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Andy Smith Relies On Teradek Beam For His Wi-Fi-Over-IP Live Broadcast Services

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Andy Smith has made a living as a self-employed Lighting Cameraman since 1997 following 16 years with the BBC. Last year, he expanded his service offerings to include live, mobile broadcast for the field, and launched IP Broadcast TV.

With considerable live camera experience and a suitable knowledge of satellite communications, he purchased an H.264 encoder and an entry level Ka-band satellite uplink, constructed the antenna mounting hardware, arranged the power supply, and integrated the system. With his Sony PMW-500 camera in hand, he had one challenge left to tackle: the wireless link between camera and satellite.

Smith looked into traditional COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex) systems, but the units were prohibitively expensive for an independent business owner. He tested an IP-based transmission system. After some research, he chose the cost-effective Teradek Beam solution.

"In my day-to-day news operations, it's more often about where you can park to have a clear line of site to the satellite, and where the camera needs to be to see the action," says Smith. "Distance is not such a problem. Joining the two parts with the Teradek Beam solved this for me. I was able to get very similar quality images compared to pictures out of the camera, beamed directly to the broadcaster. Although harsher compression on the link can affect picture quality, it's selectable. I choose 12mb for all my operations."

Low latency was also important to Smith.

"Teradek claimed the Beam had a latency of two frames, which is about 80 milliseconds," he notes. "With the complex processing that occurs behind the scenes to get the picture across the link, this was quite an impressive claim. What I really wanted to do was measure it, so I recorded a link latency of 2.5 frames and the lip sync was perfect. There was barely any difference between the Beam and a cabled link."

Smith admits that an IP solution is not quite as robust as a COFDM system, but it's much more affordable, uses less power, and weighs less on the camera since it's a smaller unit. After his successful initial product testing, he has since committed to the Teradek Beam system, using it to great success on several projects, including two for the BBC.

"On the BBC's flagship evening news program, we were called out to Harwich International Port because suspected illegal passengers had been discovered stowing away on a ship," he explains. "The lead story of the day covered 68 people who were apprehended trying to get into the UK from Holland. There was an area where we could park, but the best view of the ship was about 30 to 40 meters away and across a roadway. Cabling was impractical, so we established a wireless link between our vehicle and the best viewpoint for the camera and, with Beam, everything worked perfectly.

"For Newsnight on BBC Two, we had a very different situation," he continues. "During the buildup of the general election, the program profiled several different families on their views and the candidates they favored. Two nights before the election, we were dispatched to a family's home in Swansea, Wales; I parked in their driveway and we shot inside. In this case, I could have cabled it quite easily, but it was much more convenient for me – and the householder – to avoid the wiring. It was one less thing for me to worry about in the end."

As an independent mobile broadcast facility, Smith is pleased to have found a reliable short-to-medium range radio camera system, with the flexibility and cost savings he needs to be able to offer live services. He has now completely replaced the fiber between his camera and vehicle, adding: "Beam has been a wonderful solution for me."

Further details on the Teradek Beam can be found here.

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