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Innomedia And Dream Chip Supply 56 Cameras To Deutsche Eishockey Liga

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Innomedia – specialists in sports video installations and delivery – has announced the completion of the installation of 56 Dream Chip cameras across 14 German ice hockey stadia, on behalf of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL).

The installations – which comprise of two over-goal AtomOne cameras and two in-goal AtomOne mini aircameras in each stadium – needed to meet an extensive range of technical, logistical and operational concerns, of which image quality was just one.

The driving force for the initiative was the fact that despite production moving to HD format in 2010, legacy elements of the system – particularly the camera setup – were not able to offer the state-of-the-art delivery that is now increasingly expected by sports audiences.

However, it was vital that the installation would not only deliver more immersive gameplay footage to audiences, but would also be crucial in assisting referees in their decision making.

Inside the goal, the ability of the AtomOne mini air to deliver 50fps with an 85° wide angle lens on a progressive rather than interlaced basis makes it much easier for referees to ascertain precisely whether the puck has crossed the line. This will also future-proof the cameras as TV broadcast standards evolve.

Moreover, the importance of accuracy in the referee's assessment meant that mounting of the InGoal camera had to be precise and consistent – an issue made all the harder by virtue of the fact that the cameras are not permanently installed on the nets, but instead demounted for pre-game warm-up, and then reinstalled during the short break before face-off. Combined with the moving nature of the goals during the match and the intense shocks they can be subject to (which required the cameras to be tested against direct shots of 170kph, just short of the fastest slapshot ever recorded), it was vital that the camera chosen was small, lightweight and robust. Weighing just 25 grams and with a size of 30mm³, and delivering crisp HD images with exceptional clarity, the AtomOne mini air was the obvious choice.

Added complexity came from the fact that referee review and production activities are undertaken in two separate locations using two separate systems. Indeed, production activities are not just limited to the OB van parked outside, but might also call for distributed production, harnessing the skills of camera painters around the world. As such, the system was developed so that all data could be managed at a central exchange point and converted from SDI to fibre in order to be distributed to its required location; be that the review room, rink-side bench screens for coach analysis, the VideoCube, the production van or off-site production.

This central exchange point can be accessed at any point in the day, regardless of whether the rink is in use. Moreover, the remote access capabilities of the cameras allows not only for off-site production, but also off-site diagnosis, configuration, support and maintenance.

In terms of camera control, Innomedia have leveraged Dream Chip's open protocol control software in order to allow intuitive, precise control that does not tie future potential broadcasters into the use of a proprietary management system, should tender rights be opened in the near future. In particular, the exceptional control that is offered by Dream Chip in terms of white balance – both from the camera itself and from the shading precision enabled by the Dream Chip control system - is crucial in ice hockey, where ascertaining the position of the puck is aided immensely by contrast between the black puck and white ice. Indeed, the overall quality of the image delivered to audiences from both the in-goal and above-goal cameras allows them to become more immersed in the action than ever, catching every tiny moment and movement of play in front of the goal net. 
Speaking of the complexities of the project, Innomedia CEO Karsten Mick said: "We have worked closely with DEL since 1996, when we installed the first VideoCube for the German market. After installing our 4-channel HD replay system in 2016, the idea for new over-goal cameras was floated in 2019, but was subject to prolonged discussions which were then interrupted by Covid-19. When talking again in 2022 the idea was born to extend production to an 8-channel version, with in-goal cameras and a switch replay system. Initial sign-off on the project was only finalized on June 2nd of this year, with the season due to start on September 14th, which left us with very little time to complete the installation. However, as a result of our close working relationship with DEL, the high level of support provided by Dream Chip, and our extensive background in the field of sports AV installations, we were able to meet the deadline without issue. We continue to provide remote tech support every matchday, covering as many as 100 days during the season, and are thus incredibly proud of the service and visual content provided for the DEL, and to their downstream customers."

Adding to Mick's comments, Christian Kuehn, Sales & Product Marketing manager for Dream Chip said: "Innomedia were intent on delivering a solution which did not just meet the highest levels of technical quality in terms of video image, but which also accommodated the logistical and operational concerns of all the stakeholders involved. They worked hard to consider aspects such as remote operation, remote diagnostics and maintenance access, and the coordination of OB vans with the on-site control/review room, not to mention player safety and the robustness/reliability of the equipment deployed. We are pleased and proud that they selected Dream Chip AtomOne cameras to meet this extensive list of needs, and impressed with the overall solution they developed."

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