Well, working from home, for me as a writer, is fairly easy. I simply need to hold on to my laptop and sit on my bed, then write. But, while Germany has given a go-ahead to football, have you wondered how broadcast stations are innovating to work from home?
Lockdown is being eased gradually in the UK and BT Sports is ready to give us live sports action as the Bundesliga kicks off today. But, how exactly are they going to broadcast in the age of social distancing?
In an interview conducted by The Verge, the sports broadcast company has moved its production team remotely. Producers, directors, and commentators are now working from home that has been morphed into an office.
According to Jamie Hindhaugh, the Chief Operating Officer of the broadcast station, as a way of practice, the company has been anchoring 7 shows per week, and feel ready to bring premium 4K sports streaming to fans across the world. “The smaller live shows have been a learning curve, allowing the production team to create a virtual TV studio and prepare or the return of live football. that’s involved moving kit that would normally be operated in the back of a van or studio into people’s living rooms and garages.”
The station is originally based in Stratford, east London, and is known for broadcasting 8K video quality. While most broadcast stations are trying their best to resume back to work in the studios, BT sports decided to work from home, in the bid to identify with the masses. “It was critical we showed empathy to our audiences and therefore behaved under the same constraints that our audiences have. That’s why you’ve seen it all coming from home, with no travel. I didn’t feel it was right for us to be looking at how we get around that.” Jamie reiterated.
It’s not easy to produce live sports, as there are various live edits, replays, and motion graphics that need to instantly appear on the TV screen of the audience. A lot of gadgets are used to make all thee happen, sound recording mixers, vision mixers, etc.
“The kit’s smaller than you think because it’s the top layer that gets separated out,” says Hindhaugh. “So the servers and everything is still in Stratford.” A lot of the challenges have been around syncing everything up and separating what’s typically used in a studio to work across 4G connectivity or home broadband connections. “The same vision mixer we use in a studio, the front top end of that is now in a director’s house, so you’re controlling the main vision mixer in the studio remotely,” reveals Hindhaugh. “It’s like you’re driving a car, but you’re in a simulator.”
The team still maintains the usage of the talkback intercom they have always used in maintaining real-time communication. This is critical to their activities. It is what makes it possible for these broadcast companies to work from home.
BT sports will be airing 7 games today, with just two presenters in the studio in London, with 6 other staff in the studio for the main game. A single-camera operator would also be on the ground to make sure that output doesn’t falter. Other members of the crew would be working from home.
The good thing about remote working is the fact that there will be no lag in what viewers see in their homes. The graphics, transition, replays and slow motion are all going to work seamlessly as it used to.
In this time of uncertainty, these guys also should be appreciated, as they bring us the sport we are all waiting for – Football.