OB Media fills SIS LIVE’s TT shoes

The Isle of Man TT wrapped up for another year last Friday (6 June). On the broadcast side of the motorcycling time trials festival, this 2014 event was significant for being the first to be held since SIS LIVE closed down its outside broadcast division. The company was still represented on the Irish Sea island by one of its uplink trucks, but editing and other technical facilities were provided through consultancy firm OB Media, working for production house North One Television.

Coverage of the races is packaged into hour-long highlights for UK broadcast on ITV4 as well as international distribution, with footage also available to news outlets. North One TV’s head of production, Robert Gough, says that “around 20 news camera positions were identified”, which increased the range of coverage. Shooting was primarily on XDCAM HD, with some GoPro material. A new addition for this year was a Sony F55, while the FS700 returned after making its debut in 2013. Gough explains that both cameras “offer fantastic clarity and control of depth of field”.

OB Media took over technical co-ordination from SIS LIVE, although company founder and TT engineering manager Dave Packham has long experience of the event. Packham started out in TV location work with BBC OBs, which eventually became SIS LIVE. He was a unit manager for SIS LIVE on the Isle of Man TT before leaving the company two years ago to set up OB Media. In that time he was a technical adviser to SIS LIVE for the TT and is now organising technical facilities for it directly.

“Nothing has changed in principle,” he says. “It’s all still being edited on Final Cut Pro because that’s the best workflow for what we’re doing.” Shooting is predominantly on XDCAM, using both the Sony PDW-F700 and 800. Further continuity comes from the fact that Packham was using a VT truck he bought from SIS LIVE as the core of the technical production. This has been upgraded to HD and also features the large XD SAN that was also used for TT coverage in the past. An EVS XT3 ingest, play-out and replay server is also a crucial part of the set-up.

Disks from cameras positioned round the mountainous and sometimes remote island roads where the bikers hurtle through are collected by the marshal’s car that goes round after each race. Once back at base material is ingested into the system for editing. When the packages are complete commentary is added, using a new set-up devised by Packham. This allows the commentators to work ‘off tube’ but with effects and atmospheres in their mic headset headphones to give more of a live feel.

After this everything is quality-checked for audio and then rebalanced, with grading work “time allowing”. The finished programmes were then played from the EVS system as live into ITV4’s schedules.

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