TSL Systems worked alongside IMG Media, the world’s largest independent producer and distributor of sports programming, as it moved into a brand new facility in Stockley Park, Uxbridge.

Covering an extensive catalogue of programmes spanning over 100 sports and entertainment shows, IMG has recently undertaken high profile projects including Wimbledon and Eurovision, as well as acting as the IBC and distribution/archive partner for the Rugby World Cup 2015.

Premier League Productions hires out one of the four studios and associated production galleries owned by IMG, as does the Egyptian TV channel Al Araby.  As a production facility specialising predominantly in sport, IMG also handles production and distribution for international programming of the Premier League football season, and is responsible for the playout of channels Sport24 and PLTV (Premier League TV), found in aeroplanes and hotels across the world.

IMG Studios, Stockley Park

The Reason for Moving

IMG primarily required expansion to cope with the increasing requirements of broadcasting top sports productions, but the project also provided an opportunity to consolidate the previously scattered batch of servers into a more efficient overall system.  Previously utilising multiple platforms to play out transmission in various formats, IMG can now achieve a cross platform workflow that operates alongside the existing EVS and Avid systems.  With feeds coming from across the world in different digital formats, the workflow affords far better access to files.

TSL Systems previously installed the production infrastructure at IMG’s Mediahouse site in Chiswick over ten years ago, meaning they were the first choice as a systems integrator for the Stockley Park relocation. The initial installation took place throughout 2013, with a request for additional work from April to October 2014.

“TSL Systems undertook several months of intensive planning alongside IMG to discuss the design, equipment selection and overall solution required” said James McLoughlin, Senior Engineer at TSL Systems, who worked as one of the engineers on the project. “Once the equipment was purchased, the installation took place. Overall, the job presented many challenges and took about two years from start to completion.”

As an independent SI, TSL Systems is not tied into any particular manufacturer, giving exceptional flexibility of equipment choice to suit each client’s unique requirements.  After discussing IMG’s requirements for the project, such as compatibility with existing workflows and cost effectiveness, TSL Systems developed a bespoke solution offering maximum functionality to suit these needs.

Owing to the scale of IMG’s operation, this relocation represented a significant undertaking, requiring upgrade of equipment racks and KVM routing systems across all broadcast technical systems, multi-viewer and talkback systems, wireless systems including microphones, communications and IEM facilities and a multichannel viewing system with 500 outlets.  Additionally, network and audio/video patching, audio and video mixers, reference systems, modular processing equipment, fibre optic connectivity to satellite dish farm, picture and sound monitoring equipment and an SNTV automation system were also installed.

Principally, IMG required an upgrade that could integrate with its current software, as equipment and productions were being progressively transferred from the Chiswick facility. Previously benefiting from Avid and EVS as the main vendor workflow, IMG’s entire system upgrade then required Avid and EVS to work alongside the existing system.  Most notably however, the Stockley Park facility benefited from the installation of a centralised control system, the Atos BNCS, with functionality to operate the entire system including monitoring, grouping ability and satellites from a single touch screen.  Each TV channel is loaded onto the system, meaning the correct broadcast is available at a press of a button with pre-set graphics, logos and branding.  As the core backbone, EVS and Avid required BNCS to work alongside the system in a way that increased efficiency of the workflow.  With approximately 50 PCs co-ordinating content, all clips can be managed through the EVS IP director software through the BNCS.

“In the past, everything was a matter of doing one thing at a time, as the platforms were separate.  With BNCS they have merged it into one control system with enormous functionality, designed exactly for the way IMG needs to work,” James McLoughlin further noted.

Vision mixers were chosen from Sony to handle the large sharing pool of resources integrating into the audio mixer network.  The comprehensive intercom system came from Riedel, which could be linked back to Chiswick, creating ease and efficiency of communication between the two sites.  Audio monitoring equipment from TSL Products was selected, as well as Lawo consoles and a Pebble Beach transmission system that is also controlled centrally by the BNCS system.

“Essentially, we expanded the whole system and made sure that the broadcast network was up to scratch, checking that the network was big enough to handle everything that was going through it,” continued James. “As the productions continued to stay on air throughout the move, it was imperative that we worked closely with the network engineering staff to ensure maximum integration, making sure all cabling was in place, ports were configured, the system was up to date, and that we minimised disruption between the two sites through a full decommissioning process.”

“If one of the EVS operators wanted to access one server before, they would have had to go through three or four places to find it, whereas now everything is aligned into one place. It is now a seamless system with the ability to access everything in one big list,” James continued.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup was an enormous project for IMG, and during the initial installation TSL Systems had provided the core infrastructure needed on site to host the event, with capability to install additional equipment through extra ports, additional cabling and expandable network capabilities.  Extra communications were essential in order for staff at the stadium to communicate effectively with the studio, as well as additional EVS machines.

“It’s important to consider the needs of each installation and in the case of IMG this was allowing room for expansion so that they can just ‘plug and play’ when it’s required for a big event,” said James.

Football is a flagship for IMG’s Uxbridge site – the Premier League coverage was the first production to be broadcast from the new facility – but the facility also produces all Caribbean cricket for which they hold exclusive rights, The Masters Golf Tour as well as all tennis coverage that is not broadcast on the BBC. TSL Systems kept IMG on air throughout the upgrade, working together to utilise the existing Chiswick premises to host programmes such as the Premier League across both sites, notably the MCR Moss control room at Uxbridge.

“Following a longstanding relationship between IMG and TSL Systems, we were proud to be the first choice on this project and we look forward to continuing to work with IMG as a trusted partner.”