TV shooting market in the entertainment and sports areas has closed in on itself in recent years, producing, in practice, a certain concentration of forces in the hands of a few highly specialized production companies.
In addition to rather contracting in number, the production services that physically carry out the filming of sporting events from the venues, in these months of widespread pandemic and due to the stop and cancellation of live matches, have suffered greatly, preparing themselves in the best way for a longed “re-start".
In common we can say that everyone has invested this time of immobility and social distancing triggering technical updates, focussing on staff training in the IP domain and adopting interpersonal distance and minimum hygienic safeguards such as masks, gloves, gels disinfectants and repeated temperature controls.
In addition, everyone - certainly in full cooperation with producers, sports rights holders and broadcasters - has tried to "create a network" and implement adequate plans to adapt to the safety dictates imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, each has also implemented unilateral resolutions in order to begin planning a "new future" or "next future", aware that the imperative is first and foremost a greater attention to safety and the protection of everyone's health and that sport - especially football - is the global economic driving force that can no longer stand still.
We asked some companies specialized in filming and television services, throughout Italy, precisely Cinevideo of Pescara, Abruzzo, the Opera BVS of Foggia in Puglia, Videe spa, of Pordenone, Friuli and Global Production Srl of Turin, Piedmont, to take stock of the situation. In this first part we get the opinion of Cinevideo and L'Opera Broadcast Video Service Broadcasting.
Cinevideo (Abruzzo): waiting for good news
"By working on Serie A with two fixed pitches, namely Parma and Ferrara with Spal, we cover the production of these events with our flagship mobile vehicle Dolphin 7.0" says Andrea Buonomo, Cinevideo Executive Sales Manager.
“In addition, on Serie A we usually provide all Hypermotion services up to 2000 fps, even for the highest match standards and the last match was on March 8th with Juve-Inter in Turin, where we provided two Hypermotion systems.
Then we stopped for the suspension of the championship and without live events we suffered a lot, but so far we have managed to guarantee a minimum coverage for RAI locally on the news in Abruzzo, Marche and Molise areas, with eng crews, backpacks and streaming systems."
"Like everyone else, we are on high alert waiting for the official announcement of the re-launch of football, but news about it is still missing. At the moment the individual trainings have started and then it will be the turn of team trainings".
"Together with two of the major national broadcasters and the largest holder of Italian sports rights we have considered that the Dolphin, which on board allows 35 zones in normal operation, in this emergency situation - and trying to maximize the space between operators - it is able to house 19 operating zones, also installing plexiglass barriers, as additional safety for staff ".
In practice, being an ISO9001 certified company we have done nothing but increase the frequency of the usual maintenance operations to which we add the sanitization of the air conditioning filters before and after each event.
Some laser thermometers will already be in operation at the entrance of the stadiums, but we will perform a double check alongside the official ones.
In the typical configuration B or C, required for the standard shooting of some matches in the Serie A, in addition to the staff of the Lega Calcio (production manager, director and assistant director), within our host ob-van we will supply a video mixer operator, 5 RVM technicians, a sound engineer, three camera controls and a technical manager. The cameras engaged will be 11 or 12 plus a steadicam (one Supermotion in standard B and two in standard C).
In conditions of normal operation, the integration with the unilateral personalized feed is usually carried out within the same mobile van, while at this time of post Coronavirus recovery, another separate mobile vehicle will be used for this purpose, which housing 5-6 people.
Opera Broadcasting (Puglia): reducing, but safely
"The live events were stopped but we certainly are not." So begins Michele Infante CEO, owner and founding partner with seven other professionals of Opera Broadcast Services. “We stopped since March 15, the date on which we shot the last match behind closed doors in Florence.
We usually deal with 3 or 4 sports productions, football, basketball, motoring and many business conventions, with 4 proprietary mobile vehicles that also generate graphics, images from onboard cameras, satellite uplinks.
Since that date the Government helped us with employees salaries and there have been no engagement requests: in practice, all events were cancelled and not postponed.
L'Opera is still on standby ready to resume with football shooting as soon as possible and with sports motoring in early July, determined to reduce losses.
This still period has seen them busy preparing a multi-handed operational protocol together with the occupational doctor and safety engineer.
Michele Infante continues: “We have launched a control committee that will enforce the application of strict preventive measures and, shortly, this protocol will be distributed to customers to reassure them of a safe restart.
The biggest problem is - obviously - the safety distance between people, which is certainly not optimal on mobile control rooms."
The broadcasters are also studying protocols that will be shared; for example, someone hints about a tent dedicated to everyone's temperature control.
There will no longer be permanent badge passes, but temperature control is essential for every access.
Everyone is inventing different criteria that will be considered and it is desirable that these new protocols be shared as soon as possible.
Safety measures on board require the appointment of a responsible inspector who will block unauthorized entry to the gallery and will verify everybody's compliance with the PPE envisaged.
Michele Infante says: “The most original idea of this period - according to me - is a production model reduction: instead of using 15 cameras as standard, we can produce every sports event with 5 cameras, so that the reduced staff a proper safety zone on board, as well as a mask and gloves and the rest.
Up to seven areas could be available and all staff are protected.
The last game we filmed was played in an empty stadium, without an audience, and in my opinion the television performance was rather poor, as if 50% of the media product was missing.
In the past, we filmed football for RAI using three cameras and the result was still excellent.
It is therefore a matter of creating the right production model, modulated on an intelligent compromise between safety and spectacularity.
Whereas it will be imperative to work with more than 5 cameras, we will adopt plexiglass panels in mobile vehicles to counter the absence of the minimum distance, for example between RVM and camera controls.
Furthermore, on all our vehicles, we have opted for the adoption of ionizers, the same ones used to fight the virus in hospital intensive care areas.
There will also be a new inspector with a temperature scanner and a seriously controlled single entrance will be enforced.
We will also have to make use of single rooms in the hotel for the whole crew and another novelty that will affect the costs is that to comply with the protocol, all travels by car (even from the venue to the hotel) cannot involve more than two people per car. For instance the abroad production of a week's sports event will generate a financial outlay that we will have to face."
(end of Part 1)
Post Lockdown in Italy, almost ready to restart: some views from tv production services (part 2)
Italy is starting to experience the so-called "phase 2" post lockdown begun on 4th May 2020 and, despite official confirmations on a restart date of the sports matches to date is missing - if not in Formula 1 which is scheduled for 3/4 July - the desire and need to return to normal is strong and everyone is preparing, studying and implementing projects on how to secure the operators of the crews engaged in the field and on mobile vehicles for the events that will be played without the presence of fans.
Everybody agrees that different production models will be modulated according to the events, and also creating a common workshop to get to proposals in collaboration with broadcasters, rights holders and with sports leagues, to quickly give life to concrete projects.
The idea is to understand how these players reacted to this long moment of crisis and what countermeasures have been implemented to get ready for the restart of sports.
In this second part of the story we have spoken with Videe and Global Production. [Link to the part 1]
Videe (Friuli): multi-dimensional competence
Videe in Pordenone has never stopped completely, in fact they have continued to produce “Supervivientes2020” in Honduras, which sees a TV team engaged in a safe production hub, isolated from the metropolitan area, under constant collaboration of the Bulldog client and MediasetEspana, in total isolation of the staff.
Even in the last week of March they were allowed to resume television activities because they public interest connection with news and information and the tv set with Alessandro Cattelan anchorman in Milan reopened.
Paola Montanari Videe CEO and Founder says: “We had to invent, in a very short time, appropriate operating methods in total safety for the staff, with devices and precautions, presence of medical guard and surveillance towards the adoption of medical facilities.
Different production methods were created, increasing the use of virtual reality and use of certain devices such as headphones and intercoms become personal.
Apart from the stop of sports tv shooting, as happened throughout the world broadcast compartment, our "safe entertainment sets" and the "health bubble" in Honduras (where all the staff of the technical, hospitality and artistic teams live in a controlled area), have allowed us to build a great deal of expertise on this pandemic that we have immediately reflected on the whole company."
Meanwhile, the re-start of sport competitions is scheduled for the UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul on 30thMay 2020 and Videe will be engaged in this event with the official production launch in sport of their reference mobile vehicle, OBX, which operates with 4.0 technology and with all on-board activities remotely controllable.
Bruno Mercuri President and Founder declares: “Our OBX 4K HDR UHD flagship mobile vehicle, presented for the first time at IBC2019, boasts many important pluses thanks to our long experience. These include Atmos audio, the communication section, energy management, operating spaces and many other on-board reference technologies: it is a very powerful machine, which we'll dedicate to an important event around which 85 people will work."
Videe has been very present in Formula 1 championship since 2013 and for five years the production has relied on remote production for the Spanish market, with Telefonica, which will start again with the Austrian Redbull GP on 3/5 July, most likely behind closed doors.
Bruno Mercuri confirms: “In anticipation of the resumption of sports production with the use of OB-Vans, we prepared in time also with sanitization through specialized companies and continuous updates on safety with the RSA (Italian local health organizations). Furthermore, upon request and collaboration with customers we are evaluating any redefinition of the operating spaces within the mobile vehicle with a "different" planning of the internal professional figures.
The "deconfiguration" is not mandatory for us as for some customers we already operate in remote production and locate production sections in different, unconcentrated way, redistributing them also in distant areas.
The idea that we can operate safely even without reducing staff is important: we certainly do not want to debase the program by packaging it with technical means and inferior staff, but to maintain its potential and high quality."
Global Production (Piedmont): staff protection and new technologies
Constantly in contact with Italian Civil Protection and the Ministry of Health to check any protocol changes, the Italian operating team of the Euro Media Group, Global Production, was certainly not caught unprepared by the pandemic.
In addition to having equipped all the staff with the necessary PPE, sanitizing gels, and ozonizers on board mobile vehicles, they produced three official documents to re-start safely with Serie A soccer and sports tv production in general.
The first indicates the shared internal protocol for regulating measures to combat and contain the spread of the virus in the workplace.
The second lists the anti-contagion behavioral instructions for freelancers and external suppliers involved in the productions.
The third analyzes and assesses biological risk and forms of prevention and protection in collaboration with the ASL Città di Torino and the HR doctor.
All the technical managers of the OBVans, reception areas, warehouses and studios have been equipped with a thermal scanner.
"In addition to the indispensable and strict safety protection measures and pending confirmation in the timing of the championship's resumption, "says Davide Furlan co Ceo of Global Production, "we are in constant contact with the Football League, the tv rights holders and the major broadcaster to refine protocols and policies and we'll offer a new enrichment of the Host tv product in order to mitigate the diminished spectacularity due to the absence of fans in the stadiums.
There are many proposals under consideration and include the adoption of high quality mini cameras, new elements of centralized graphics such as virtual beauty shot and / or virtual ledwalls, AR and VR integrations and mixed techniques and more."
The common trend tends to adopt dimensionally lower production standards, in order to better distance the operators on board, for a total of 14 or 15 professional figures.
The adoption of individual face shields and personal listening headphones is certain as well as the engagement of larger vehicles and the decentralization of some sections and production workers, such as camera control and slow motion, which can be moved to the tv compound or to other nearby locations or even connected to the production facility in Turin and Cologno Monzese, for a mixed and on site remote production.
"Speaking of remote production, Davide Furlan resumes, "At Global Production, in addition to fielding 4K UHD HDR mobile trucks that are certainly "top of the line", we will also engage our latest generation of remote production devices, at different levels, depending on of the event and we will also dedicate a smaller vehicle to be used alongside the main OB Van to better distance some of the technical staff."
Stefano Bianco, CEO of Global underlines: “We have poured the great competence of the EMG group and invested where it is truly strategic, that is first of all in the safety of the working staff: it is a must for us and the modalities of the re-start are a mix of indispensable skills among broadcasters, Sports Leagues and us, side by side.
In Global we know sports, supply chains, markets, realities and needs very well; and sports production in Italy will continue to generate profits, so starting again and asap is really a requirement for the whole industry."