Module 61


Updated: 02/18/2017

Module 61










 The most challenging and demanding productions to do are multiple-camera remotes, especially if they are done "live."

Live productions such as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards may require 30 or more cameras, a few tons of equipment, and months of preparation. 

But even covering a high-school football game or a homecoming parade with just a couple cameras takes skills beyond those needed for a basic studio production.

In the studio you have a tested, controlled, and even predictable environment. Once you leave the studio, things can get much more complex.

One of the most important steps in doing a successful remote production is the first one: doing a thorough on-location survey. Ten basic points to check on when considering a major remote production are covered yellow dot in this article.


Deciding on Camera Positions

To show the camera positions decided upon by the director, a location sketch is generally attached to the facilities request form discussed in Module 59.

When deciding on camera locations several things should be kept in mind.

In addition to the obvious things, such as not shooting against the sun and not placing a camera in a position that would result in a reversal of action (crossing the line), there are some special considerations for stationary cameras.

If people suddenly jump up in front of your camera during a parade or the most exciting play in a game and block your shot.

If fans or spectators start jumping up and down in their excitement and shaking the camera platform, the resulting video may be unusable.

You might want to consider using a camera jib (pictured below on the left) to add dynamic camera moves to your production (and shoot over the head of anyone that could be in the way of your camera shots).  ▲ As we've previously seen, most camera jibs are considerably smaller than the one pictured below.

jib 1 jib control

"Crane shots" used to involve large, heavy cameras and a camera operator to pan, tilt and focus the camera. 

However, today's light-weight video cameras can be totally operated with remote controls. (Note photo on the right above.)

Recently, remotely-controlled drones are being used when high-angle exterior shots are needed. (See photo.)  Drones are discussed in more detail elsewhere on the site.

Another approach for high-angle shots is with steel cables strung across the top or on the sides of a sports arena or concert hall.  Remotely controlled cameras can travel back and forth across the cable.

On-Location Audio Concerns

Because of the noise common to remote locations, off-camera directional mics or personal wireless mics are almost always used on remotes.

In the latter case, be sure to check for multipath reception and dead spots by having an assistant test each RF mic while talking and slowly walking through the area where it will be used.

Since mic problems are common, there should be back-up mics for each area that can be put into service at a moment's notice.

When mounting crowd mics (mics that will pick up audience or crowd reaction) make sure they cover a wide area, rather than favoring a few people closest to a mic.

Plan for the shortest distances possible for mic cables and avoid running them parallel to power cords where electrical noise might be induced into an audio line. In wet weather tightly seal up cable connectors with black plastic electrical tape.

Determining Lighting Needs

Once the lighting director visits the location a list of needed lighting instruments and accessories can be drawn up. One or more lighting kits, such as the ones shown below, may be needed to light specific areas.

Lighting Kit lighting kit

And, finally, remember, in case it rains or something interferes with your original plan, have a "plan B" (and maybe even a "plan C") worked out for both your lighting approach and your basic production plans.

You don't want to have everyone assembled and maybe even have expensive rented equipment on the location and not have some backup plan in case some unforeseen event throws a wrench in your original plans.


Production Communication

In a regular studio production crew members typically get to know the basic routines associated with programs and often don't even have to be prompted by the director. But during a field production routines change and crew members will depend heavily on the director for second-by-second cues.

To maintain microwave or satellite signals at optimum technical quality for major productions the engineers at both ends of the remote link must be in contact so that video and audio level adjustments can be made.

Except in the case of some microwave and satellite feeds that accommodate PL audio channels, cell phones or land lines may have to be used by engineering and production personnel to keep in touch with the station or production facility.

Production personnel at both ends of the link must be able to coordinate commercials and station breaks. These normally originate from file servers at the station.

Interrupted foldback (IFB) lines are used to communicate with headset micon-camera talent. Unlike live ENG reporters who wear only a small, single IFB ear piece (ear bud), announcers for sports events generally prefer padded, noise-canceling earphones that cover both ears.

In their normal mode, one or both earphones carry program audio. When a brief message needs to be relayed to an announcer (it at all possible when he or she is not talking) the audio on just one of the earphones can be interrupted for the message.

A director may need to notify an announcer to go to a commercial or tell a color commentator that a replay of a specific play is ready for playback.

Although PL headsets are generally plugged into cameras, in some cases extra PL line drops (added outlets) have to be installed in field locations to accommodate production personnel who are not working close to a camera. And, of course, maximum mobility is possible if these crew members use wireless PL systems.

Because of the importance of PL communication, it's highly desirable -- some would say absolutely essential -- to have a fully functional standby (backup) PL line that everyone can instantly switch to if problems develop in the primary system.


The Equipment Inventory

The remote survey form and facilities request form should be used as a guide in deciding on the production equipment that will be transported to the remote location. An equipment list should be carefully drawn up and then double-checked as the equipment is packed.

Don't forget extra lamps for lights, extra mics and mic cords, extra headsets, etc. It's a rare remote in which some piece of equipment doesn't fail.

The next matching quiz will be after Module 62

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