of fund-raising for the club which rose like a phoenix from the old Wimbledon, making its way through the tiers of English football to now play in League One. For the loyal fans, of course, Covid-19 regulations meant that no one could see their triumphant return to Plough Lane. 

“We had to make it a great occasion for the fans,” said Malcolm Robinson, Business Development, Broadcast Solutions. “And we had to achieve it with very little footprint.” 

Wimbledon director and events producer Charlie Talbot of Talbot Productions pulled together contributions from fans, former managers and ex-players. On the night, the team added live interviews and behind the scenes looks, while fans continued to contribute video comments via social media. 

“We used Dream Chip cameras feeding into a Dream Chip Barracuda HEVC encoder,” Robinson explained. “That gave us four good quality HD streams, plus associated audio, plus comms over SRT [secure reliable transport, an open delivery format] in a 30Mb/s public internet link. For roving reports, we also had a Sony ENG camera feeding into a Mobile Viewpoint bonded cellular link.” 

With Robinson and Talbot on site, the third member of the team, Adam Leah, creative director of live production technology specialists nxtedition, was 1000km away in Sweden. The Barracuda decoder and internet feeds from fans and the Mobile Viewpoint link also fed into the nxtedition cloud. Leah directed a seamless 105-minute show, cutting live multi-camera video with pre-packaged items and new content from social media. 

“The technology worked perfectly,” Robinson said. “SRT allowed us to maintain really great quality on the live video which sat well alongside the crowdsourced content. We were also able to get reverse feeds over the internet, including a multiviewer as well as the rundown, so Charlie as producer had a complete overview and control. From end-to-end it was a very professional production.” 

As in any broadcast operation, comms was absolutely vital to a seamless production. The Trilogy communications platform allowed the team to put virtual panels wherever they were needed, as well as earpieces for presenters. There was no latency in comms, allowing slick live links. Programme sound used Sennheiser wireless microphones. 

“We set out to make a night to remember for the fans of AFC Wimbledon, but we achieved much more,” Robinson concluded. “This is the groundwork for a whole new approach to remote production. I was blown away by this as a demonstration of what can be achieved in live, remote, collaborative production. 

“This can be scaled, and will transform the way we cover sport and events.” 

The Plough Lane opening night was on 3 November 2020 and the initial live-stream clocked up almost 20,000 views. The programme is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/__Sn1TlX1J8