When it comes to field production and broadcasting government events, there are major considerations producers have to abide by including the broadcast channel’s mission, the equipment that determines the ease of a field production and the budget.
James Trotter, Riverside GTV director, works the production truck switcher. Photo courtesy of Riverside GTV
If the producer is a public, education or government (PEG) channel, the audience for that channel is going to be the residents of the designated broadcast area—which usually ranges from a county to a school campus—and the content is going to reflect the viewers’ needs.
Riverside Government Television (Riverside GTV), of Riverside, Calif., is such a PEG channel and it has been producing field broadcasts for years, but it is only recently that the channel has acquired a field truck that has made live shoots possible, as well as cut the time it takes to broadcast an event, say Riverside GTV officials.
Riverside GTV staff are veterans at conducting electronic news gathering, but some production—especially for a broadcast magazine—were contracted out, said Scott Brosious, the channel’s senior communications technician. Before acquiring the production truck Riverside GTV only conducted multi-camera shoots for the biggest events in the city such as a holiday decoration light show that features 500,000 lights, and attracts 50,000 viewers, he said.
To broadcast the light show, the crew would set up “all types of gear, and run several cables,” taking “a day to set up,” Brosious said. “If the shoot had more than one camera we’d have to shoot it and take it back to the studio where we edited it all together; now we can do all that stuff with the flick of a switch,” he said. With the new truck, all that is required now is to “just park the truck nearby, pull the Copperhead cables out, and you’re done,” he said. With the truck, Riverside GTV has “gone from an all-day shoot to a couple of hours shoot,” he added. Now, when it comes to producing remote shots the channel is “shooting live, and the moment the event is over we’re done.”
The truck—produced by Frontline Communications of Clearwater, Fla.—is used for all of Riverside GTV’s field productions including high-school and college athletic events, parades, and the mayor’s State of the City address, said Austin Carter, the channels’ media production manager. From the city’s perspective, it enriches the residents of Riverside for GTV to cover those events, and a studio production van, with the switcher inside, makes that easier, he added. In addition, what helped with obtaining the funds to purchase the van is that it is also going to be used to broadcast information during an emergency if needed, Carter said. “If some emergency happens, we’ll be able to broadcast it live, so it fits into our emergency operations plan,” he added.
Broadcast Pix’s Granite 500
The switcher in GTV’s van is Broadcast Pix’s Granite 500, which is designed for tight spaces, or small crews, said Paul Lara, the company’s director of marketing. The Granite 500 provides a multiview monitor that can spread out across four monitors, enabling the user to set up displays of the inputs, outputs, keys and clips in a manner that makes sense either in the truck or if you want to consolidate that down to just one or two monitors. “It’s completely customizable on a per show basis,” he said.
However, a major benefit—especially for PEG channels—is that the Granite 500’s integration feature means so much can be done by just one operator, according to Lara. The Granite 500 has been integrated into a Harris generator; it has integrated clip store and animation player, so the user can call up camera presets, or clips and roll them from the Granite’s panel, he said. Those abilities add to the switcher’s “broad versatility,” he said. The standard Granite switcher frame has 11 inputs, and by adding another row that can grow the 22 inputs, he said. “In terms of how big a show that is being covered, just about anything can be handled with that,” he added.
But the Granite 500 switcher is not the only equipment included in Riverside GTV’s truck produced by Frontline. The production truck also contains four JVC GY-HM790 cameras—with Fujinon lenses—that are connected over the Copperhead fiber systems, Brosious said.
PORTACAST MOBILE STUDIO
For government broadcasters in search of field production equipment, there is also Mobile Studios, of Boca Raton, Fla., which is a manufacturer and integrator of portable live video production systems including HD and SD flypacks for the broadcast industry, educational institutions, government and production companies.
Among the clients Mobile Studios has supplied equipment for, is the U.S. House of Representatives, which has a PortaCast Mobile Studio, says Rich Rubin, the company’s president. The PortaCast Mobile Studio is “one of our larger systems,” he added, and it is used for field production in that they are rolled from hearing room to hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building, to cover all the committee hearings.
Mobile Studios’ PortaCast Mobile Studio
Why the House broadcast staff uses a PortaCast Mobile Studio is it is fully equipped with a switcher [client ’s choice], monitors, intercom and additional gear as needed for broadcast quality HD/SD production, Rubin said. The system features Mobile Studio’s unique hinged flip-top [patent pending] with recessed LCD displays to reduce glare. All the components are shock mounted using heavy duty aircraft grade materials and protected by high impact foam. Only three feet by two feet by two feet when closed, PortaCast Mobile Studio can be transported in a sports utility vehicle, and heavyduty wheels and brakes provide roll-in, roll-out convenience, according to the company.
Various interfaces have been added and given the capability of using a fiber interface, or patch panels, it is “very easy to connect,” Rubin said. The system is rolled in, the cameras are hooked up, and it is broadcasting within minutes. “It’s all integrated with audio mixers, so essentially it becomes a full-featured remote studio; everything you would find in a studio you’ll find in this fly pack,” he said.
REMO REMOTE PRODUCTION SYSTEM
For other PEG broadcasters needing a system that supports multi-camera location video production on a budget, there is the REMO Remote Production System produced by RUSHWORKS, of Flower Mound, Texas. RUSHWORKS is a provider of integrated media solutions designed to increase productivity, profitability and a return-on-investment (ROI), and its REMO system is small enough to place in the trunk or back seat of a car thereby increasing ROI by eliminating the cost of renting a production truck, the company says.
RUSHWORKS REMO Remote Production System
D allas, which has 10 PEG channels, annually broadcasts over 30 “off site” events including town hall meetings, public benefits, charity auctions, parades, political debates and other civic functions. For each event, a multi-camera production truck, and a crew that included a producer, director, technical director, audio technician and four camera operators would be contracted.
H owever, members of the city’s production staff discovered the REMO system, and arranged a demonstration of the system for city officials. Because the system uses pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras with nine presets per camera, the operator just sets up the cameras on lightweight telescoping stands and creates presets that cover the entire venue with up to 36 shots that are saved and named on each preset button. The system supports file and graphic playback, lower third “supers” that can be linked to specific presets for automatic shot “take and title” and real-time streaming. They are encoded to the host system as MPEG-2, AVI and WMV, or in all three formats. With a single operator functioning as producer, director, technical director and operator of four cameras, the cost of hiring the field crew could also be eliminated, according to RUSHWORKS.
A common feature among the equipment used for field production is its ease of use. “It saves us time, and we’re able to do things now that we never were able to do before,” Brosious said.