TECHNOLOGY & CONVERGENCE

AV technology to support WC South Africa 2010: Alfacam

At the football World Cup in South Africa, Alfacam has taken up a new technological challenge and started to make an important contribution to the biggest television project on the area of international football coverage this year.

Sylvain Béletre of Balancing Act interviewed Greg Nefdt director of Alfacam’s Africa who is passionate about the project.

Nefdt said “We have Alfacam NV, Alfacam Germany and Alfacam Africa all working together in Johannesburg to ensure that the logistics and planning happens smoothly. It is a lot of work and many people are involved behind the scenes to make Alfacam successful in this World Cup. And what about all the planning that was done and is still going on in Belgium – from Frederik Detollenaere and his team! This is a heck of an operation…The normally calm offices of Alfacam Africa in Johannesburg have been turned upside down into a hive of craziness, with the best engineers, technicians, drivers and planners all working around the clock to get those trucks ready and make this the best event yet…for Africa!”

“The German operation is wild! Speak to Rene Alles about what they have created in Pretoria….the studios, the people, the equipment. It really is something else as Alfacam will bring about 45% of all the matches as ‘world feed’ to the living rooms.

The company has not only deployed its mobile TV vans, but also a customized mobile setting in containers, developed by an in-house engineering team.”

Alfacam manages the world feed production at the WC venues in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth. Besides this production, Alfacam is responsible for the unilateral signal for ARD/ZDF, the German public broadcasting.

Therefore, Alfacam sent 8 OB vans, 130 cameras and 120 top technicians to South Africa! Signals from the most advanced cameras, microphones and broadcast gear come into the OB Vans (or what some call “live production trucks”) for processing and transmission. “We hired another warehouse of 2500m2 just to fit in the vehicles….it’s crazy seeing all of the trucks, equipment and people that go into making this happen.” mentioned Nefdt. Most of OB trucks are HDTV capable, have been adapted and tailored for the event.

Over the last few years, Alfacam has focused on special events, where quality, the number and size of the OB vehicles and the newest technology are important decision criteria. Since the mid-90s Alfacam has invested consistently in the newest technologies, several large OB trucks and a large pool of recording equipment.

The set of assignments in South Africa comes in two parts:

Part A: HBS and Grass Valley Group assigned 45% of the “Host Feeds” of the WC 2010 to Alfacam. HBS is the production company carrying the responsibility, by order of FIFA, to ensure that all the TV recordings are perfect. Grass Valley Group is providing cameras and other TV equipment.

Therefore Alfacam will not deploy mobile TV vans, but four customized fixed settings, built in a container village in each venue. Those were developed last year by the engineering team of Alfacam, in collaboration with HBS and GVG for the Confederations Cup. Besides that there will also be 90 extra cameras and 120 technicians.

Part B: Alfacam will provide unilateral signals specifically for the German public broadcasting companies ARD-ZDF and the Japanese consortium around TV Asahi, with eight TV vans, 80 cameras and about 35 top technicians. In total, 170 cameras and 155 technicians will be deployed.

Gabriel Fehervari, CEO Alfacam: “Thanks to our technology from Lint, the football matches can be seen in billions of living rooms worldwide. We are in charge of the “world feed” or the “main feed” of the matches in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg (Ellis Park) and Pretoria.”

Large broadcasting companies want to add own recordings of their commentator or studio. It concerns “unilateral” recordings, which Alfacam provides among others to ARD and ZDF. For the Germans, five vans will record all the interviews, reports and reviews from the venues. A sixth van will be deployed for ARD at the hotel where the German Mannschaft is staying. Two other vans will be deployed for the Japanese television.”

The matches of the World Championship are taking place in ten different venues, spread over the whole territory of South Africa. The distance between the different locations is too great and thus there’s not enough time to build up and break down all the television infrastructures each time, neither to move them.

On request of and in collaboration with HBS and GVG, Alfacam developed another way of working and for this World Cup it deploys production structures that will be installed in specially therefore designed containers forming ‘technical villages’. They also offer 300m² of space for nearly 100 operators.

The TV success of the Confederations Cup in 2009, where Alfacam already used such TV villages, played an important role in the assignment of the four structures to Alfacam. After all, the other six TV structures were only assigned per piece to Alfacam colleagues from England, France, Spain and Germany.

The settlement of Alfacam in Johannesburg since 2009 also played an important role: “Alfacam Africa Facilities” is busy with jobs in tennis, horse riding, rugby, football and cricket, for different South African broadcasting companies, such as M-NET, the main commercial broadcasting company in South Africa.

Before that we already received assignments on the African continent: the FIFA -17 World Cup in Nigeria (November 2009), Coupe Africaine des Nations (in 2004 in Tunis and in 2008 in Ghana we did nearly all the matches), World Championship Judo (Egypt, 2005), WC Handball (Tunisia, 2005), concerts in Egypt (by the pyramids of Gizeh, 2007) and Morocco (Jean Michel Jarre in the Moroccan Sahara), etc.”

“This is the biggest event that will ever happen in Africa! Most African people will not be able to go to the soccer matches, but thanks to Alfacam and other providers of the World feed, most of them will be able to see the games happen on TV right here in their own continent. To me as a South African, that is a very big deal!” Nefdt concluded.
More at http://www.alfacam.com/

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