Our Director of Photography, Danny Etheridge, who has been involved in lots of Shine productions, suggested testing out filming on smartphones – they now shoot in brilliant quality and offer a covert way of filming. We also looked at small cameras for enclosed areas like homes or work spaces. And then when the thieves are out in public, we looked at using surveillance vans that we could shoot long lens from.
These were all great ways of shooting but by doing that, having numerous different cameras and people all filming different segments of the thieves’ daily lives, meant that as a production team we were really removed from the storytelling. As an example, on Hunted, there’s one person who shoots each fugitive, so they know what the narrative is. But with the Heist, there were numerous people shooting – with no Producer Director taking ownership over that thief’s story.
After speaking with BT’s Media and Broadcast Division, LiveU and their UK Partner Garland Partners (who also provided support), we decided we’d try and use LiveU to send images from both our cameras and phones back to a story producer who could then see everything that was going on and could therefore oversee the story as we went along. By using BT’s new M2M SIM cards for their 4G network, this allowed the data traffic to operate above the normal consumer 4G capacity at significantly faster speeds. Thanks to this great connectivity the story producer could see everything that the Thieves were doing, therefore producing the narrative as they went along.
We created what we think is the world’s first low-res broadcast gallery. All the smartphones and Canon 205 cameras we used were streaming back to the temporary gallery we had built, using either LiveU’s LU-Smart app or a hardware unit, and via LiveU servers. There were 20 video feeds and 40 audio feeds.
We capped all the LiveU streams at 1 Mbps as these weren’t for on-air use at all, rather purely as an editorial tool. As well as being able to view the relevant images, the story producers could also use LiveU’s IFB talkback capabilities to communicate with camera operators when required. This created a seamless workflow. It was about us being able to watch content happen in real-time over a 4G network to create the story. It was very cost-effective too.
It worked brilliantly. We were in the Yorkshire Moors, with its fairly poor mobile coverage, but with the LiveU bonded technology we always had connection.
We are now looking at extending our use of LiveU across other formats – 100 per cent we are. I think we are now in a technological age where we can think, what programmes can we base around this technology, rather than the other way around. Satellite trucks are hugely expensive but now we don’t need them – or certainly don’t need them as much. We have the ability to have live links all around the world at a cost that would have seemed unimaginably low even recently. It is a new era of entertainment television that we are entering. This technology makes the future of TV programmes very, very exciting.