The right Rig.
As a professional production company, we’re always trying to improve our workflow. And over the years we’ve tried hundreds of different kinds of set-ups to deliver efficient and reliable live streaming events. The challenge is to have a balance between flexibility, reliability and portability. In our job, the goalposts are constantly moving and you have to be ready for whatever request clients send our way. Nowadays, thanks to the technological advancements in video production, we’re able to deliver the same broadcast quality result with only a handful of road-cases. Only a few years ago this would’ve been the equivalent to a multi-million dollar broadcast truck.
The improvement in production software and the ability to efficiently run amazing apps on super-fast computers has been the difference. We no longer need to lug around countless heavy rack-units, signal processors and then a backup of all of the above, when it can all be run on a $4,000 laptop.
That's why over the past twelve months we’ve spent a lot of R&D on building a new and improved live production workflow centred around a high powered computer system that can handle more than 20 HD video sources. That includes traditional camera’s, PTZ cameras, remote callers such as Skype, vMix call or FaceTime. It can also have multiple graphics generators feeding information from Facebook comments, lower thirds, ticker tapes or presentation slides. The logistics of having a system being able to handle data inputs from this amount of sources a few years ago would have rivalled a full-scale TV studio. But in the last year or so a technology has emerged that has become the bridge between information and video networks. That technology is NDI. Network Digital Interface will be covered in another blog but we're prepared to state that NDI is the biggest disruptor to video since YouTube.
Along with the ingestion of information NDI also plays a role in redundancy for our traditional camera inputs. In the very unlikely scenario where the traditional SDI (Serial Digital Interface) network fails, the NDI network can deliver high definition video to the PC switcher. Previously if we had a hardware switcher fail, the same switcher would need to be replaced, everything would need to be re-configured and re-calibrated. With our new system, the two networks are constantly operating in parallel with each other. So if one network fails the other is in-place to activate right away. This saves a ton of time, resources and stress to get things back on track.
Speaking of time, having 7 devices all connected and powered has cut our set-up time in half. This allows us more time to work on things like colour matching camera’s, testing client's laptops with presentation slides, setting up lower thirds or titles and more. Having a tried and tested portable little studio is proving to be a huge asset to our quality control and workflow efficiencies.
With the first stage of our new live production rig finished, we will continue to enhance our set-up with improved power management, sensor controlled cooling and a permanent 1RU audio mixer rather than using the SoundDevices MixPre which is a great little portable field mixer.