Everybody could be a contributor

Everybody could be a contributor

By October 27th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

What you see is what you get - a Mobile Broadcast video-still at 2 Mbit/s

TV pundits and contributors are not an American invention – in fact, interviewing individuals with extensive knowledge on a subject is as old as TV itself. But the US media apparatus sure managed to inflate the use of ‘opinion’ journalism in TV broadcasting. Experts on politics, economics, industry, science, social & cultural studies, sports… Everybody seems to have something to contribute and ‘joining us now’ might already be the most used phrase in all TV history (especially since a 24h news cycle came to be the standard operating procedure). People are joining ‘via satellite’, ‘via radio relay systems’, ‘via telephone’ and increasingly also ‘live via broadband’. Broadband internet seems to be the long awaited low-cost substitute to telephone uplinks. After all it is a good thing to hear – but naturally it’s a whole different thing if you can also see what’s going on.

But this new low-end option does not come without a downside. TV producers are put into a dichotomy. For a quick bootleg they can either go with reliable but often dull telephone feeds (visualized with more or less appropriate still photos and archive footage), or they can use a magnified low-res video feed that is often unstable and generally not pretty to view in full-screen. Needless to say, this modest impression is further exacerbated by the lack of proper lighting and camera gear on the contributor’s side.

Tinkering time

But after all, there obviously seem to be plenty of opportunities where an additional outside voice would be helpful, but in many cases SNG uplinks are either not available at short notice or just not within the production’s budget. So in order to get the first images from location to the studio, tinkering is often the only way to go. Sometimes video-phone feeds (e.g. Skype) are grabbed off the receiving computer’s screen and relayed at reduced quality and heightened latency. At the IBC 2011 a Norwegian TV producer mentioned one of their recent pieces, where the camera operator used duct tape to mount an Iphone 4g to a full-size DVCAM in order to preserve his way of handling the gear and add some stability to the otherwise too wiggly image coming from the camera-phone. He then made use of an iphone app that streamed the feed over the location’s wifi network into the studio. “The pictures were rather bad, but it gave us time until the SNG was set up”, she summarized.

So the question we have been pondering is: If producers are ready to go to such lengths in order to have an alternative to the existing SNG infrastructure, why don’t they look for a well-rounded solution? We hope it is simply a matter of awareness. After all there is at least one practical way to quickly get decent quality images into the studio over the internet.