Here's how one company delivers smooth video feeds in the world's most hostile environments

Video camera
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

At face value, the military and sports broadcast sectors have very little in common. One way the two overlap, however, is in the need to deliver high-quality video feeds in real-time, without interruption.

As you might imagine, achieving this level of quality and consistency is no small feat. Doing so requires a range of terrestrial microwave, satellite, fibre optic and wireless communications systems - all of which must work in harmony.

To learn more about delivering video feeds to and from the world's most remote and challenging environments, the demands of live sports broadcast and more, TechRadar Pro spoke with Mickey Miller, CEO at Vislink.

Vislink (VISL) is the global leader in the development, use and management of wireless technology for live video communications for the live production, military government and satellite markets.

For the broadcast markets, Vislink provides solutions for the collection of live news, sports and major televised entertainment events. Vislink also furnishes the public safety and defense markets with real-time video intelligence solutions using a variety of tailored transmission products.

Vislink’s professional and technical services employ a staff of technology experts with decades of applied knowledge and real-world experience to the areas of terrestrial microwave, satellite, fibre optic, surveillance and wireless communications systems, to deliver a broad spectrum of customer solutions.

Our products include wireless TV camera systems for sporting events, satellite uplinks and video transmission systems for helicopters or drones for public safety, first responders and the military.

Our case studies illustrate our leadership role enhancing fan engagement in the London Marathon, MotoGP, NHL, Volvo Ocean Race and other events. The cases also highlight our solutions, which enable first responders and law enforcement to protect, serve and carry out their missions as effectively and safely as possible through the actionable intelligence we are able to supply them, no matter the circumstance, as illustrated in our work with the London Fire Brigade, Tucson Police Department, London Metropolitan Police and the London Counter Terrorism Unit.

For law enforcement and the military, speed of response and the ability to take decisive action based on reliable information is critical. Vislink’s prime position in the live television events business can be directly employed into technology that saves lives for public safety organizations. Our ability to deliver crystal-clear imaging for premium televised events wirelessly—such as the Olympics—and to deliver that video with just a few milliseconds of delay, can be directly applied to MilGov applications to provide clear and immediate actionable intelligence.

During the COVID-19 crisis, first responders and law enforcement are tasked with securing large areas, both metropolitan and rural. This is an extremely challenging task and increases the demand for speed and effectiveness of response to ensure public safety.

As an essential business, Vislink is supporting first responders and law enforcement by remaining operational, providing and servicing critical communications. We continue to provide first responders around the world fast actionable intelligence from both the ground and air accurately, instead of these teams having to rely solely on voice communication between individuals.

Vislink’s wireless systems are designed to operate in uncertain environments. In fact, while many transmission systems often have difficulties maintaining reliable transmission in the urban and reflective environments where our systems are often deployed, Vislink systems make beneficial use of the multiple reflected radio paths with well-proven diversity reception and strong error correction technology, such as in our LMS-T modulation scheme.

How do you ensure the quality of the video feed remains high and is not interrupted?

Vislink achieves excellent RF range and robustness by bringing together video compression technology and sophisticated RF modulation techniques. By using highly efficient video compression, we can deliver premium video quality over an RF link with robust modulation and strong error correction. For example, our latest HCAM wireless camera transmitter product utilizes HEVC video compression and Vislink’s LMS-T modulation to deliver up to double the RF range of our previous generation products.

RF Bandwidth is an incredibly valuable commodity. There are increasing frequency allocation demands from all sorts of applications. At Vislink, we are finding that our customers are asking us to help them with this very issue. We are responding with more bandwidth-efficient solutions so they can find a slot in the available spectrum for their needs and achieve more with the bandwidth they already have available to them.

Recently, we’ve rolled out enhancements for motor-racing systems where we have seen a growing demand to increase the number of vehicles that host onboard cameras, as well as more cameras on those vehicles to give an increasingly immersive viewing experience to the viewer at home. Vislink is addressing the pressure on RF bandwidth from the increase in cameras by using more efficient HEVC compression. We are even deploying premium quality 4k UHD RF camera feeds for some vehicles.

What measures are in place to ensure sensitive video content is not intercepted?

Whether Vislink’s systems are serving military or public safety needs where lives are at stake, or delivering eye-popping quality imaging content for premium sporting events—where broadcast rights are worth millions of dollars—content security is paramount. Vislink’s systems have industry certified, fully-integrated transmission security technology to ensure that the imaging content remains private.

The world has changed under the COVID-19 pandemic. People have adapted how they work to deliver services that are critical to the public—whether that be maintaining public safety or delivering television entertainment programming that relives the monotony of lockdowns. Vislink has found a safe way to carry on working and developing solutions.

Our TV production customers have had to make dramatic changes to how they produce their programming under lockdown conditions. Vislink solutions have been deployed in new ways to assist in remote production techniques, and our wireless camera systems have been instrumental in getting viewers deeply involved in sporting events—delivering immersive camera views at the heart of the action so that the TV audience can be there without physically being at the stadium. In fact, our white paper—Be There Without Being There—dives into the live sport and events sector, and how our technology is bringing enjoyment, escapism and a sense of community belonging to millions across the globe during such trying times.

Viewing dynamics in how we consume content has really shifted in recent years. Customers are engaging more via social media and companion devices to the big screen. These extra services are driving the use of our wireless camera systems in a new normal. Take a look at the content of a sporting event that is shared on social media—point of view, fast-paced immersive camera action content is what drives social media interaction and this is precisely what our wireless systems enable.

So, as well as wireless camera transmitters that suit shoulder-borne system cameras, Vislink is now leading the field in miniature transmitters that can be mounted on drones or as part of body-worn camera systems that really get the viewer to the heat of the action.