Useful Tips to Reduce Outside Broadcasting Costs

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Outside Broadcast

Introduction:

Outdoor broadcasting is often seen as a highly specialized filming endeavor, conjuring images of a small truck brimming with equipment, leading to the assumption that it’s beyond the financial reach of individuals or small teams. However, there are numerous strategies to cut down on field production costs and lighten the load. In the following discussion, we will offer some practical tips and overall planning advice aimed at reducing the financial burden of field production.

What is Outdoor Broadcasting?

Outdoor broadcasting (OB) refers to the production of television or radio programs at locations away from the studio. Instead of broadcasting from a fixed studio, equipment, and facilities are set up on-site to capture and transmit live events. This can include sports events, concerts, news coverage, or any other live activity that requires immediate broadcasting.

The key components of OB include mobile production units, essentially mobile studios equipped with cameras, audio equipment, monitors, and other tools needed for live production. These units are typically installed in trucks or trailers that can be quickly deployed to various locations.

Broadcasts from studios and professional live streams usually offer more stable internet connections, reducing the chance of equipment failure and providing more control over the elements. However, when broadcasting outdoors, the situation changes. Whether it’s live video, pre-recorded video, or footage for social media platforms, outdoor broadcasting and streaming must be handled correctly to achieve the best results.

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Specific Tasks Involved in OB:

  • System setup and integration: OB engineers set up and integrate technical equipment in the OB van, such as cameras, audio equipment, video switchers, graphics systems, and other broadcasting devices.
  • Technical troubleshooting: During the live broadcast, OB engineers must quickly identify and resolve technical issues. This requires a strong understanding of the equipment and the ability to troubleshoot under time-sensitive and high-pressure conditions.
  • Camera operation and control: OB engineers operate and control cameras for live broadcasting. They adjust camera settings like color balance and exposure to ensure high-quality camera inputs.
  • Audio management: Engineers oversee audio setups, including configuring microphones, managing audio levels, and resolving sound quality issues. They work closely with audio engineers to achieve optimal audio performance.
  • Video switching: OB engineers use video switchers to smoothly transition between different video sources during live production. They follow the director’s instructions and switch between shots.
  • Graphics and replay operations: OB engineers may operate graphics systems to display graphics on screen and manage replay systems for instant replays during sports events.

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Common Equipment Found in an OB Van:

Equipment inside an OB van can vary depending on the specific requirements of the production, the technical complexity, and the size of the truck or van. Here are some of the common equipment that you can find in an OB van.

      

  • Multiple Cameras: High-quality broadcast cameras, including handheld, studio, or streaming cameras of various types. Streaming cameras are favored by professional creators for their efficient transmission with social media platforms

    The number of cameras depends on the complexity of the production, but it’s important to note that they need to support multi-camera shooting. Typically, there are three positions, each with 4-6 cameras. 

    Powerful zoom capabilities help capture images from more angles, presenting characters in the frame more clearly.

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  • Camera Control Units (CCU): Devices used to control various camera parameters, such as color balance, exposure, and focus.
  • Video monitors: Multiple monitors for staff to monitor different video sources, preview graphics, and ensure overall production quality.
  • Microphones: Various types of microphones for capturing ambient sound, interviews, and commentary.
  • Audio mixers: Devices used to mix and control audio from various sources, including microphones, ambient sound, and other audio inputs.
  • Graphics and character generators: Systems for creating and displaying on-screen graphics, including overlays, lower thirds, and other visual elements.

 In addition to these more “obvious” items, we must not forget power distribution, lighting equipment, transmission equipment (satellite uplink/downlink systems), generators, air conditioning/climate control (to prevent sensitive equipment from overheating), and racks and mounts (for organizing and securing equipment).

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Operational Guidance During the Process

1. Considerations for a Thoughtful Production Plan:

  • Collaborative Pre-Event Discussions: It might be beneficial to gather the production team for a collaborative session before the event to align on the broadcast’s vision. This could involve thoughtful deliberation on camera positions, lens choices, and the overarching narrative that will guide the visual and auditory presentation of the event.
  • Crafting a Narrative: One might consider how the director could weave a narrative that resonates with the event’s essence and meets audience expectations. This could involve identifying focal points that will effectively convey the event’s story, such as highlighting pivotal matches in a sports broadcast or spotlighting standout performances in a concert.
  • Capturing Moments That Matter: It may be prudent to prioritize the capture of significant moments that encapsulate the essence of the event, ensuring these highlights are shared with the audience.
  • Efficient Personnel Deployment: It could be advantageous to strategically assign roles and provide training well in advance. This ensures that each team member is well-prepared to perform their tasks efficiently, potentially reducing the need for extensive oversight.

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2. Enhancing Quality Through Technical Insight:

  • Assessing Technical Capabilities: It’s worth considering the technical capabilities and constraints of your equipment to ensure seamless execution. Opting for the best available equipment within budget constraints can lead to more economical and effective use.
  • Upholding Signal Integrity: Keeping a close eye on the technical parameters like video and audio quality could help in maintaining high broadcast standards, even within the limits of current hardware.
  • Optimizing Network Reliability: For a smooth live streaming experience, a stable and swift internet connection is key. It’s often recommended to have an upload speed that supports the demands of live video streaming, typically around 2-5 Mbps.

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  • Meticulous Location Scouting: A thorough pre-shoot reconnaissance of the location might help in anticipating and mitigating any potential issues, thereby minimizing unforeseen disruptions and associated costs.
  • Weather Preparedness: It could be wise to monitor weather forecasts closely as they can significantly impact various aspects of the production. Having contingency plans in place for inclement weather conditions could prove invaluable in ensuring the shoot’s success under diverse circumstances.

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Macro-Optimization Strategies

1. Make long-term, detailed plans.

A needs analysis will analyze your mobile broadcasting setup to determine how it meets your external needs, thereby helping you invest in the best infrastructure and maximize your return on investment

Developing a long-term technology investment roadmap is crucial for the success of outdoor broadcasting. Consider how the technology aligns with your business goals and ensure it can meet your growing needs and changing industry trends. Make sure not to overlook potential budget and resource constraints.

2. Reduce the production scale, weight, and complexity of equipment

Equipping your mobile production unit with multifunctional, compact equipment can reduce the size and weight of video flypacks and OB vans, helping to lower operating costs. Smaller, lighter equipment is easier to transport, cheaper, consumes less power, and has lower cooling requirements. 

Reducing volume and complexity means easier installation and dismantling, while multifunctional devices simplify inventory management. 

Hyper-converged infrastructure (such as Ultrix) integrates video processing and routing, consolidating multiple functions into a unified hardware platform. Hyper-converged devices eliminate the need for bulky equipment while allowing you to easily reconfigure functions.

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3. Simplify and automate production workflows 

You don’t need to control the entire production or broadcasting workflow to benefit from automation. You can implement as much process automation as possible within your sphere of influence and reduce your workload. 

Use modular infrastructure and equipment when building OB vans and video Flypack systems, allowing you to scale up production without significant upfront investment.

 With a modular design framework, you can start with a basic setup and gradually upgrade your system as finances allow. Software-defined infrastructure replaces traditional hardware with software-supported functions, reducing production costs by minimizing hardware dependency.



Conclusion:

Outdoor broadcasting is more accessible than often perceived. We are hoping that our blog can be of some help and make outside broadcasting an affordable reality. This progress is a key value in tech development and aligns with our brand’s vision to broaden the reach of live broadcasting.

 

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