Gravity Media recently expanded operations for the Australian Football League (AFL) with the launch of a new state-of-the-art AFL Review Centre (ARC) to centralize operations for real-time match reviews for more accurate and streamlined scoring. During development of the ARC, Gravity Media – a leading international provider of live broadcast and production services across industries – was commissioned by Jam TV as the project’s systems integrator to manage all video and audio broadcast equipment for viewing match plays, making accurate calls on scoring and communicating with personnel at games from a single remote location. To unify the look of ARC video feeds via resolution, frame rate and format conversions and dynamic region of interest scaling (allowing the extraction of a portion of the original image to be scaled up for a closer view), AJA’s OG-ROI-HDMI openGear Converters were critical to operations.

While the ARC was in development prior to the global COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic made it essential to centralize AFL review in a remote facility to reduce the number of staff required to travel to sporting venues around the country. With a new safety protocol enforced, a limited number of key personnel are now able to conduct AFL match reviews remotely from within the ARC facility. Gravity Media was enlisted by the AFL for the project following the successful deployment of SportsCom, an advanced referee communication system with broadcast-grade audio to facilitate efficient contact between three on-site field umpires during football matches. As part of ARC operations, Gravity Media was tasked with integrating SportsCom to consolidate all match reviews into a single system. The ARC broadcast workflow required the development of a streamlined workflow for personnel to review all incoming video and audio feeds and communicate with staff on-site at games in real-time.

Under the direction of Gravity Media Communications Engineer Shannon McDonald, a close-knit team developed the ARC’s broadcast system with capacity to review up to three games simultaneously and manage up to 144 different video feeds at any given time. During AFL games, live video from broadcasters at the football venue is captured in 1080p 50i and distributed to the ARC via IP-based transport. Within the ARC, 10 Hawk-Eye workstations power instant replay and enable operators to quickly scroll between different cameras to review gameplay footage from different angles around the field in real-time.

One of the biggest challenges during development of the ARC, was devising a method to transport high-quality HDMI signals from each of the Hawk-Eye computers to the main Ross Matrix Ultrix 144×144 router – which was only capable of ingesting SDI sources – for distribution throughout the review center. All outgoing HDMI signals also required resolution and frame size adjustments to unify the appearance so that all video feeds looked the same on each computer and display screen in the facility, for precise review by staff. To simplify the workflow and streamline conversion, McDonald and his team integrated 30 openGear-compatible AJA OG-ROI-HDMI Converters for frame rate conversion, region of interest scaling and converting high-quality HDMI outputs from the Hawk-Eye computers to 3G-SDI baseband video for routing. All OG-ROI-HDMIs are housed within Ross openGear frames and offer Ross DashBoard software compatibility for control and monitoring.

“We’ve worked with Ross Matrix and openGear frames in the past, and I’ve been impressed with how seamlessly AJA’s Converters integrate into the workflow and fit neatly into the racks to keep our studio organized,” said McDonald. “The OG-ROI-HDMIs are flexible cards that feature versatile I/O and simplify our setup with easy DashBoard control. You can really do whatever you want with the cards – they work great!”

In the ARC, each Hawk-Eye workstation is currently running two video outputs, with the capacity to scale up to three to manage future workloads. Once HDMI feeds are converted via OG-ROI-HDMI and sent to the Matrix router, video streams are transported to a range of screens throughout the facility, including 60 Samsung televisions. Via all ARC in-venue displays, personnel are able to review plays with precision and make accurate calls on scoring. Full setup and deployment of the ARC’s robust video and audio review system by McDonald and his team was completed in a month and a half. In addition to AFL review, in future deployments the ARC will also be used by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology as a training facility for media students.

“As we adapt to live sports production in 2020, deployment of the ARC has been critical to reducing the number of AFL staff flying to games and standardizing on review processes,” said McDonald in closing. “AJA’s OG-ROI-HDMIs were critical to streamlining the workflow and integrated seamlessly into the system.”

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