TV-BAY Magazine Issue 75

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Live production for multi-platform delivery by Steve Burgess, technical director, Megahertz Broadcast Systems L ive event television, whether it is sport or music and entertainment, has always made serious demands of production technology. At Megahertz Broadcast Systems we have been building outside broadcast trucks for some of the world’s most demanding customers, for more than 25 years, so we can perhaps help the conversation by talking about some of our experiences. A common factor that characterises virtually all of the trucks we have built is that they will be used for a number of different applications, so flexibility in design is absolutely critical. One day a truck might be at a sports ground, needing super slo-mo cameras and instant access to large numbers of replays; the next it might be at a concert where high quality audio monitoring is paramount. Technical and production control for these different styles of operation needs to be accomplished within the confines of a vehicle. Even in the largest of trucks, with double or triple expanding sides, space is still critically limited, so there is no possibility of building in every feature and just using the ones needed. All the space has to earn its keep, so the physical design has to allow operational areas and the hardware that supports them to be changed as required. But that is not the only set of parameters defining the physical layout of the unit. Most obviously, it has to stay within the maximum legal limit for its class of vehicle, whether that is a trailer or a rigid truck. Not only is the weight limited, but it has to be reasonably well balanced or the truck will become unstable on the move, and difficult to level on site. The final set of design requirements for the layout is that there has to be good sightlines, so that everyone can see the monitors they need to see, operators can see the director, and so on. The audio area of the truck has to be, as far as possible, acoustically isolated so the sound supervisor is not distracted by other noises, and the relatively high monitoring level does not distract other staff. Given the pressure of a live broadcast, the staff need to be as comfortable as possible. That means maintaining a steady temperature and a quiet environment for the operators, keeping the power-hungry equipment in a separate technical area where the noisy air conditioning will not disturb anyone. This list of physical requirements has been around since the beginning of the outside broadcast, and engineers have continually juggled with them. As equipment became smaller and less power-hungry, production teams found the need for more of it. Where once a four-camera unit was the limit, now outside broadcast trucks are built to support 24 cameras or more routinely. That, in turn, means more replay channels and more motion graphics to link in and out of the replays. So we need an even bigger production switcher. Multiple outputs Perhaps because of this increasing complexity in the core equipment, the ability to support multiple outputs, rather than just a single feed, has been common for some time. At its simplest, the unit might be required to deliver a clean feed – just the pictures and effects audio – as well as the finished programme, including graphics and commentary. At a sports event there might be an international feed and a domestic feed, with the latter featuring cutaways to 54 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BAY075MAR13.indd 54 11/03/2013 16:52