Gold medal performances across the board
The most famous of Ancient Greek Sporting events is here again
It’s that time of the year. Well, that time of every four years (and five in this particularly unusual case). The time of year where the papers are awash with medals tables, and where every person at the pub has suddenly become a world expert in the most esoteric and unlikely of sports; synchronized swimming, dressage, skateboarding, modern pentathlon…. The whole world and his dog suddenly seem to know every rule, technique and strategic advantage that the professionals have spent years perfecting. If only we could all have the confidence of armchair athletes, eh!?
But we should be grateful that people have the ability to witness some of the most impressive sporting achievements of a generation; it was only in 1936 that this incredible sporting event was first telecast to live halls around the Berlin-based venue, 1948 when they were televised in Britain by the BBC from Wembley, and 1956 when they were broadcast globally by RAI. So the very ability for your average Joe to witness a competition that dates back millennia (and 125 years in relation to its modern incarnation) is not something we should take for granted.
Emotion, energy, excitement
And it’s worth noting just how far the quality of that involvement has become. The leaps and bounds that have been made in production technology are now able to give audiences an experience that rivals that of being right there in the stadium; indeed, in some cases it even surpasses it. Magical moments such as that of the Italian and Qatari high jump athletes sharing their medal have an obvious and inherent emotional draw to them, but it’s one that’s enhanced by the ability of broadcasters to create productions which combine intricate and sophisticated camera and network technologies to capture every facial expression and nuance.
These techniques also help to not only capture the emotion of the moment, but highlight the strength and talent on-screen; with slow motion shots from multiple angles communicating the grace, poise and power of each athlete. And then of course there are the production techniques which add both context and drama to proceedings; giving the aforementioned armchair athletes the ammo they need to argue for hours in the pub – knowing every historical detail, record attempt, strategic play, competitive position and heart-wrenching tale of struggle: all presented as real-time infographics and overlays to enhance the overall broadcast.
Yes, there can be no doubt that the athletes are the stars of the show, and that their performances are truly breathtaking. But perhaps it’s also worth giving a gold medal nod to the production teams which bring those moments of magic right into our living rooms.
Behind the scenes – a collaborative effort
The shared Gold medal of the Italian and Qatari athletes is important for another reason also; it represents a subtle but distinct cultural shift in the world: one where competition is increasingly being tempered by ideas of collaboration. Beautiful moments from the Summer Games, such as the Dutch Marathon runner encouraging his Belgian counterpart to Bronze – a training partner but also technically his border rival – demonstrate the possibility of setting aside artificial differences and embracing what unites us. What is most notable is that contrary to what was once popular belief, this kinder, warmer way of working doesn’t reduce performance. It doesn’t stop people from pushing boundaries, innovating, driving forward… Perhaps there’s a chance that it was never competition that drove us, but an innate human desire to excel. And we believe this to be as true in the field of broadcast as it is in the field of sport.
And this idea of collaboration goes all the way down – not just across the traditionally competitive divide, but by viewing the success of one star as what it really is: the success of a whole team. Whilst the athletes are front and centre in our attention, there must also be recognition that there exists a whole support structure that is invested in the success of these individuals; their trainers, coaches, funding associations, families, friends… The efforts and expertise of these people make up the final performance that we witness on screen.
And the same can be said of production: much as the cameramen, presenters, producers, directors, camera painters and audio engineers are all integral to the production we see on screen, it’s also important to remember the skill, expertise and investment that underpins their practice, from network engineers who have spent years developing their technology. It’s an invisible contribution, but a vital one nonetheless.
In particular, the increasing advancement of production technologies – calling for remote broadcast from challenging locations, using complex networks with disparate components operating in ultra high definition, in real-time – all call for increasingly sophisticated underpinning network structures to handle the automation of tasks and the efficient movement of IP packet traffic across potentially bursty networks.
It’s here that SDNsquare comes into play. You won’t always know that our technologies are sitting at the heart of major sport productions, but you can be sure that if it’s a complex production full of aggregated components running from remote locations across an IP network, there’s a good chance SDNsquare is sitting at the heart of it.
Safe and sound
It will come as no surprise that in an event as big as the Olymp… we mean, the really big summer sporting event we’ve just witnessed, security is the highest concern. With the eyes of the globe on one single location, and a site that is packed with people from around the world – including any number of high-level state officials and ‘VIP’s – security is at its tightest.
And the same goes in the production world: security of broadcast data is key. Because remote production will generally require some kind of cloud involvement, then there’s a real risk of data breach – which can have impacts just as significant as physical breaches on the logistics, financial security and reputation of an event.
Resultantly, security concepts sit at the heart of SDNsquare’s technology. There’s often a misconception surrounding Software Defined Networks (SDNs) and their security capabilities. With this, it’s important to differentiate between an SDN – which is in essence a broad concept methodology or principle that describes a way of structuring a network – and a specific SDN application (such as our SDNsquare GRID) which looks after the specifics of routing, configuration and security. As such, an SDN is neither secure not insecure by its very nature – it is simply as effective as the application which governs it.
And if it’s GRID that’s governing it – well, then we can tell you it’s very secure indeed. For example, GRID facilitates not just the typical ‘black listing’ – where a set of ‘non-alloweds’ are blocked, but can also facilitate ‘white listing’, where it is only those flows with permission that are granted access: essentially moving from an ‘everything but…’ to a ‘nothing except…’ approach: highly secure, with no margin for error. GRID can be configured to block any autonomous, insecure end-device from joining themselves, whilst still facilitating the required network flow.
We’re also careful with the way that we tackle IGMP traffic; where network switches identify multicast groups that receive the same network traffic in an effort to reduce overall congestion. IGMP flooding can constitute a real risk, but with SDNsquare GRID, this risk is all but eliminated. – white listing of flows instead of black listing
So regardless of what sport you’ve been watching this summer, and from where you’ve been watching it, spare a thought not just for the athlete performing on your screen, but the host of people supporting them – from coach to caterer, physiotherapist to production specialist, stadium designer to network engineer: there are a whole lot of gold medal professionals working behind the scenes. CHAPEAU!