Outside broadcasting refers to the operation of production and live transmission of news, sports live entertainment and anything else that cannot be produced in a studio
In order for broadcasters to produce and transmit live events that take place outside a studio. They require OB vans or trucks, which are basically mini studios on wheels.
Outside broadcasting is used in a variety of different situations, and the type of programming is dependent on what the channel covers. For instance news channels would use outside broadcasting to cover live breaking news and events. This is perhaps touted as the easiest and most common outside broadcast.
"How much you need will depend upon the application. A news unit will often be a relatively small van designed for one or two operators, with simple facilities to balance a few sound sources and switch between a handful of cameras. Typically it will have its own uplink satellite dish on the roof, making it completely self-contained," says Burgess.
So, what equipment is actually used in broadcast trucks to facilitate smooth broadcasts?
"The obvious answer is the same equipment as is used for studio broadcasting: cameras, production switchers, routing and signal processing, graphics, video servers; microphones, audio mixing and effects.
The slightly fuller answer is that an outside broadcast can often be an extremely complex production, requiring more equipment than a typical studio show. A sports game will often have a very large number of cameras – 24 or more for high profile events – and most if not all of them will need to be independently recorded on a video server network, to be available for instant replay.
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"A major music festival might have a number of bands performing in close succession, so the audio facilities will need to be able to cope with a large number of microphones and feeds, with automation on the mixer to help the engineer reset the console between acts," says Kuhnen.
Miranda manufactures a suite of products that are purpose built for outside broadcast, says Cohen. "Telecast fibre connectivity products provide a lightweight, easy to deploy solution for carrying signals from cameras and microphones back to the control room in the OB vehicle.
Once in the vehicle, signals are managed with
All of these Miranda products are available in small, lightweight variations built specifically for the needs of a mobile broadcast environment."
Michele Magnifichi, the chairman of M-Three Satcom says: "Our company integrates professional equipment both for service provision and for turnkey solutions for partners, including complete DSNG or OB vans, or teleport equipment."
Speaking about the benefits of Outside broadcast, Magnifichi adds: "OB allows TV networks, corporate or administrations to cover and document all relevant events happening in a certain area or category of news/sport/show/politics. It represents an extension of the standard studio production able to cover in real time the daily life, everywhere in the world."
Burgess adds: "We cannot live without the outside broadcast unit. The 2012 London Games closed in
The skill for the outside broadcast operator – and the truck builder and systems integrator like Megahertz with which it partners – is to have the right fleet to be able to cover the programmes comprehensively, creatively and to the highest quality standards."
Interviews can be executed on location and events can be documented and produced instantly. OB Trucks can be used for various events both large and small, depending on the truck's complement of equipment, and they can access offsite events that are unreachable with a studio production."
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Now that we understand some of the benefits of Outside broadcasting, let's take a look at the challenges that this sort of broadcast entails. There is the obvious issue of the size and weight of the equipment, it has to be portable. There is also the challenge of reaching locations, with an OB truck, that are hard to get to.
Kuhnen of Harris Broadcast says: "The advantages of the outside broadcast truck are obvious: you drive it up to the venue, set it up and it is a complete production environment with technical areas, sound mixing and the production gallery.
That is also its biggest challenge: all of that functionality has to be provided within a vehicle which remains within the size and weight limits of any other road truck. So inevitably there are compromises in terms of the space and functionality which can be provided.
The infrastructure has to fit within extremely space-constrained technical areas, be as light as possible, and consume as little power as possible to minimise the demands on the truck's cooling. Compact, efficient and configurable systems from Harris Broadcast are extremely beneficial in this regard."
Ching concurs and adds: "With broadcast companies being tasked to cover a wide range of productions from large stadia environments such as sports, music, and live entertainment to local studio productions with onscreen monitors and large display screens, transporting signals to the production switcher has become more challenging and more demanding than ever before.
"Fibre is now a vital element in helping to streamline high-quality signal transmissions over greater distances without compromising the picture quality. Therefore, Snell's Kahuna 360 has expanded its support for outside broadcasting by offering fibre directly on both inputs and outputs. This makes Kahuna 360 the most flexible, scalable, and dynamic production switcher on the market," explains Ching.
With the evolution of TV broadcasts from SD to HD, and now even 3D and 4K, there is bound to be a change in the OB industry. Burgess explains that while OB trucks are getting bigger, there is also a trend for smaller trucks.
"There are more and more "mega-trucks" which run the road limit to the wire, packing in huge capabilities. For sports there is the trend to add a second vehicle just to manage replays. Inevitably known as the "VT truck", they are actually home to a large server network and positions for a large number of operators to provide instant replays from any camera very quickly.
"Alongside the biggest units, though, there is also a trend for smaller vehicles. In particular, what would once have been just a satellite uplink may now have the capability to support two or three cameras as well. That means it can do small jobs on its own, or can provide additional facilities alongside a big outside broadcast unit, perhaps adding local presentation to an international feed," says Burgess.
Kuhnen adds that new broadcasting formats, like 3D and 4K, add to the pressure. He says: "3D requires an extra set of technical control positions for stereographers, for example; 4K is currently routed and managed as four HD signals, quadrupling the cabling and switching requirements."
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Magnifichi outlines some more changes that have occurred in the industry over the years: "The first is regulatory modification, with the entering of new independent companies in the market – and the consequent augment of the offer and price reduction.
Secondly there is integration between different technologies, and finally integration between production and transmission facilities and reduction in dimension and investment for basic station versus big increase of investment needed for high level stations as multi-cameras and HD."
He also goes on to explain what he thinks the future of OB looks like.
"In some parts of the world, with the increase of the fibre availability and new technologies for signal distribution, it seems that while the production activity will remain fundamental, a certain reduction of the demand for standard transmission facilities (actually mostly based on satellite technology) is foreseen; in emerging markets the request for stable satellite transmission will probably continue and grow for other 10 years."
Cohen adds: "In the future, outside broadcasting, in order to continue meeting the quality and cost requirements for productions, will need to continue adding state-of-the-art technologies, such as 3Gbps and 4K.
This transition is already underway in many parts of the world. To facilitate this, manufacturers like Miranda will continue to develop technologies that require the lowest possible amount of power to operate and take up the least amount of space. Economy of space and weight is critical to the operating costs of mobile vehicles."
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