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A Look Inside BMG’s Live Production Toolbox

Mar 9, 2016

Every live production is different.

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Every live production is different.  That’s something we say and tell our clients repeatedly.  There is no magic formula and no one-size-fits-all solution.  But to be honest, that’s part of what makes live production so exciting.  Every project makes you think.  You have to develop a custom approach and figure out what resources will deliver your client – and their audience – the best possible outcome.  It’s like putting together a puzzle.  A really stressful puzzle.  Knowing that every job is different, there are still some resources that we’ve found ourselves turning to on several production projects.  Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite tools that we keep in our live production toolbox.

Marshall CV-340 POV Cameras:

We own several of Marshall’s CV-340 POV cameras and we’ve put them to good use.  We’ve found applications for these lipstick cameras in both large scale live productions and smaller multi-camera jobs.  The Marshall cams are small, versatile and their SD-HDI output makes them easy to integrate – we’ve plugged them directly into switchers and directly into production trucks.  They’re a great “set-it-and-forget-it” option and they provide unique perspectives from places that manned cameras can’t capture.  They also have interchangeable lenses to fit your needs.  We recently used these in Park City, UT for our work on Amazon’s “IMDb Asks: Live from Sundance” and during Epson’s “Swimming in Ink” event in Times Square. They’re the perfect, small-storage option for your live production toolbox.

Marshall POV, live production kit GoPro Hero 4’s:

The original POV camera.  We’ve integrated these into a few of our live productions (see the CBGB Music Fest in Times Square), but I’ll be honest – these can be VERY finicky in a live production environment (which is why we’ve turned to the Marshall cams).  GoPro’s are definitely not designed for broadcast applications, but with the appropriate power supply and converters, it can be done.  We like using GoPros as “wearable” cameras in a wireless application.  During the 100th episode live special of “Impractical Jokers”, each Joker planned to wear a chest-mounted GoPro for the ultimate POV perspective.  Unfortunately, once each Joker put on the chest-mount and harness, they felt the gear would inhibit their high-wire walk.

GoPro Hero 4, live production toolboxAJA Mini-Converters:

AJA makes a number of mini-converters that are very versatile and useful in a live production environment.  We like the AJA HA-5, which we use as a converter for our GoPros.  The only set-back is that each converter needs a power source, so make sure you have plenty of extension cords and gaffers tape.  And make sure you keep tabs on the power cord – especially on remote shoots – it’s not a universal power cord, so if you misplace it you’re hosed.  We’ve used AJA boxes on our recent work with Amazon, at the CBGB Music Fest and in some of our recent build-out projects.  AJA also has a great mobile app that will help you determine what type of converter you need based on your input and desired output.

AJA Mini Converter, live production toolBlackMagic Hyperdeck: 

Next in our live production toolbox is the BlackMagic Hyperdeck. BlackMagic Designs make a lot of great, professional grade gear that’s competitively priced.  For some of our field shoots, we like BlackMagic’s HyperDeck Studio Pro – an SSD-based recording deck.  The HyperDeck allows you record in a variety of formats and the Studio Pro has a number of inputs to choose from.  With dual SSD inputs, you can record continuously, so when one card is full, the HyperDeck with automatically continue to the next card.  Post-show, it’s easy to transfer footage to a laptop or external hard drive with an SSD card reader.

Black Magic Hyperdeck
LiveU LU-500:

It’s amazing how compact production gear has become – and what you can do with a good internet or cellular connection.  We recently used two of LiveU’s LU-500 backpack units as primary and back-up transmission sources during our work for Amazon in Park City.  The LU-500 allows you to transmit out through an internet connection, or – if bandwidth is limited – via bonded cellular.  The caveat for both options, of course, is that you have access to strong connections.  For rental units, each backpack unit comes with a receiver to pick up your outbound signal.  You can also use the LU-500 to stream directly to the web.  And stay tuned – LiveU is about to announce a new satellite transmission option for situations when your internet or cellular access is limited.

Live-U LU500

LTN Leaf FlyPack:

LTN’s Leaf FlyPack is another great video-over-IP transmission option in the event a satellite truck isn’t feasible.  The Leaf unit – available for both purchase and rental – comes with 2 HD paths in and 2 out (note that LTN recommends a 10MBps dedicated internet connection).  The unit also comes in a 35lb. carry-on case which makes it very transportable and easy to setup.  We used an LTN unit as our primary transmission source during our work with Yahoo at New York Fashion Week and we’ve also integrated LTN in some of our recent build-out projects.

LTN Leaf Flypack, live video production
EVS IP Director:

For our larger live productions in which we’re working from a production truck and shooting with double-digit camera units, we’ve developed a live-to-drive recording workflow, thanks in part to EVS’s IP Director.  We record all sources directly to the truck’s EVS and – using IP Director – directly to our own external hard drives in real time.  When the show is done, content is available to walk within 30-45 minutes (once all the recording sources have been verified).  The mobile unit needs at least a 10-gig network and – of course, IP Director – in order for this process to work efficiently, which not every mobile unit has.  This workflow setup allows us to record a primary source on each drive and also a back-up copy on the truck’s EVS giving us full redundancy.  We’re able to give our client’s all record sources in the appropriate format and coded almost immediately after the show.  We’ve used this recording setup for our work on PBS’s “America After Charleston” and “America After Ferguson”, which was a great option given the quick turn-around of the edit.

EVS IP Director

No Comments
  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2018-03-07 21:55:41

    We're glad you found this to be useful, Margaux. Let us know if there's anything we can help with.

  • Margaux Ford Reply
    2018-03-07 05:57:06

    I appreciate the tips on hiring a production staffing company to have more time to focus on the creative aspects of the project. Hiring a production crew is a tedious task, and can take up much of your time. We're currently working on a huge production, and I'll share this article with my boss so he'll consider on delegating the recruitment to a staffing company. I like that you mentioned that staffing company can ensure to have the right team onboard for the project. Thanks!

  • Robert McWilliams Reply
    2017-10-31 19:05:18

    Todd:I have an ad agency in addition to our production company. We put one of our clients on OTT two months ago up in Nevada. Seems to be working!Thanks again for the work earlier this month.Rob

  • Nicole Rohde Reply
    2017-05-27 22:28:45

    Hey Andrew, Any word as to whether or not the Jokers will be back for Comic Con this year? Please let me know. Thanks!!!

  • Aaron Estabrook Reply
    2017-02-23 16:26:57

    I'll be tuning in for sure!

  • David Patton Reply
    2015-01-16 13:16:02

    Interesting blog post Andrew. For those who are nearly ready to cut the cord, but still want access to key channels such as ESPN, I'd recommend checking out Dish Network's new service, Sling TV. It provides access to a handful of channels for $20/month.https://gigaom.com/2015/01/15/sling-tv-details-price-devices-networks-resolution-bandwidth/

  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2015-01-13 14:44:19

    Go for it! I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive about pulling the plug at first, but honestly, the transition away from DirecTV has been seamless. The only missing link is live sports, but there are a few work arounds depending on what sports you watch. Good luck!

  • Gregory Hart Reply
    2015-01-13 06:35:00

    While I am part of the 55 year old demographic that still has TV boxes and does TV viewing, I do my viewing using DVRs and networked PCs playing video files from an in-home server. I too have noticed that I view a handful of shows on a regular basis and have found various other sources for these shows. And now it has gotten to the point to where I am seriously considering ending my very long relationship with DirecTV and going streaming. Working in the TV industry also helped to open eyes to this as well. This transition from "old" TV is coming and the networks (Les Moonves, I am looking at you!) had better plan for it.

  • Gary Reply
    2013-08-08 09:44:39

    You've left out a HUGE part of this story by not mentioning Howard Stern's effect on the Sharknado buzz! #siris-ly

  • Marybeth Harrison Reply
    2013-08-07 14:46:29

    I can almost hear the theme song from Jaws as I read your post!