Manchester United TV scores with Pixel Power's Clarity 3D solution
In the multichannel world, sports broadcasting is key to the success of TV platforms. In many countries football coverage sits at the pinnacle of sports broadcasting, attracting huge audiences and fanatical support. It was entirely logical that the major clubs – and therefore major global brands – would want to capitalise and Manchester United was no exception. MUTV (Manchester United Television) was the first football club channel in the UK, launching in 1998. It now has over 100,000 subscribers in the UK and Eire and is a 24/7 operation. It has considerable international reach with the channel broadcast in many other countries—estimated global audience is over 6 million and growing. It also produces content for the club’s website.
MUTV carries a mix of live and pre-recorded content. Not all first team matches can be shown live coverage because of rights issues with the Premiership, but MUTV broadcasts both a pre- and post-match show as well as live magazine content, news and coverage of reserve and academy teams. The channel is fast-moving and graphics-intensive with high production levels. It has to satisfy the exacting demands of the paying football fan. Having made the decision to move to a file-based workflow in 2008, MUTV has faced two graphics challenges since.
The first, smaller challenge, was to be able to provide comprehensive onscreen graphics in real-time, easily during live games (even when not carried live). The system also needed to provide an enhanced overall look and feel for the channel as well as for the graphics during the match.
The second, more complex challenge was to enhance the in-channel promotion of upcoming programming, not just for now and next but for various points later in the schedule. MUTV wanted to be able to fill graphics templates automatically, saving time and post production costs while enhancing the channel’s appeal.
MUTV turned to Pixel Power. Already a Clarity 500 customer, it chose to replace this with a far more powerful Clarity 3000 3D unit, having trialled products from other manufacturers. In addition it purchased Pixel Power Toolbox technology, a simple-yet-powerful software tool for creating custom data entry and control programs to provide real-time control of Pixel Power hardware, in this case the Clarity unit. An operator has at their fingertips shortcuts to a whole range of bespoke graphics, allowing the match to be produced as-live then quickly turned around for rebroadcast. Entering a player’s number pulls up a wide range of information about that player: red/yellow cards, substitutions, team news and so on.
The second, more complex challenge, the fruits of which began to be broadcast at the start of 2012, involved the need to automatically create Now/Next/Later squeezebacks at the end of broadcasts – for both live and pre-recorded shows – to promote upcoming content. The issue was that the “Later” promotion could be highlighting content from any point in the schedule going forwards, meaning bespoke promotions for each junction.
MUTV once again turned to Pixel Power, purchasing a best-of-breed LogoVision graphics playout device as well the highly flexible Pixel Promo, which imports data from traffic/automation systems and batch builds promo page sequences based on pre-defined templates, reducing post production costs dramatically. Now the schedulers not only populate the scheduling system (Phoenix7 Zeus) with programme data, they also schedule the end credit announcements with a list of programmes to promote. This in turn feeds the Pharos Playtime automation system. That notifies Pixel Promo, which pulls together the disparate graphics elements that constitute the end credit squeeze. Those graphical elements – which are regularly updated – sit on the LogoVision as templates.
Because of the amount of live content carried on MUTV, a key requirement was that the above workflow had to be able to be driven both automatically or with a minimum of effort manually by an operator.
Viewers are now kept up-to-date with upcoming content across the schedule without the channel having to resort to paying for expensive post production time. As an adjunct to the move to file-based – MUTV now also takes advantage of Pixel Post to export QuickTime graphics files from the Clarity unit for repurposing usage – the automated promo playout dovetails with the channel’s increased output, in terms of both quality and volume, while reducing resource overheads.
Dedicated club channels are growing in complexity and reach and MUTV is leading the way. The level of its operation requires leading edge equipment to be deployed along with creative thinking. By deploying Pixel Power’s technology, MUTV has been able to both improve the quality of its on-air graphics and include important promotion for the channel.