How Animation Research Transformed Their Sports Broadcasting

How Animation Research Transformed Their Sports Broadcasting

  • November 5, 2021

If you’ve watched any live major sporting tournament, you’ve probably seen the work of Animation Research. Here’s how they supercharged their cloud connectivity to deliver their sports overlay graphics faster than ever.

Have you ever watched a cricket game, a sailboat race, or a golf tournament, only to find yourself wondering, “How do they get those graphic overlays onto live footage so quickly?” A lot of the time, you can thank Animation Research Limited (ARL).

This leading computer graphics production house has been delivering sports graphics to their clients via their platform, Virtual Eye, for almost 30 years. Their portfolio is extensive, having worked on nearly every major sporting event in the world today including Formula 1, PGA Tour, and America’s Cup, to name a few.

Providing live broadcast graphics for a sporting event is no small task for ARL. It involved teams travelling to the site of the event, capturing data streams directly from the field of play, and working with their teams back at head office in Dunedin, New Zealand to create the overlay visualizations in real time. They could be measuring and visualizing anything from the spin rate of a golf ball to the weather and tide conditions of a sailboat race, then delivering it for instant use across broadcast, streaming, and apps.

Animation Research cricket graphic overlay

**Why ARL turned to Megaport
**

The ARL team already had a five-year plan in place to adopt remote operations and modernize their business. But on March 13, 2020, their plan had to rapidly accelerate.

After having been onsite for just one day delivering graphics for the PGA Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, USA, COVID-19 forced Virtual Eye remote teams back to New Zealand and into lockdown. Their way of doing business was halted, and like the rest of the world, they had no idea when, or even if, things would go back to normal. They had to speed up their plan to operate away from event sites, and quickly.

ARL needed to create the ability to deliver all of their graphics from their offices in New Zealand, without having to send large teams to site. But there was one question standing in their way: How would they overcome the challenge of dealing with unreliable and costly connectivity?

Their search for a solution led them to explore a private cloud connectivity setup with AWS, but they needed an easier, faster, and more scalable way to connect than the public internet. That’s when they discovered Megaport.

“To be honest, we thought it seemed too good to be true,” said John Rendall, Head of Technology and Innovation for ARL.

“It was the perfect solution.”

**The benefits

**

Reduced costs

When broadcasting live sports graphics, a massive amount of bandwidth is required. If ARL was to pay for that set bandwidth under a static contract model, they’d be paying colossal fees for data they weren’t even using most of the time. One of Megaport’s biggest selling points for ARL was our pay-as-you-go model, something most other connectivity platforms don’t offer.

“Being able to ramp that bandwidth up whenever we need it, bring it back down after we need it, and only pay for what we need – that’s the most amazing part of using Megaport to connect to AWS,” said Rendall.

Megaport is breaking new ground in our field, and as
a result, what we’re doing is cutting edge in our industry.

John Rendall, Head of Technology and Innovation at ARL

Halved provisioning time

When it comes to live broadcasting, milliseconds matter, and having access to reliable, fast connectivity has been revolutionary for ARL.

After testing public connectivity against private connectivity for speed differences, they found that private connectivity was consistently up to 50 percent faster. Combined with access to Megaport’s hundreds of Points of Presence (PoPs) to reach AWS, using Megaport has made a huge difference to their latency. Now, whatever they’re broadcasting, they know they can deliver their graphics at some of the best speeds the industry has to offer.

Simplified control

With 30 to 40 active global projects happening at any given time, it’s essential that ARL has granular visibility and control over their connections via self service provisioning. Now, with Megaport’s one-stop portal, the team can easily turn connections on and off, or up and down, as soon as they need to.

“Having the flexibility to be able to just go into a web portal and provision whatever we need, at any scale, with such ease and speed – that’s an absolute game changer for a business like ours,” said Rendall.

Reduced carbon footprint

When COVID-19 forced ARL teams to abandon onsite work, they were able to look on the bright side – speeding up their remote work plan would be a good opportunity for them to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with employee travel. What they didn’t expect is just how much they would be able to improve their environmental impact in such a short time. With the global reliability Megaport’s Software Defined Network (SDN) provides, ARL have been able to cut down their employee travel activities, and sustainably reduce their carbon footprint, by a massive 85 percent with no compromise to their operations.

What’s next: Megaport Virtual Edge

After successfully setting up a cost-effective, high-performing cloud architecture, last-mile connectivity is the natural next step for ARL to secure low latency and high reliability from just about anywhere in the world. The team is currently shaping their global Megaport Virtual Edge (MVE) setup to solidify the improvements they have made and ensure they benefit for years to come.

Animation Research projected MVE setup

“Megaport is breaking new ground in our field, and as a result, what we’re doing is cutting-edge in our industry. So we definitely have big plans to use the service a lot more across our different business functions,” Rendall said.

One of the biggest potential next steps in ARL’s sights is the introduction of Megaport Virtual Edge  (MVE). A successful pilot in Europe with Fortinet has opened up global possibilities for ARL allowing them to leverage Megaport’s global backbone combined with MVE-hosted FortiGate appliances to deliver improved security and performance to support end-to-end media workflows. 

“Last-mile connectivity is a topic that comes up all the time with remote broadcasting,” Rendall said. “Optimizing connectivity and broadcasting quality from remote locations is one of our next challenges, so SD-WAN and MVE will have a lot of advantages for us.”

We can’t wait to see how they transform sports even further with the implementation of MVE.

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