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April 2012 www.tvbeurope.com


TVBEurope 55 The Workflow


Ric Birch:“Ceremonies begin as dreams and adapt to the reality of physics and finances”


Scott Willsallen: “The broadcast chain has to be protected”


Patrice Bouqueniaux: You have to balance “what will be seen by the live audience and what will be seen on TV”


Creating an Opening for the Olympics


COVERING AN Olympics opening ceremony, or similar one-off event, is a “three hour block of time where nothing can go wrong,” Audio Designer Scott Willsallen, of Auditoria, told the recent Dynamic Events conference at the 2012 Integrated Systems Europe exhibition in Amsterdam. The team responsible for the


ceremonies has to deliver a memorable display that will surprise and delight the audience in the stadium, but also has to work closely with broadcasters to ensure it looks at least as good for viewers at home. Willsallen has worked on the


Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000, as well as on Rugby World Cups and many other events, and will be involved in the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Games this summer, where redundancy will be his priority. “You cannot have a single point of failure,” he said. “The broadcast chain has to be protected.” “I’m constantly trying to design redundancy into


everything,” added Gary Hardesty, co-founder Sound Media Fusion and chief audio designer for the Beijing opening and closing ceremonies — but it’s difficult to do in budget, especially as technology gets more complicated and “there’s plenty to go wrong.” In Beijing, Hardesty had eight hard drives running, seven of which were redundant.


everything. He likes to have a primary digital system (including distribution) and a secondary analogue system. For the London design, he plans to have 73 switching devices, all on uninterruptible power supplies monitored from a central control room. The only backup that can’t really be done are the people who do the rehearsal. “‘People’ is the bit


“You have to really make every single thing you are doing redundant, including consoles, but at some point you may run out of money.” The only things Willsallen


doesn’t make redundant are the speakers and amplifiers inside the stadium, which may occasionally mean that sections of the crowd don’t hear


you really have to focus your energy on in terms of redundancy.” Two people do the mix, but it takes two.


Radio Frequency RF is another problem, not just getting enough allotted bandwidth to cover the event, but also dealing with a new and growing cause of RF


Huge entertainment productions bookend events like the Olympics, requiring creative teams that are separate from the broadcast production needed for the rest of the Games. David Fox investigates


interference: LED displays. In Doha, for the 2011 Arab Games, there was a big issue with RF interference from all the LED displays. Although LEDs will generally be CE marked and meet all the relevant specifications, when there are more than 50,000 of them linked with 25-30km of copper cable (as there were in Doha) it creates a far bigger problem.


“You have to really make every single thing you are doing redundant, including consoles — but at some point you may run out of money”


So long as the RF interference


remains consistent it can be planned around, but “it’s really a huge problem for anything that is RF-based,” warned Hardesty. “The only way around that is to get everything going through fibre as much as you can.” Chris Kennedy, founder,


Gary Hardesty, Sound Media Fusion


“The geometry [of the Doha stadium] was the same as for 2006, but the RF landscape had changed. We had to provide far more receivers, as the distance to a receiver had to be shorter so it didn’t drop into the noise floor,” explained Willsallen. At one point, every line of dialogue or song was going to a different receiver as performers moved around so much.


Norwest Productions, is already using increasing amounts of fibre, and his team is working on fibre links to remote antennae for London. Another answer to the problem would be to pre-record the audio to eliminate the risk instead of doing live audio, said Willsallen, “but if the LED displays are in place long enough beforehand you can work around it.” “We need to do a lot more RF modelling to address these sorts of problems,” added Kennedy, who has worked on the Olympics since 2000, as well as many other one-off events, and will be providing audio facilities for 2012.


Adding broadcast to the mix A problem Willsallen sees regularly is that the mix engineer for broadcast is great for athletics


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