Many TV stations produce and broadcast a long-form live non-news live event once a year or so. The event may be an annual parade, live coverage of a 4thof July or national sports championship celebration, or a regular local program occasionally produced on location. Typically, such shows are electronic field production (EFP) events, produced primarily with electronic news gathering (ENG) gear.
The difference between EFP and ENG styles is that most live ENG news events are shot with a single camera and switched on a production switcher back at the station’s studio, where graphics, b-roll, replays and commercials are inserted. Most live EFP events use multiple cameras switched on-location, with graphics, b-roll and replays inserted on-location, usually inside a production vehicle or trailer. Typically, such events are relayed to a station via microwave or satellite. More recently, some are backhauled to the studio with a bonded cellular platform.
Delay? What delay?
At most EFP-style productions, cameras usually are connected to the switcher by microwave, copper or fiber optics, with negligible delay. The additive delay of digital production gear and satellite or bonded cellular backhauls usually isn’t a problem as long as the on-mic talent hears a mix-minus feed in his or her IFB or headset.
What may happen when you mix certain new EFP and ENG styles can impact the basic rules of television production. I recently experienced this phenomenon while directing and switching a two-day Offshore Speed Series (OSS) powerboat race in HDTV at the Lake of the Ozarks, MO. Our plan was to make our limited-budget teleproduction match the beauty of the big-budget boats on the racecourse.
Aural race coverage was broadcast on KRMS Radio, Osage Beach, MO, and the HDTV feed was simulcast on KRBK-TV FOX49 in Springfield, MO. For broadcast television, we used a Dejero platform to backhaul the HD-SDI and analog audio outputs of our temporary studio to KRBK’s master control, approximately 90mi away. Half the commercials were inserted on-location; the other half were inserted locally at the radio and TV broadcast studios. We dialed in a 10-second delay on the backhaul to KRBK, so the station's master control operator could accurately countdown to local commercial breaks.
I’ve directed and switched several powerboat races, but they were all one boat at a time, with each boat individually competing for top speed across a finish line that was outfitted with special radar guns. Single boat races were relatively simple to direct and switch. Cameras tracked a lone boat speeding down the course, followed by a couple of minutes of replays, stats and color stories while the next boat staged for its run. The action was easy to follow, and camera output delays weren’t an issue if all cameras were delayed equally.
The OSS race was more like a NASCAR event. There were multiple world-class powerboats on an oval racecourse simultaneously at speeds up to approximately 175 MPH, with some lapping others. We had three cameras set up on condo balconies along the 2.5mi course, each connected to the control room by Wi-Fi using Dejero bonded cellular platforms. We chose to use the Wi-Fi connection in lieu of cellular because there were only two cell towers in the area, and spectators numbering in the tens of thousands were expected on race days. We had line-of sight from all camera positions, and a Wi-Fi repeater alleviated distance concerns.