ECA Handbook: Live Delivery Via Satellite (Part III)

By | June 10, 2015 9:27 pm PST

Earlier this year The Event Cinema Association (ECA) published its “Technical Delivery Handbook”, a step-by-step guide to live delivery of event cinema, written by ECA members for the benefit of the industry.

With satellite delivery the preferred mode of delivering live opera, theatre, concerts and more to cinemas this is arguably the most critical component of streaming events to big screens around the world.

CJ is in partnership with the ECA exclusively serialising three parts from the Handbook’s ‘Live Delivery Via Satellite’ section. The full book can be ordered HERE. We highly recommend it for anyone interested in or working in the cinema and event cinema field.

Live delivery by Satellite, Part III – By Simon Tandy, Chief Commercial Officer, Motion Picture Solutions, LANsat

Receiving the Broadcast – via satellite or the internet?

Installing the right technology to receive Event Cinema is very important, and exhibitors will need to consider all factors before choosing the most suitable equipment for their cinemas. There are a variety of providers offering a range of services that may or may not be suitable depending on the exhibitor’s ambitions and needs in this area.  Despite the investment cinema owners have made for compliant digital projectors, the value of the professional broadcast receivers should not be overlooked.

Receiving the Broadcast – Choosing the right technology

Often the purchase price of technology dictates the choice of hardware. Fortunately there are various commercial offerings to allow the exhibitor to use professional equipment across the industry.

It would be wise to compare what a professional receiver solution and service can offer over those of a consumer ‘off the shelf’ receiver, depending on the requirements of the exhibitor. It is worth bearing in mind that technology in this area is advancing very quickly, and professional receivers can apply these advances via upgrades in software, rather than replacing the hardware for those purchasing a consumer system.

Other aspects to consider include subtitling and encryption: your kit should be capable of handling embedded subtitling and encrypted broadcasts. Likewise 4K delivered events are at the time of writing rare, but this is unlikely to remain so for long.

So you want to show Event Cinema; where do you start?

LANsat

What equipment do you already have?

If you are already operating as a cinema, screening on a DCI-compliant projector then almost all options are available to you.

Some providers whose systems combine live-event playback with DCP delivery

provide subsidies for equipment which is well worth investigating.  It is important to understand how the event receiver will interface with your existing equipment – not every configuration will work. A provider or cinema integrator will be able to help you with this.

Many cinemas and non-traditional venues such as village halls and community centres operate using DVD/Blu-Ray; certain content providers will be happy to screen their events via this format, others less so, but it is usually dependent on the level of the venue’s projector resolution. This is another element to consider as you expand into this field.

Professional or Consumer?

Both options have their place. The former comes at greater cost as you might expect but can provide an increased level of features, quality, usability, and helpdesk provision or simply peace-of-mind.

However, if you intend to screen infrequently and have a hands-on approach to the operational side of projection in your venue then for an investment of only a few hundred pounds you can purchase consumer-grade equipment that will quite happily receive all current broadcasts and offer a good level of flexibility.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to how much money you wish to invest, and how much you intend (or hope!) to make from Event Cinema screenings.

Which Dish, and where to point it?

This is the next thing to consider, and is perhaps the most important to get right.

If you are taking a managed service then your chosen provider may specify (and indeed supply) your dish.

In the UK, nearly all event cinema transmissions are carried on both Intelsat 10-02 (at 1° West) and Intelsat 905 (at 24.5° West )

It is most common for those using consumer set-top-boxes to use the 10-02 feed, although as nearly every broadcast to date has been unencrypted and is DVB-Compliant (meaning any consumer box can tune to and decode it) there would be no problem using 905.

In mainland Europe, many events are also carried on E5W.

The size of dish required is determined by which satellite you are tuning to, and your geographical location. The website http://www.lyngsat-maps.com/ has footprint maps for all common satellites and will give an indication of minimum dish size, although it is always worth asking expert opinion before making the investment.

Advanced Options

The above will get you screening your first Event Cinema shows, but if you want to push the possibilities of this new technology further what is there to consider?

Event Cinema over IP

Since the introduction of live broadcasting in cinemas, satellite has been the core conduit of its delivery. Whilst satellite reliability is high, it does have issues with limited footprint and signal dropout in poor weather. It is now possible for a satellite stream to automatically fall over to an internet-streamed broadcast when inclement weather causes picture loss.

In Scandinavia, where there are greater chances of satellite drop out, it is very common for cinemas to receive the entire broadcast via the internet. Across Europe, restrictions in installing satellite dishes or availability of dishes means this form of content delivery is becoming increasingly attractive. With ‘season-based’ broadcasts typically taking place during the winter, the right technology, hardware and conduit of delivery will be a driver in maintaining the audience experience and IP delivery is becoming more commonplace as both a delivery and backup option.

Multi-screen

It is possible to push the live event to multiple screens. New technology has made it possible to play a feed across the entire multiplex reliably and for a very low cost. When you are choosing a provider think hard about how many screens you may need the solution in, and make sure you have the option to upgrade in the future.[ST pic]

simon Tandy LANsat

Simon Tandy developed LANsat; a combined storage server for DCP delivery and Event Cinema solutions. Deployed internationally it is now the UK’s leading IP delivery system for cinema content and live events. As a professional receiver it offers cinemas the opportunity to receive live broadcast via satellite or the Internet, with the option of a managed service or for exhibitors to use themselves. Motion Picture Solutions acquired LANsat in 2013, where Simon is now Chief Commercial Officer.

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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