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For TV programming, live production and corporate events, audience engagement strategies are now critical for the broadcasters, venues and businesses undertaking these projects. The associated visual experiences need specialised workflows, knowledge and equipment. AVC Systems Switzerland Sales Manager Etienne Ritschard helps companies bring those experiences to viewers – advising, designing the workflows and procuring and installing the gear to support them.

While cameras and LED displays are closest to the audience, Etienne believes the less visible ‘digital glue’ that holds workflow components together, has an underplayed influence in transforming his clients’ ideas into reality. His company’s longevity in the industry gives him an unusual perspective on the productions.

A Device for Everything

AVC started out 26 years ago building broadcast TV studios and has since expanded to cover sports venue AV as well. For instance, they supplied a range of technical gear to an ice hockey arena earlier this year. They are also a distributor, supplying several resellers in Switzerland with equipment. “We handle everything from client consulting to gear sourcing and installation, and ongoing support – in short, our goal is to make customers happy for life,” Etienne said.

“For broadcast clients, we usually install the full portfolio of gear you’d need to run a TV studio, from Mini-Converters to ProRes recorders and routers. When working with clients, we find they often already have quite a bit of legacy 3G-SDI gear installed but also want to make use of 12G-SDI, which means using quite a bit of AJA openGear conversion kit like the OG-12GM 12G-SDI/SDI muxing/demuxer. Being able to make these two-way transformations makes it possible to bring 3G-SDI systems into the single-link 12G-SDI world and vice versa.”

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For example, for the ice hockey project he mentioned, the signals had to be fed from a graphics system to the venue’s video display cube. Using the AJA OG-12GM, they brought in one UHD signal and separated it into four in order to supply a signal to each side of the cube.

openGear Frames

“In general, we’ve been using more openGear hardware across the board because it tends to need a much smaller space for housing the gear, and we also use the AJA OG-DANTE-12GAM for 12G-SDI/Dante embedding/disembedding from time to time for a similar reason – its dual 12G-SDI input and output ports give up to 32-channels of audio embedding and 32-channels of disembedding simultaneously," said Etienne.

“Many of our clients already have openGear frames, and it’s nice to be able to place additional cards into a properly mounted frame to meet their specific conversion needs – that way, our clients don’t have standalone converters left lying around in a facility. They can also control all the openGear cards through one user interface because Ross (original openGear developer) and vendors like AJA have collaborated to ensure openGear frame compatibility and support for Ross Dashboard software to control the devices.”

Several of AVC’s reseller partners also work with corporate entities and conferences that want to produce presentations, internal workshops, company-wide all-hands meetings and so on. For these applications, AJA digital video recorders like AJA Ki Pro Ultra 12G and Ki Pro GO are especially useful. If heavy editing is involved, they’ll usually opt for the Ultra to record in Apple ProRes, but if they’re just looking for a quick MP4 file to hand off to others, they’ll go with the simpler Ki Pro GO. Routing is also a key part of their installs, for which they like to use AJA KUMO routers when possible.

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Live Production Pipeline

The ice hockey arena project took place at Swiss Life Arena, a venue located in Zurich. “The client approached us looking for a turnkey graphics and signal distribution system. They needed to get all their signals to a central LED cube and other LED displays throughout the arena, which we knew would require a vision mixer, graphics system and, as we like to call it, ‘glue gear’ – that is, our AJA openGear conversion devices," Etienne said.

“We worked with their team to plan the entire setup, from diagrams to delivering and installing the equipment. The AJA OG-12GM was a core component of the design because it supplies the signal from the graphic system to the cube. If it were to fail, the LED cube would go black. So we chose these cards because, based on experience, they have proven to be reliable, and we knew we could trust them.”

He described the workflow in detail. They designed the live production pipeline to support static cameras and other cameras brought into the venue from OB providers. All camera feeds were sent through a hybrid router. The workflow included openGear distribution amplifiers and AJA OG-ROI-HDMI scan converters, which made it possible for the venue AV team to bring computer sources into the 3G-SDI environment for display on the cube if needed.

Etienne said, “Many of the signals from the graphics system also went through the router to openGear Hi5-4K-Plus converters – in this cae, five of them. Their purpose is to convert 3G-SDI back to HDMI for in-stadium digital signage requirements. An openGear frame with four AJA OG-12GMs was also included in the design to support conversion of quad 3G-SDI signals into a single 12G-SDI signal.”

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VR and AR Made Simpler

Aware that more of their clients are exploring augmented and extended reality, and investing in LED walls, Etienne and his team are naturally looking at these emerging techniques as well. “LED walls give producers an easier way to work on multiple shows, each with a unique set and look, from one central environment,” he remarked. “Studios and venues only have to switch over the graphics and creative, in contrast to regularly dressing entire sets.

“For these installs, we often need a way to convert signals coming from the graphics system to the LED wall controller, so we use a lot of AJA Hi5-4K-Plus and OG-Hi5-4K-Plus 3G-SDI to HDMI 2.0 converters. We just wrapped up a project for a national TV studio with about 100sqm of LED space, and we used quite a bit of both the AJA and the OG devices in the install. www.aja.com