Communications Systems or “Matrix Intercoms” used in the Broadcast Television industry have traditionally been hardware-centric. These systems rely on signal specific circuit cards, circuit card frames and frame interconnection methods.
Now broadcasters are able to bring their communication and intercom systems into the future with the VCOM Virtual Communications platform. VCOM eliminates the need for frames, circuit cards and scales to thousands of users while supporting virtually an unlimited number of point-to-points, group calls, and Party Lines (“PLs” for conference channels).
VCOM is software based, completely virtual, fully configurable and redundant capable. The System can run on anything from the smallest notebook PC to the largest of professional business class servers. Moreover, IntraCom’s own selection of hardware Touchpanels is complemented by the largest selection of compatible user interfaces of any communications system on the market.
With VCOM Cloud Services, for the first time ever, traditional communications systems can be replaced or augmented with cloud based communication infrastructure. Use the VCOM Cloud as a stand-alone system without having to provide your own communication systems infrastructure, or interface communications from disparate locations thru the VCOM Cloud to a local VCOM or traditional communication systems.
The VCOM Software GUI runs on any Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device, breaking wide open the possibilities of providing user interfaces catered to any broadcast client.
VCOM’s compact matrix profile and user interface possibilities just begin to describe the striking differences between VCOM and traditional broadcast communications systems. VCOM is also compatible, and in some cases intelligently interoperable, with existing hardware based systems. This allows Broadcasters to install both new, stand-alone VCOM Systems, or add VCOM to their existing intercom systems to “bridge” current and future user interfaces and signal transports. Using VCOM’s integrated SIP server and / or device interface software, customers can readily connect SIP, MADI, DANTE, VOIP, ROIP, analog, two-wire, four-wire, and traditional wireless systems.
VCOM can also bring access to two-way radio systems to VCOM platform users, saving cost for radios, maintenance and repeaters and can also patch radios together into talk groups.
The advent of the VCOM Virtual Communications and intercom platform has already opened the eyes and minds of many major broadcasters, and the applicability of this unique system to any new or existing communications environment literally creates new ways of doing business every day.
VCOM has been used by major broadcasters for communications in News, Sports, and Entertainment programming. Some of the ways Broadcasters can use VCOM include:
- Coordinating the logistics and technical quality for distribution of broadcast content;
- Providing control room to remote studio communications;
- Enabling remote producer communications to home base;
- Local edit room communications;
- Replacement of analog intercom telephone interfaces with VCOM acting as a SIP interface server;
- VCOM on Handhelds and iPak for studio wireless communications and belt-pack applications;
- SmartMic conference talk-back systems for use in studio audience talk shows.
VCOM BROADCAST INTERCOM APPLICATION SOLUTIONS
Mini Case Study: EBU Eurovision (Geneva, Switzerland)
The broadcasting operational world is mostly based on communicating. For that reason, EBU has always distinguished itself from the competition by choosing a system of communication dedicated solely for their member stations; namely an EMEA consortium of 175 broadcasters coordinating all satellite newsfeed uploads (and DSNG feeds) from every world capital city and any remote news, sports and entertainment events to their Geneva NOC/MCR operations.
Two 20 year old Drake systems used for NCC (News Coordination Circuit) and TCC (Technical Coordination Circuit) required a renewal. The Drake conference system was installed to allow Engineers at NOC to communicate with the EBU members and people located at remote special events. Conferences were over an analog system interconnecting bidirectional analog lines between EBU NOC/MCR and each member using a Private network connection. That analog system was no longer supported by the service provider and apt to fail at any time, so EBU was seeking an alternative solution. They engaged Sofnisys, an Intracom-certified VCOM system design and integration partner located in Geneva, Switzerland http://www.sofnisys.com/
- Replace existing Drake hardware-based intercom/conference gear and Motorola gateway that was no longer supported
- Migrate the entire system without changing the member’s hardware
- Implement new intercom without system interruption
- Offer NOC engineers a new way to communicate
- Augment prior communications by adding new mobile technologies
- Connect more customers to/from and between private and public Internet
- Increase overall system reliability for more secure 24/7/365 operations
- Fully integrate new solution with Cisco Unified Communications Manager (Call Manager & PBX)
- Integrate IFB capabilities into the new system solution
- Provide ad hoc, multi-user conferencing connections via “2 clicks”
- Replaced prior system with VCOM Virtual Matrix Server (mixing/summing engine) connecting users into a virtual matrix via
- VCOM Control Panels (PCs, Macs, smart phones, tablets, etc.)
- External audio connections via VCOM Device Interface to legacy intercoms, two-way radios, etc.).
- SIP connectivity for direct access to VoIP & PSTN telephony from their control panel via Cisco CUCM
- Mapped two-way radios into VCOM system to be accessible from any user
- Connect IFB into VCOM system
- Provide instant patching of telephones and radios to each other and user groups
- Shifted from analog, private circuits connecting fixed HW devices to both private and public IP connections
- Reduced cost (no more leased lines)
- Higher quality audio
- Greater reliability and security
- New flexibility (can connect to anyone to anyone with any IP connection, including mobile devices)
Member stations can instantly open talk paths to NOC/MCR via party lines and/or point-to-point connections and also have 10 private conference lines for discussions that do not require NCO/MCR participation. The number of individual users and party lines is virtually unlimited.
For satellite uplink control and coordination, they use VCOM “PL Assignment Mode” to dynamically assign remote SIP-based terminal devices to a bank of 8 human coordinators to balance their respective workload on the fly.
PL Assignment function is also used for very rapid, two-way radio interconnect (“patching”) between any radio users anywhere in the world to other radios and all can be made accessible to any users, groups, smart devices, computers and external systems (VoIP, PSTN, etc.).
Today VCOM is used in all majors EBU events coverage (Champions League, Europa League, NBA, elections, World Cup, Olympic Events, Formula 1, GP Moto, Cycling) and news gathering. They recently used VCOM at the Davos World Economic Forum to connect two-way radios, mobile smart phones/tablets and PSTN lines together, including some Skype users, and also connected local IFB into one cohesive matrix intercom with full control of interoperability.
For remote coverage, personnel can hand-carry portable SIP devices to a job site, connect to any available Ethernet to automatically log in to NOC/MCR for a true plug-and-play deployment.
Eurovision use of VCOM:
MORE VCOM BROADCAST INTERCOM APPLICATION SOLUTIONS
- Turner Broadcasting & Turner Studios: Using VCOM for connecting Telex matrix intercom frames between New York City, Atlanta and other sites with added IP access and for remote operations at sporting events, such as between NBA-TV, Turner, and CBS Sports; using VLINK (RTS Telex version of VCOM with RTS proprietary, intelligent-trunked connections) and expanding their existing VCOM systems to include remote broadcast trucks and adding SIP telephone connections.
- NBC Universal: Use VCOM for live productions comms within NYC studios; created iOS-based belt-packs for wireless coverage via Wi-Fi including elections coverage analysis desk and other applications. Expanding their use of VCOM by building it into the basic comms architecture of many new production studios and replacing legacy telephone hybrid interfaces with SIP connectivity to VCOM server
NBC Universal Studio Wireless Intercom App Using Intracom iPakTM
- BBC News: World Cup coverage, National Elections, etc., via own server and VCOM cloud services. This news facility has a permanent VCOM installation and also periodically rents cloud hosted ports for events coverage needing additional users. In November 2014 they reported “ …using system in US for Mid-terms [elections] mainly as comms to people out and about but also to deliver clean feed to those teams from London.” In April and May 2015 they used VCOM similarly for covering the UK elections. Following the 2014 World Cup events in Brazil, where BBC News used VCOM for roaming coverage at Copacabana Beach, they reported, “VCOM has been doing sterling work here for us. Working really well with our wireless IP Camera backs. It’s being doing such good work we are trying to integrate it further with our existing old school [name redacted] boxes.”
- iTV Sport (London): used VCOM for 2014 World Cup coverage, similar BBC News and CNNI.
- CNN International: VCOM used for remote events coverage, example below is from 2012:
- ESPN: Multiple World Cup games coverage; also used for X Games (extreme sports), and other sports events, transmission communications and broadcast coordination, depicted below.
South Africa Broadcasting Corp:
SABC used VCOM for interconnecting intercom systems for 2010 World Cup from several different manufacturers (Prospect Electronics, Bosch/RTS/Telex, ClearCom, and Riedel) at seven different sites in-country, including IBC, SCC, MCR, and four remote venues, while adding additional remote connectivity to those existing systems. They have since increased their VCOM system size for remote coverage of extraordinary events, such as municipal and national elections, overseas news coverage, etc., and also in remote broadcast trucks.
SABC Use of VCOM Intercom:
On the next page is a drawing of how SABC interconnected the respective matrices into a cohesive system. SCC was at Convention Center running Riedel matrix frame; MCR used ClearCom & Drake; IBC was Host Broadcaster build out that used ClearCom and/or Prospect; DSNG1 and DSNG2 used 3G/cellular for fixed mobile operation; PVE1 and PVE2 used ClearCom Eclipse matrix.
- Aquavision / National Geographic WILD: Live broadcast at night to observe if Great White Sharks would attack humans swimming. Produced from diving boat platform located at reef 6 km offshore (Aliwal Shoal, South Africa), underwater IFB, on-boat coord, on-shore (local MCR) and US MCR using Wi-Fi/wired/satellite links.
- TV2 (Denmark): 50 remote journalists worldwide connect to ClearCom frames at MCR in Copenhagen via VCOM using laptops, iOS and Android devices from live events anywhere in the world.
- CBS Sports: private VPN to Broadcast Center for coord and remote access from broadcast trucks at events, also for auxiliary cameras comms for major events, i.e., NCAA March Madness coverage.
- Microsoft: Production, edit suites, remote operations and global event coordination using VLINK (Bosch RTS Telex version of VCOM):
For more information about these applications or to explore VCOM for your own matrix intercom application needs, please contact Intracom Systems, LLC https://www.intracomsystems.com/