Beauty pageants have always made for entertaining television. But the task of producing such a large-scale live event has always been daunting. This time however, the use of state-of the-art digital technology and a coordinated effort by Miss USA producers and All Mobile Video (AMV) made the contest a technological as well as ratings success.
Preparing For The Big Show
All Mobile Video has had lots of experience with beauty pageants, having already worked on seven perennial broadcasts including Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA. Even with those experiences behind them, Miss USA presented its own share of challenges for the company. According to Tom DiAngelo, account executive and director of Broadcast Rental Services for AMV, "We had to provide the client with a comprehensive package of production, linear, and nonlinear editing, a multiple screen switching facility, and digital audio mixing and multitrack recording. The pageant has allowed us the unique opportunity of taking ownership of so many requirements across departmental lines." To accommodate these demands, the company dispatched four trucks, including the Celebrity, an all-digital production truck; and the Cinetour, an HD/SD SDI truck. Cinetour was used for linear on-site editing, screen-switching, Profile control, and audio sweetening. In addition, two support trucks were utilized. The final equipment list for the production included 29 Sony Digital Betacam, Betacam SP, and DVCAM VTRs; two Tektronix Profile servers, three Chyron Infinit!s, two Scitex DVEous dual/twin DVEs, one Sony DVS-7350 and one Accom Abekas 8150 switcher; two large 64 x 64 SDI routers from Sony, and two Avid Media Composer 8000s.
Not Just A One-Day Wonder
Planning for the production started four months in advance, with producers from the Miss Universe Organization and CBS working closely with DiAngelo and his technical crew. The first crew from AMV arrived two weeks before the show to set up the Avid systems used to cut elements that would be inserted into the live show. For days, ENG crews followed pageant delegates around Gary, IN (where the show was being taped). Promotional pieces for the city as well as other elements were shot and edited in the Avid suites. After that, they were brought to the Cinetour editorial truck on tape to Editor Bill Miller for finishing and integration into the live show. According to Miller, "Having the Cinetour for on-site editing helped us turn around a complex, nine-camera opening very quickly. It also accommodated the screens' TD and was used for occasional voice-overs during pre-production." In order to accommodate all of the clips and make them instantly available when needed, AMV utilized two Tektronix Profile servers with a total of six channels of hard-disk playback. A Tektronix Profile PDR200 with four-channel playback was used direct-to-air for screen playback to three large RP screens and nine LCD panels that were hand-held by dancers during various acts of the show. A Tektronix PRO series Profile with an additional two channels was used for matte and fill for Chyron backplates. Supplementing the Profiles, 14 Sony Digital Betacam VTRs were used for broadcast.
According to DiAngelo, "Six channels of Profile allowed us instant access to all pre-taped show elements a well as automated control of two channels of Profile directly by the Infinit! In reality, seven discreet shows, or feeds were produced simultaneously including clean and dirty program, three RP feeds, and two LCD feeds. The Profiles made the job of managing these elements much easier."
The producers of Miss USA put together a special performance number that included dancers holding LCD monitors revealing the faces of the contestants. To accomplish this, the panels were tethered to Cinetour's screen switching facility by cable. A Sony DVS-7300 switcher then fed the five discreet screen signals to either the three large RP screens on the set or to the LCD panels. To make the switching as flexible as possible, AMV used two Sony 64 x 64 SDI routers in the two trucks. A Sony HKDS 64 x 64 HD/SD was used in Cinetour and a Sony 64 x 64 digital video/audio router was used in Celebrity. It was important that all sources were available to any output at any given point in time. Furthermore, both TDs (screens and production) needed to be able to trigger tallys informing not only the camera operators, but the show's director (via the monitor wall) which sources were "punched-up" at any given time. This powerful combination gave a high-tech look to the remarkable production numbers that highlighted the show.
Setting The Stage
While all of the pieces were being readied for the production, Celebrity's cameras positioned themselves for the live event. AMV used four Sony BVP-900 studio cameras and six Sony BVP-950 mini-cameras. Two of the BVP-950s were on Cam-Mate cranes, two were hand-held, one was on a Steadicam and one was mounted on a lighting grid 75 feet high to get overhead shots. All were equipped with Fujinon 10 x 4.8 wide-angle lenses. The BVP-900s were pedestal-mounted and used either Fujinon 70 x 9.5 or Fujinon 24 x 7s with wide-angle lenses.
"The big advantage of having one vendor provide all of the services is that all of the systems are integrated perfectly," said DiAngelo. "Everything is designed to work as a complete package. This approach came in handy especially when you have a screen TD and a production TD in different trucks that both require the flexibility to work separately, yet [are] ultimately creating one product for the viewer at home."
AMV also provided all of the audio facilities. A primary audio mix position was created around the NEVE Libra Live 144 input digital audio console, the three Tascam DA98 digital audio recorders, and a Mackie 1604VLZ digital sub mixer in Celebrity. A secondary audio mix position using another Mackie 1604VLZ, 360 Systems' Digicart IIs, Short-Cut, and Instant Replays were also used. Music Coordinator Eric Rudd was responsible for premixing parts of the show doing sound effects and music inserts. Audio Mixer Ish Garcia handled the live performance.n
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