The Challenge: Deliver live remote interviews without onsite staff
Warner Bros. Discovery is a premier global media and entertainment company offering audiences a complete portfolio of content, brands and franchises across television, film, streaming and gaming. The company became the Home of the Olympics in Europe after being awarded all TV and multi-platform broadcast rights in Europe for the four Olympic Games held in the 2018–2024 period by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This included the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (held in 2021) and the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics were held under conditions agreed upon by all broadcasters to protect the health of the public and those participating in the Games. Onsite broadcast crews operated under rules developed by the organisers through a series of ‘playbooks’ with limited access for camera and production personnel from many locations including the Olympic Villages where many athletes were staying.
With broadcasters unable to conduct athlete interviews in person, Warner Bros. Discovery (then Discovery) required an alternative solution to showcase athletes’ rich personal stories and bring their experiences back to fans throughout Europe.
Discovery was already familiar with Vislink’s Mobile Viewpoint solutions for marquee sporting events, having commissioned 40 Mobile Viewpoint WMT mobile cellular encoders for live content streaming at the Tokyo games before the pandemic hit. The encoders were used to create a complete content workflow from the Olympic Games sites back to the International Broadcast Centre (the televisual and broadcasting nerve centre for the Games) and to receiving stations in Europe.
Discovery then expanded its engagement with Mobile Viewpoint to include the deployment of the TrolleyLive Remote Pro studio system solution to enhance their Olympics coverage with compelling athlete interviews.
The Solution: TrolleyLive Remote Pro
The TrolleyLive Remote Pro studio system is a self-contained, remotely manageable, portable studio-in-a-box solution. It contains everything needed to do a live, two-way video interview without requiring any technical experience from the interviewee. Video from the TrolleyLive lives up to the high-quality production standards viewers expect from major event coverage.
The TrolleyLive includes an integrated broadcast-quality, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera, a built-in color touch screen that can be used for return video or as a prompter, onboard lighting and provisions for an external microphone and IFB. The entire system is housed in a fold-out box that is easy to carry and transport. Its onboard encoder and bonded cellular or Wi-Fi transmission options eliminate the need for additional network cabling.
Once it is powered up with AC power or DC current from an attached battery pack, the TrolleyLive can be set up on location for on-demand use without any additional technical support required onsite.
A total of six TrolleyLive systems were used during the Olympics by Discovery: Four were used at the Tokyo Olympics, and those original systems plus two additional units were deployed at the Beijing Olympics.
The systems were set up on tripods two weeks before the start of each of the Olympic games. Once the competition began, the TrolleyLive systems were switched on and ready for remote interviewing. Before and after their events, the individual athletes were able to stand in front of the TrolleyLive for real-time interviews by sports journalists and producers, with the entire production being managed by technicians back at Discovery’s European facilities. During the interviews, Discovery was able to remotely control the PTZ camera for optimal shots while sending low-latency, high-definition video and audio streams from the TrolleyLive to its various platforms. TrolleyLive’s return audio and video functionalities allowed the athletes to hear and see their interviewers clearly.
The TrolleyLive systems worked as expected, enabling dozens of successful two-way live interviews to be conducted between athletes isolated in the Olympic Village and the remote production teams. Using TrolleyLive systems, Discovery was able to enhance their Olympic coverage and send interviews to millions of fans across Europe watching on broadcast and digital platforms including Eurosport and discovery+.
David Roulson, Vice President of Technology – Sports Events for Warner Bros. Discovery, said, “We are extremely pleased by the performance of the MVP TrolleyLive systems during the Olympic Games. This solution represents a significant step forward in automated approaches that drive efficiencies while delivering excellent quality. We look forward to identifying additional live sporting event use cases where TrolleyLive can play a role in our remote production projects.”
With its built-in PTZ camera, ultra-low-latency onboard transmission options, remote control, bidirectional video return features and more, the portable TrolleyLive Remote Pro is a compelling option for conducting remote live interviews from anywhere, either indoors or outdoors, without needing onsite technical staff, cabling or even AC power.