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VidOvation, Aviwest Drive 44 Blue for ‘First Responders Live’

44 Blue handles all materials uploaded from multiple cities via VidOvation and Aviwest tech in a single control room. (Image credit: VidOvation)

STUDIO CITY, CALIF.—My wife and I started 44 Blue back in 1984, and it has been a great journey. We’ve been part of the evolving reality TV genre over the past three decades, making a name for 44 Blue by developing and producing non-scripted shows for cable networks such as Discovery, A&E and The History Channel.

In 2019, we partnered with the legendary Dick Wolf to produce “First Responders Live” for Fox. It was one of the biggest projects we’ve ever done.

“First Responders Live” was among the first live shows to tackle coverage of all three agencies—firefighters, police officers and EMS technicians and first responders—and the challenge was steep. We had done live shows before, but never on a scale like this, with so many field crews working in so many cities, and then all of the in-studio work. We thought we had seen it all, but this was brand new for us.

EXTENDING OUR REACH

To create the right formula for the show in terms of equipment and signal flow, we mapped out all the different cameras and transmissions. (It looked like the chalkboard scene from “A Beautiful Mind.”) We did our research in selecting the right transmission gear and provider. By far, VidOvation and Aviwest stood out because of their experience and proven track record with this type of live project.

During production we filmed in as many as 10 cities in an evening, and in each city we had six to eight cameras rolling live—some handheld, others fixed-rig. Aviwest PRO380 mobile video transmitters mounted on various HD cameras allowed us to take advantage of H.265/HEVC encoding, which ensured great video quality with low data requirements and low latency.

Using bonded cellular technology, the PRO380 transmitters combined available network interfaces to create reliable video-transmission links to our control room at TV City in Los Angeles. Aviwest Stream-Hub transceiver, decoder, and distribution platforms in our control room allowed us to receive all those simultaneous live broadcast-quality video feeds in perfect frame-accurate genlock and lip-sync.

The VidOvation team had given our crews and camera operators tutorials on what to expect and on potential issues they needed to be aware of.

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