Sky Sports News team delivers Rio reports with Blackmagic Portable Production Unit
Sky Sports News sent a small production team to Rio in order to support the broadcaster’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Alongside news items for the Sky Sports News channel, the team provided facilities for Sky News UK, Sky Italia and Sky Germany.
“We had a team of 15 including drivers and fixers, with additional staff from the other Sky channels,” explains Victoria Rudling, Sky Sports News Production Manager. “It was a team effort. For example, if Sky Italia needed an extra camera, we would lend that team one from our kit.”
Before the Games, it had been decided that Sky Sports News would rent an apartment overlooking the Olympic park and used one room as our production base. Key to that set up was a Portable Production Unit (PPU) based on equipment provided by Blackmagic Design.
“Sky News has recently built a number of uplink trucks so third party involvement in that operation is required. Those trucks are also fitted with Blackmagic Design equipment, and we took one of those units to Brazil,” reports Rudling.
The kit selected for the PPU included a 4K SmartScope Duo monitor, two SmartView monitors, an ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio, 1 M/E Broadcast Panel, ATEM Studio Converter, HyperDeck Studio Pro, Blackmagic Audio Monitor and an 8 Port10/100/1000 Gigabit Rackmount switch.
Rudling says that an additional Blackmagic MultiView16 was installed in order for producers to watch all the feeds from the various events as they took place. “We slightly reconfigured the PPU for Rio. For example, we didn’t use the mixer because we weren’t cutting pictures on site. We had a fibre link with four paths going back to UK where the editing on Final Cut Pro was carried out.”
She continues, “The PPU was especially good for routing. We did live updates from Brazil and for that it was essential to have a reliable routing system. Smart Videohub 20 x 20 and a 12 x 12 router were used to control our feeds from Rio. Although the presenter was live in Brazil, the live were sent to London from where they were run into the programmes. That meant all the graphics, two-way boxes and so on were generated from the UK base.”
Alongside the regular PPU kit, Blackmagic embedders and de-embedders were utilised. Other kit within the PPU included a Datavideo RP61 1U Universal Modular Rack I/O Panel, Fieldcast 2-core Single Mode Fibre and a Fiberbrik Fieldcast adaptor for the ATEM Camera Converter.
Brazil is, of course, well known for its power cuts and fluctuations, but Rudling reports that the equipment coped with these difficulties. “We had 220 power run in, but it was coping with 110 with no problems. We had back up power units and generators in case we lost power for any length of time. But the worst was an hour during the closing ceremony, but apart from the Quad needing to be re-booted, all the other pieces of kit proved very resilient.”
The biggest problem, though, came from the climate. “It was, of course, very hot and the equipment was working solidly for five weeks. We did use many fans to keep the equipment cool – but again, it handled the adverse conditions very well. And because of where the PPU needed to be located with the apartment, it was close to a door. And when it rains in Brazil, it really rains! So we had to make sure the doors were closed – and that added to the heat problem. Overall, though, the operation worked really well.”