Video: TV Sport Innovation – Staying Ahead of the Game

Sports has always led innovation in many areas of broadcast, but during COVID not only did they have to adapt nearly every workflow and redeploy staff, but they then had to brace to deliver 100 games in 40 days. Gordon Roxburgh sums it up: “I’ve been at Sky twenty years, and I think [these have] been the most challenging six months…we’ve faced.”

In this session from the DTG’s Future Vision 2020 conference, Carl Hibbert from Futuresource Consulting talks to Sky, Arsenal TV and Facebook to find how their businesses have adapted. Melissa Lawton from Facebook explains how their live streaming, both for user-generated footage and produced sport have adapted to the changing needs. When COVID hit, Facebook lost some very valuable content. Their response was to double down on fan engagement, with challenges to fans to create content and also staging events which were produced and commentated as real sports events, but all shots were people at home exercising but being brought into the narrative of an Iron Man competition. Facebook have also invested in their user-facing tools and dashboards to help expose and monitor contribution via live streaming.

Gordon Roxburgh from Sky explains the seachange he’s seen in production. “The first thing was to keep channels on air…and keep staff safe.” They moved rapidly from a fully staffed office to just three or four people on-site and a presenter. In order to mix, they created a Virtual Production suite which allowed people to create content in the cloud.

For content, Gordon says that watch-alongs proved very popular where key sports personalities talk through what they were thinking during key sporting moments. This was just one of the many content ideas that keep programming going until “Project restart” commenced where the whole sports ecosystem asked itself ‘How can we deliver 100 games in 40 days?’ Once they knew the season would start, Gordon says, this opened up a 3-week build period during which BT Media and Broadcast, NEP, NEP Connect and multiple internal departments collaborated to produce rapid turnarounds.

“As an industry, we came together.” The working practices developed at Sky were shared with other major broadcasters who also shared their best practice – always putting staff first. Sky even went to the extent of building a technical space in a large studio floor to keep people apart and co-opted a set of training rooms to become a self-contained graphics unit. These ideas kept graphics operators together but not mixing with the rest of the production.

The view from Arsenal TV is explained by John Dollin. They worked quickly very early on and were able to be back in the office from February. Whilst Arsenal TV doesn’t have the rights to stream live, they produce their programmes live for transmission later. This used to be done in a crowded room but was soon transferred to a virtual mixer in the cloud with remote editors. John highlights the challenge of involving freelancers into the system and providing them with appropriate supervision. More importantly, he feels that their current ability to maintain the pre-covid production quality is due to the continued dedication of certain personnel who are putting in long hours which is not a sustainable situation to be in.

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Gordon Roxburgh Gordon Roxburgh
Technical Manager,
Sky Sports
Melissa Lawton Melissa Lawton
Live Sports Production Strategy,
John Dollin John Dollin
Senior Product & Engineering Manager,
Arsenal Footballl Club
Carl Hibbert Carl Hibbert
Head of Consumer Media & Technology,
Futuresource Consulting

Video: Reopening Film and TV Production in NYC

Restarting productions and stepping up MCR staffing could be the difference between life and death if you get it wrong. What are the right precautions to take, what’s proportionate and can you get your staff and freelancers to follow the rules?

This SMPTE panel looks at the recommendations and rules generated by the bustling TV, film and advertising industry in New York. The cornerstone of the session is an overview of the guidelines called The Safe Way Forward which is a collaborative document being put together with negotiation with the unions to ensure there’s a widely agreed and understood rules to run safe productions with.

The Safe Way Forward is based on regular testing and zoning productions. Talent and crew which work closely with them such as sound, make-up, etc. are considered zone A. Often there are times when close contact and/or PPE are not practical so anyone who works in zone A is tested 3 times a week or more to catch any infection quickly. Other crew are considered in zone B and cannot come on set or in designated zone A locations. Zone B staff are tested once a week or more. Zone C is considered anyone else and/or outside of the studio.

The panel agrees that testing is a really important part of the safe working strategy using the example of the Miami Marlins who had 16 members of their team infected. Regular, thorough testing would have caught this earlier and helped reduce the impact of the initial infectious person.

Matt Miller makes the counterpoint that from the perspective of commercials production, testing just doesn’t cut it when your whole shoot is only a day and a half long. For the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, creating a safe environment is the focus of their guidelines which is already on its 5th edition. There are no ‘either/or’s, it’s about PPE and social distancing and</em frequent hand washing etc. Matt says it’s been very effective in maintaining this safety.

Short-term jobs are a source of concern for the panel when it comes to extras who may book themselves in for several different jobs over a week. How do we stop them from spreading the virus from production to production? The idea of a testing passport is under discussions, but this problem has not yet been resolved. It’s certainly possible that scripts will be altered to reduce extras, particularly if they have to be paid to come in ahead of their work to take a test.

Efficiencies are also a topic of discussion. Certainly one benefit of working at home is the ability to remotely collaborate without commuting/travelling and, depending on the type of work can be very effective. On the set, the panel anticipates an increased desire for monitoring. People in Zone B who are used to being on set will want to be able to see what’s happening which will drive increased demand on the network and electrical distribution. But with this more distributed monitoring, there may be more effective ways for people to work. Time will tell how much this will have an effect and where the balance is. Never will the DIT role be more important.

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Dejan Georgevich Dejan Georgevich
National vice President,
Andy Shipsides Andy Shipsides
Presient – North America,
ARRI Rental
Peter Abel Peter Abel
CEO & Co-Founder,
Abel CineTech
Alan Suna Alan Suna
Silvercup Studios
Matt Miller Matt Miller
Presient & CEO,
Mary Rae Thewlis Mary Rae Thewlis
National Vice President,
Joseph Reidy Joseph Reidy
1st vice Chair, Easter AD/UPM Council
Co-chair, 1st AD Committee, DGA