Bringing the cloud to Twickenham for World Rugby

Ronan Donagher, IT & Broadcast Technology Manager, World Rugby, speaks to Videstream on bringing the cloud to Twickenham.

Hi Ronan, could you please give us a little bit of background to World Rugby and the scale of the operation.

World Rugby is an international federation and a global movement comprising more than 500 million fans and 10 million players within 128 national member federations affiliated through six regional associations.

The outside containers where the POC took place. Image credit: Ronan Donagher

Like everyone else COVID has have a big impact on the number of events we have been involved in, but in the last number of years we have managed to deliver the HSBC 7s world series which comprises of both men’s and women’s teams that play in a shortened version of the game.

These games are held globally and comprises of a 2 or 3 day event that are produced onsite and delivered to a global audience through traditional TV and online streaming. Normally this consists of approx 12 events.

From next year we hope to see the return of the Under 20 World Championship, 3 venues per match day, 2 games per venue and 5 match days in total, great event for the future stars of the game.

Up until now we have produced these events traditionally, OB on site, each match produced as an individual package, no centralised production – the RWC is an exception to this as we do use an IBC and centralise some aspects of the production here.

And what’s your role there?

I started in tech and introduced independent video replay at RWC2015 in order to deliver on player welfare needs, in addition to citing and TMO.

This gave me an insight into broadcast, a sector that was changing and embracing IP and other technology, so it interested me. Before we expanded the wider broadcast team I was also responsible for graphics and innovations within the broadcast area.

Thankfully we have expanded the team and now have 3 (soon to be 5) experts dealing with production so it gives me more time to focus on tech, innovation and in particular games technology – an area that will have a numbers of points of crossover with broadcast.

I understand you’re trying to virtualize some of your production workflows. What’s the
latest project you’ve been working on?

Virtualised production was something we wanted to investigate, we have all heard about the wonderful deliverables around remote production but with my tech hat on and working with our friends in AWS I wanted to see what was available in the cloud.

Image credit: Ronan Donagher

There was a small number of people involved but all were key cogs in the wheel. Gravity Media led the project with the assistance of AWS. Hawkeye, Grass Valley and AE.Live delivered in their respective areas. Without the RFU supplying the GB pipe to the net nothing would have made its way out.

And our trusted production partners, Sunset+Vine, assisted and inputted at key time frames to ensure we were getting as close to a normal/standard output as we would expect.

What were the driving factors for the move to cloud production? And why did you feel like
now was the right moment?

For us this was a proof of concept to see what was achievable and if it could assist us with providing a sustainable production going forward. And when I mention sustainability it’s not just about the environment but staff welfare and how do we make them more sustainable.

Image credit: Ronan Donagher

And any advice for anyone else looking to move their productions to the cloud?

There are a few, but only a few people who really know what they are doing as of yet. The large traditional players are not the only ones and if you’re willing to get involved and invest some time into the project the newer kids on the block can really deliver. Happy to have a discussion with anybody if they want to bounce ideas around.

Many thanks to Ronan Donagher for the interview. For any enquiries about the project, Ronan can be contacted via his LinkedIn profile:

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