Being a small sports production company based in central Illinois, we were faced with several challenges when we were asked to televise and produce DVDs of an all-day high school marching band competition. We mainly produce live multicamera sports broadcasts but often get booked to televise special events such as corporate productions and community parades.
The production involved more than 25 high schools, and we were asked to televise the competition for a cable network and produce DVDs to be delivered on-site to family and friends. Our challenge became: How do we produce two separate productions in our production truck with limited equipment and crew?
The televised version of the marching band competition was exclusively for cable subscribers. The DVDs of the event that we were to sell had to be a completely different production with separate cameras. Our solution was to position a separate director at the back bench of our production truck where our replay operator would normally sit. This gave him access to equipment that would be used for the DVD sales and also gave him an isolated area to focus on his own production while a larger-scale broadcast production was taking place in the front of the truck. He had access to an isolated intercom channel with his camera operators and several extra monitors normally used for building replay highlight package for sports.
Like any other TV production truck, we only have one video switcher onboard. Both of the side-by-side productions were being switched from the same Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher. The main television broadcast crew was switching their show on the main program bus of the ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel.
The director in charge of the DVD production was using the included software control panel to control his show with a keyboard and mouse. He was switching between his dedicated cameras on an auxiliary bus on the ATEM switcher. The televised production that was being produced in the front of the production truck took priority with graphics, dissolves, more cameras and additional effects. Because a switcher aux bus was being used, the DVD production had a scaled-back show using cut-only transitions. We used the aux bus because the switcher syncs all of the camera inputs, allowing for smooth cuts between cameras.
In front of the DVD sales director were several rack-mounted Blackmagic Design SmartView DUO monitors, which can be found all over our production truck. All of those monitors are directly routable via a Blackmagic Design Compact Videohub router and Smart Control button press. Normally these monitors are used by our replay operator to iso, preview and cue up crucial in-game replays and highlight packages. During this marching band production, we routed several cameras and the aux output into those monitors for the DVD director. He was able to preview his cameras and monitor his program output on the monitors in front of him while also using the router and monitors to ensure his DVDs were recording and finalizing. Using the control panel software from the switcher and all of the equipment in the back of our production truck, he was able to switch the cameras on the aux bus without affecting the switcher or crew doing the main broadcast in the front of the production truck.
As the 16-hour day progressed, and as we watched band after band perform, the equipment, crew and planning withstood the test of time. Since the day was so long, our crew rotated throughout the day. As we rotated directors, the workflow was intuitive enough that no one had a problem jumping into the DVD production director seat. Using the software to switch the show on the aux bus of the switcher seemed easy enough for the directors.
Throughout the day, we did change up the routing on the monitors at the request of the director. For example, some preferred to see their program output on one monitor. Others preferred it on a completely different monitor. This was an easy task since all of our monitors in the production truck are routable with the push of a button on the button press.
Our TV broadcast crew put on a great production, and our smaller DVD production crew was able to deliver DVDs to customers on-site about 20 minutes after each band performed. The flexibility of our switcher, monitoring and routing was key in allowing us to repurpose the back bench of our production truck as a separate control room — all while being easily reset the next day for live football.
In the future
We are in the process of lining up several other marching band competitions next year and plan to do the same split production for TV and DVD sales. One thing that will be different next time is the addition of the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and 2 M/E Broadcast Panel.
This will still allow us to use one video switcher for two productions but will give us access to a second mix effect bus. This will increase the production quality of the DVDs by giving us access to dissolves and graphics without interfering with the main TV broadcast being switched on the program bus of the ATEM 2 M/E.
While marching band competitions are not our typical production, we look forward to multipurposing our production truck next year for more events.
Brian Scheffler is owner of ScheffTech Productions.