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Wed 21 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Flexibility with flypacks

In an increasingly global entertainment market, flypack outside broadcast solutions can offer a flexible yet reliable solution to TV produced in even the most remote locations on earth, says Dougie Fletcher.

In an increasingly global entertainment market, flypack outside broadcast solutions can offer a flexible yet reliable solution to TV produced in even the most remote locations on earth, says Dougie Fletcher.

With the cost of freighting on the increase due to escalating fuel costs and the current financial climate, shipping an OB truck is no longer always the most feasible option.

Flypacks, an OB solution transported in light and durable flight cases, can offer a much more flexible solution. Unlike an OB truck, which is confined by the constraints of space and layout, a flypack solution can be tailor made to suit the needs of the specific production crew, location and event, with equipment selected from an extensive list.

Infinite options

Offering a range of options from a complete OB production unit to an International Broadcast Centre (IBC) or Master Control Room (MCR), flypacks can deliver a range of production options.

While most flypacks contain the same basic elements; cameras, monitor stacks, audio desks, routers etc, the true benefit of the solution is the fact that all of these elements can be adapted to suit the specifics of the project, right down to the camera lenses used.

The process of putting together a flypack solution starts long before the flight cases are packed. While some companies will offer an off-the-shelf flypack that can be shipped to the destination and then left for the crew to use straight from the box, other companies will offer a more consultative approach.

This will begin with a meeting with the project's technical managers to ascertain what they are trying to achieve and how they want to operate on site, based on the outcome of this meeting the company will design a solution to meet the specific requirements of the client.

Even following a long and thorough consultation process, there will always be last minute changes to any solution and it is important for the OB company to take this into consideration and account for any eventuality at the planning stage by building a contingency into their solution.

Working closely with the technical managers to define each piece of equipment, the level of scalability offered by a flypack solution means that users can choose anything from a Probel HD 6 level router with 64 inputs and four level audio, up to a HD Thomson Trinix with 256 inputs, 512 outputs and 150 control panels. Even the final layout of equipment such as monitor stacks can be changed to suit individual requirements.

Logistical considerations

As well as offering a cost efficient and flexible solution, a major benefit of flypack solutions is that they can provide a time sensitive option. Shipping an OB truck from the UK to Dubai can take anything up to two weeks.

In contrast, by using a flypack, all of the equipment can be transported on to a single cargo flight, packed in durable flight cases to ensure the equipment arrives intact. This can also help to eliminate the risks of shipping large quantities of valuable equipment.

An important aspect of the flypack process is ensuring that both the OB company, and in turn the freight company they use, have experience of dealing with the paperwork involved in moving valuable equipment between countries.

Each country will have its own set of rules and regulations in terms of the customs clearance and working with providers that understand these local laws will help ensure that your equipment is on set ready for production to begin rather than sat at customs wrapped in red tape.

Manned or unmanned

Once the kit arrives at its final destination, the OB provider will deliver a team of highly skilled engineers to rig the equipment, and even at the staffing level, flypacks continue to offer scalability.OB providers can either offer a full crew to operate and run the entire production, or once the equipment has been set up, they can hand over to a local crew, with a few staff remaining on hand to guarantee the equipment throughout the shoot.

Much of this decision will be based on languages, if the shoot involves a UK crew in a foreign location, selecting a full crew to operate the solution can help to remove language barriers, however if the director is local, then selecting a local crew that speaks the same language will allow him to get the shots he needs.

If a full technical support team is required, this can include anything up to 80 staff. For example, a team could consist of 24 vision engineers, 24 sound engineers, two videotape guarantees, two camera guarantees, 22 riggers and a technical manager.

Considering customs

When considering a flypack solution, look for a crew that has experience working in the region to which you are sending the solution. There is currently a trend towards flypack solutions being used for Middle East-based shoots, with around 50% of the flypacks supplied from the UK.

This can sometimes lead to problems of cultural differences, but by working with an OB company with experience of the region these differences are easily avoided.

The sensitivities involved in dealing with the local customs can easily be overlooked but by working with an experienced crew this means they won't become an issue in the first place.

Flypack future

As the market for flypack solutions continues to increase, so must the technology used within the cases. Equipment used for flypacks has different considerations than for traditional use. It must be robust enough to be transported from country to country, but at the same time must be light enough to keep the cost of freighting down.

By offering so much scalability at each level of the planning and design process, flypacks can be suited to virtually any event, held at any location. Providing a complete solution to any event means that you can benefit from the experience of an OB company anywhere in the world.

Dougie Fletcher is flypack project manager at NEP Visions.

Covering the Qatari National Symphony in HD

NEP Visions was recently selected by Qatar MICE Development Institute (QMDI), a Qatari government organisation, to cover the inaugural performance of the Qatari National Symphony Orchestra.

QMDI selected NEP to provide a live HD transmission of the performance as well as a DVD of the concert.

Before putting together the kit, Visions' contracts director Brian Clarke conducted a full site visit in Qatar to survey the venue, including checking the space and access at both the concert venue and the technical area to ensure that the solution delivered would meet QMDI's requirements exactly.

Visions' flypack solutions contain pre-configured rack systems that are pre-wired and engineered in much the same way as the company's outside broadcast trucks. The systems were pre-built and fully tested at Visions base prior to shipping.

This meant that the installation and wiring would be easy on site.

The solution Visions delivered for QMDI consisted of 14 HD cameras, an HD production switcher and monitor stack, and was able to provide comprehensive coverage of the event including the audio mixing and monitoring as well as handling the video signal.

Being such a high profile event it was decided to include some specialist equipment to achieve the best visual impact. This equipment included two Furio dollys on tracks, two PDIF Hotheads and a Split Block camera on a mini pan and tilt, as well as some specialist camera mounts, and Visions supplied all of the equipment right down to the gaffer tape!

Although the shoot itself was a one-day event, planning and preparations began weeks in advance, with the completed flypacks leaving the company's depot in the UK a week before the event, to be shipped to Qatar. Upon arrival, Visions had two days to rig the venue ahead of a day's rehearsal.

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