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Engage! TV - AV on the move

Having the best possible source material for an av production means that wherever a programme goes out, it will still be of the highest quality. this basic technology principle has guided Gerbrand oudenaarden, managing producer at Dutch av facilities company Engage! in his equipment choices.

Gerbrand Oudenaarden started Engage! 15 years ago, originally as a working name for his freelance activities in IT and video.

In the last five years, the company’s activities have moved into multi-cam- era production for presentations, con- certs and most recently, providing facilities for internal TV programmes to major clients, notably ProRail - the Dutch government agency that main- tains the nation’s national railway network.

In the early days of Engage!’s work in webcasting, Oudenaarden says there was no option but to use non- broadcast standard equipment to keep within budgets. “Now, with Blackmagic Design opening up a rev- olution in affordable AV solutions, we can use the kind of technology used in broadcast television production,” he says. “That’s good because we also need to work to the broadcast standard and produce programmes at the high- est possible level.”

Oudenaarden says more AV clients are now asking for high definition, but in general, most are not too concerned with the intricacies of technology, as long as the end result looks good. This, combined with the need to adapt to dif- ferent locations and situations, led Engage! to modify its outside broadcast systems.

To do this Oudenaarden started plan- ning for a new compact flyaway pack- age: “The decision to change my workflow and the way I worked was easy,” he says. “I no longer wanted to be sitting away from my clients or from the event itself, holed away in an OB van outside the venue in the car park. I wanted to be in the heart of the action with my creative and technical teams, working together on a project alongside our clients,” he says.

Oudenaarden worked with Blackmagic Design reseller Utrecht- based The Future Store to create some- thing that would be well suited to location production and could be set up either inside or outside a venue and connected to multiple cameras within minutes.

The result was MR-02 (mobile recording number two), an HD OB sys- tem in a flight case: A Blackmagic Design ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher, ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel for controlling and mixing multi- ple cameras, HyperDeck Studio SSD recording and play-back station, Com- pact Videohub with Smart Control for routing, OpenGear Converter Sync Generator, DeckLink Duo capture and playback cards, and a SmartView Duo rack-mounted monitor.

Engage! had been using various Blackmagic Design products before, but the most exciting solution in Oude- naarden’s view was the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher. Delivered in April 2012, it forms the hub of the company’s flyaway system.

Oudenaarden explains that MR-02 was designed to be connected to up to 16 video sources, creating multiple mixes for webcasting, video projection, plasma screen display and live record- ing. Having products with the capabil- ity to produce stings and transitions was important as it provides access to the latest features for broadcasting to tele- vision, web or mobile devices.

Centre of the action

“Now that we have built this mobile studio, we can offer work in smaller venues where it was impossible to have an OB vehicle,” Oudenaarden says. “All wiring was done internally so there is no fussing about when I get to a job. I am at the centre of the action and on hand for my clients if any issues crop up. I enjoy the job a lot more because I get a better sense of the atmosphere at an event.”

Since going into service, MR-02 has been used for a variety of productions, including a performance at the Utrecht Conservatory and the 2012 Peace of Utrecht Concert in the city’s Dom Church. The Peace of Utrecht Concert is an annual event, and to ensure every- one in the venue can see the acts, large video screens are placed at strategic points in the church as well as outside.

A crucial element in a production like this is ensuring synchronisation between lip movement in the on-screen images and the sound. “Latency was probably one of our biggest concerns. Supplying a video feed for the large plasma screens, we had to make sure that there was no delay in what the audience saw or heard on stage,” Oude- naarden comments. “To have latency on a project like that would be a disas- ter, so using the Blackmagic Design OpenGear Sync Generator kept my mind at ease that the signal was genlocked.”

At the core of Engage!’s mobile set- up is the Blackmagic Design ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher with an ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel. Oude- naarden uses one ATEM M/E for con- trolling, mixing and placing lower third graphics with the DSK on a live feed for the audience viewing screens, while the other works exclusively on the web- casting of productions.

Oudenaarden was impressed by the range of features on the ATEM range, particularly for the price: “I really like the audio embedding feature, AUX buses to connect the signal to our plasma screens, using the chroma key and luma key for titles, DVE for pic- ture-in-picture mode, and now, I’m really looking forward to Super- Source,” he says.

The HyperDeck Studio was used for both back-up recording and video play- out, while DeckLink Duo capture cards, in conjunction with encoding computers, converted the broadcast video signal to H.264 and distributed it through a third party streaming server for webcasting.

“We built our mobile studio with Blackmagic Design products because it’s a brand that we can rely on for sup- port and innovative product develop- ment,” Oudenaarden comments. “The products are always of good quality and allow us to work with high quality broadcasting standards without breaking the bank.”

Because MR-02 is a flyaway system in a large flight case, Engage! is not tied to working from a van. Usually the equipment is set up in the venue, either at the side of the stage or in a nearby room. “It just makes everything more flexible,” Oudenaarden says.

New feeling

This flexibility proved invaluable for Engage!’s work with ProRail. The Dutch railway infrastructure agency wanted to produce a series of talk shows rounding up the latest corporate news to be streamed on the company ntranet, as well as a dedicated You- Tube channel. Like Engage!, ProRail has its headquarters in Utrecht, but the programmes, under the title ProRail Live, were broadcast from the client’s regional office in Rotterdam.

“I really like this production because it was something new,” comments Oudenaarden. “Usually we’re at an event doing live video, but in this case it was a lot more like a TV production. And it was new to the ProRail staff who traditionally got most of their informa- tion about what was happening in the company from conventional newsletters.” The programmes were compiled and produced by ProRail’s communications department, with Engage! providing technical support and facilities. ProRail Live proved so successful that there is the possibility of a further eight shows during 2013.

“Webcasts are a growing market, and I’m pretty sure a talk show like this is incredibly effective in reaching a large number of people at the same time,” Oudenaarden observes. Blackmagic Design is noted for pro- ducing broadcast standard equipment based on the latest technology at competitive prices. Oudenaarden says this policy has been particularly significant
for the AV sector: “Until a few years ago, doing something like ProRail Live would have involved the client hiring a TV studio and facilities, which were incredibly expensive. Now we can make the programme in their own offices with a tech- nical crew of only five, including three camera operators. It’s intelligent use of the latest equipment.”

Oudenaarden sees the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel combination as a complete HD studio, which can be used anywhere without compromising on quality.

MR-02 and Engage! look set for a busy 2013. As well as ProRail Live, the concert to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht in April will be a major project for 2013 both the flyaway system and the company. The event will be attended by Queen Beat- rix, along with ambassadors from round the world.

Proceedings will be shown on 12 plasma screens inside and a large LED screen for the crowd outside. In addition, Engage! will be providing television feeds for local and national broadcasters. With some understatement, Gerbrand Oudenaarden describes it as “one of our bigger projects for this year”.

Source: AV Interactive. Download PDF