It is Rugby World Cup time again and the live action from every game in New Zealand is broadcast to the world allowing us to be part of the action and excitement. Indeed for those with high definition decoders and viewing screens the action is even more vivid - but how do these signals reach us and what technology is used?

The first link in the chain is the Outside Broadcast vehicle. Outside broadcasting (OB) is the electronic field production (EFP) of television events (typically to cover television news and sports material) from a mobile remote broadcast television venue. Professional video camera and microphone signals come into the production truck for processing, recording and live transmission.

The mobile production control room (PCR) is known by several terms - a 'production truck', 'Scanner' (a BBC term), 'mobile unit', 'remote truck', 'live truck', 'OB Van' or 'live eye'. In the United States an 'OB Van' is in fact a smaller than a production truck and generally require two or three people in the field to manage. In South Africa however this is not the vase, and an OB van as it is generally called here, can be a mammoth vehicle housing anything up to 28 cameras, and a full production area with expanding sides.

Both the SABC and Supersport are well equipped with such vehicles, and both broadcasters have made use of several mega high definition OB vans. These vans have in the main been supplied by Gauteng based Sony South Africa (Pty) Ltd. (in partnership with Sony Professional Solutions, Europe).

“Sony Broadcast and Professional Division is integrated into Sony South Africa Consumer Business which is a supplier of Sony Consumer Electronic products and after sales & service support” says Gerhard Strydom, Broadcast Sales & Project Manager. “Sony SA, B&P Division is a supplier of all Sony Broadcast and Professional products and provides after sales and service support and training for all B&P products. In addition to this, Sony SA provides turnkey Systems Integration Project Services as well as post project-handover training and support”.

In the last three years Sony have supplied OB vans to both the SABC and Supersport. These include four 24 Camera HD OB vans (OB1J HD; OB3J HD; OB6J HD; OB1K HD) to the SABC between 2009/2010, and a 24 camera HD OB van and a 12 camera OB van to Supersport in 2008.

It does not end there however. “On the 27th of September this year” says Strydom “an exciting addition to the range of HD OB vans serving South Africa was announced. Sony Broadcast South Africa has just been successfully awarded the contract to supply Supersport Outside Broadcast Division with another new 28 camera HD OB van, similar to the recently completed OB6 HD.

The equipment list for new Supersport OB HD has not been finalised, so I am unable to provide you with final specifications at this stage, however, this will be 90% identical to Supersport’s existing OB6 HD”.

It seems that Supersport has not made a decision whether to use new Sony flagship cameras, HDC-2500, which were just launched at IBC2011. Also there is no final decision yet on which video router and multiviewer will be used. There is little doubt however that it will be similar to OB6 HD.

“The coachwork will be delivered to Sony PSE in Basingstoke England by end of January 2012 and the completed system will be ready for shipping to South Africa by early April 2012” adds Strydom. “We can safely assume that the OB van will be ready for use by Supersport by May/June 2012”

With the proliferation of sporting events in South Africa it is comforting to know that the broadcast industry is gearing up to accommodate the growth, and that Gauteng based companies such as Sony South Africa are able to supply the very latest technology and support to cater for the need.