Name & Title
John R Williams, Director Oscus Media in Edinburgh
Who are you (about yourself and who you work for)?
This is a hobby that has got out of control! I was always keen of Tape recorders, and my son who is now 24, has followed the same pattern with an edit suite at aged 10. I have had no formal training and so I’ve have had to learn from the ground up, which has involved designing and building complete control room. That has meant an awful lot of BNC Crimping.
What do you do? What does your company do?
Oscus Media is a small independent production company based in Edinburgh specialising in educational and religious video production. Oscus Media is also involved in event management and multi-camera OB production. Shooting is carried out either in SD with JVC DV 700 cameras, or HDV with Sony Z1’s or in full HD 1080i with the new Canon XF305, which carries full BBC approval for HD production.
Tell me a little about your previous experience, what you've worked on and with up to your current position?
I started work with the Church of Scotland doing audio-visual tape slide production in 1974. The Woman’s Guild of the Church of Scotland raised money in 1977 to purchase a Colour Camera (JVC 8800) with Low Band U-Matic portable recorder and edit suite, at a cost of £25,000, which then enabled us to produce a whole range of material for education and training purposes using new Home VHS equipment for playback.
The unit won a number of IVCA and RTS awards, including an award for excellence for programmes made in Jamaica. Following the success of the early programmes we installed a three-machine High Band U-Matic suite, which enable us to expand our production base.
It was decided in 2002 to close down the in-house unit, and the staff that worked there went freelance. By that time I was the director of the unit, and responsible for all the technical Management of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which is a major weeklong conference requiring complete AV support including electronic voting and TV production support.
When I formed Oscus Media, I was awarded the contract to continue all of this work. I also do work with a number of Edinburgh Schools, and the University of Edinburgh, as well as proving HD coverage for a number of large events.
What specific project(s) do you have in the works?
We are currently working on a number of videos for two major Schools in Edinburgh, and covering major lectures for The University of Edinburgh, which are uploaded in HD onto their You Tube Channel.
I have just finished my 38th Technical Management of The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which was covered in HD for the first time. Coverage was by five cameras (XF 305 and XF105 from Canon). The control room side had vision mixing from two Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E units and a number of Blackmagic Mini Converters. Recording was done with an SSD recorder with a SD DVCAM as a Backup.
We produced the broadcast programme by putting the HD-SDI feed through a Pipeline capture and playback device, and edited using Final Cut Pro. The end product needed to be in SD so a Blackmagic Up Down Cross Converter was used to feed a Digi Beta recorder. All the material passed BBC Technical check before transmission. We have also provided OB coverage for a number of specialist events requiring large screen coverage for audiences of up to 35,000 people.
What new technologies are you working with at the minute?
It has been the move to HD. My budget is very limited and I need to have kit that will allow me to be able to do broadcast work. Both in single camera, and OB, the Canon XF305 and 105 have been excellent providing superb quality of picture, and ease of recording onto CF Cards. Working with a small group of freelancers, we all have two of each camera’s.
With the OB side, the challenge was to fine a good, easy to use, and well-priced mixer, and the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E has fitted the bill perfectly. One of our two units is fitted in a 19inch Rack bag, which also has a 7inch HDMI monitor for preview, and an SVGA to HDMI Scalar for feeding computer inputs into the machine. Control of the mixer is with a small netbook, so the whole system, including two cameras can be loaded into a cart, and 2 people can move everything at once. Setup is about 15min and it has revolutionised our work.
What new products/technology are you looking forward to the most?
I would certainly like to see the cost of fibre come down the cost of connecting up in HDSDI is high, and conventional cable length is so limited. Also a much more affordable solid-state media in large capacities would be great.
During your career what has been the biggest “turning point” in terms of new technology?
The first was a move from U-Matic to Betacam SP. It seemed like another world! The second was the introduction of computer based editing. My first system was from FAST and I think cost about £27,000 with about 15 hours of storage! Nowadays systems have become so affordable but storage and backup is still a major issue. I sometimes crave the idea of “a tape on a shelf”
And the third was the explosion of HD. To have a complete HD rig all working to broadcast spec for a cost of about £13,000 is something I could only dream of. My single Beta SP Camera/recorder cost more than that.
What is your favourite / least favourite things about working in the industry?
I love the total variety of work and challenges. It can be a simple one-camera lecture one day and a multi camera OB for 35,000 people the next! I love seeing the reaction of school pupils when you show them the finished product about their part of the school, or their nativity play. It makes it all worthwhile
On the negative point, computer-editing systems drive me nuts. No matter whose system you use, there are far too many bugs! I am forever on forums looking for answers, and wish that especially in a new launch much more testing was done.