SVG Europe Sit-Down: Gearhouse Broadcast’s Ed Tischler speaks on 2018 tech challenges and live production

Gearhouse Broadcast delivers equipment rental, equipment sales, outside broadcast, project solutions and systems integration to many of the world’s broadcasters, production companies and rights holders. It has provided production facilities and project management support for large scale live and near live events, including the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, FA Premier League football, Formula 1, golf and Grand Slam tennis. We started our discussion with UK managing director, Ed Tischler, with some reflections.

Gearhouse’s Ed Tischler

How would you describe the last 12 months in terms of overall activity levels for Gearhouse?

Odd years tend to be a little quieter compared to even ones, with a few of the major sporting events missing. But as fans demand more content and we diversify our client base, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in facilities activity.

The current trend is to generate more and more content from an event to really maximise its exposure, which we saw with the sports events we’ve been part of in the past 12 months. Matches that may not have been traditionally broadcast, like qualifying events, are now being captured. Sports associations and broadcasters are therefore looking for solutions that can deliver more quality productions for fans than before.

We’ve also seen demand for our services away from the traditional sports, with other 2017 projects involving esports, festivals, theatre and music events. 2018 is set to be the busiest yet as we continue to diversify our client base and support what will be a huge year for sport.

What do you see as your main challenges of 2018?

Remote production, 4K, HDR, IP and even 8K. Vendors are keen to drive the constant adoption of new technologies. Because of this, one of the biggest challenges for us in 2018 is keeping completely in front of these technologies to ensure we’re using the most appropriate solutions for each of our clients.

From small flypack facilities, to traditional HD fast-turnaround studio builds and large-scale remote production tests, there’s no standard project. We therefore need to adapt and understand the evolving industry inside-out in these times of technological change.

In 2017 you thought that the expansion of remote live production was having little impact on your business? Is that still the case, or have things changed?

Gearhouse has built Flyaway systems into 32U and 20U flight cases

There’s a growing momentum with remote production, which has been especially noticeable in the past 12 months.

Remote production can make a difference in the live environment and we’ve been one of the pioneers in this area, having completed successful tests with our customers. This includes the first remote UHD production test that we completed with UEFA and SAM last year, where we sent the signal from the stadium in Krakow to BT Sport in Stratford during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Final.

We’ve been testing and investing in the latest technologies so we are ready as more of our clients’ transition into production on a remote basis. It won’t be coming in overnight though, so we need to be adaptable to do both the traditional on-site acquisitions, whilst being across all of the remote technologies.

Towards the end of 2017 Gearhouse launched two identical 12 camera HD all-in-one Flyaway production units. Are such units the way forward for OB production?

Flyaways aren’t the only route forward for OB production, but can play a major part, especially during rapid technological change.

Our flyaway heritage and experience is extensive, and we have provided flyaway solutions to some of the world’s leading leagues, federations, broadcasters and production houses.

Unlike mobile units, they can be tailored to individual onsite remote production delivery needs. We also build the systems into 32U and 20U flight cases, making them ideal for clients needing a more portable global solution for their production.

However, there’s still a place for OB units in the future. Even as remote production becomes more mainstream, the vehicles are still an integral home away from home for the onsite engineers.

Where do you think we will be when it comes to HDR by the end of 2018?

By the end of 2018 we’ll have seen interest in HDR increase closer to mainstream as we do a lot more testing with our clients. Big sporting events are often used to introduce new broadcasting technologies, and this year has a packed sporting calendar which will drive HDR content.

Our clients have become more and more interested in seeing what HDR looks like on their production, and they’ve been impressed with the results. HDR brings outstanding picture quality without the need to invest in delivery solutions and 4K-ready end user devices, making it arguably more attractive as a solution for everyone.

TV manufacturers are now recognising the impact that HDR can bring to the viewing experience, creating even more of an appetite than ever to make it the next big step in broadcasting.

With the continuing integration of IT and broadcast technologies, are the colleges producing engineers with the right knowledge base that are going to understand the rental market?

These engineers coming through from the colleges need to keep abreast of the latest technologies, and they need to know a large range of equipment intimately, across all fields.

To ease this transition, we’ve been working closely with colleges to offer students placements during their studies so they get hands-on experience with kit. The more industry experience students can get, the better, so when they come to graduate they can hit the ground running.

Do you have a recent European-based case study you would like to share with us?

Back in November, ATP Media, the broadcast arm of the ATP World Tour, worked with us to carry out a live 4K v 1080p HDR test at the Nitto ATP Finals, the season ending finale at The O2, London.

The test was designed to see side-by-side, the two production formats in a live tennis environment, as part of ATP Media’s commitment to trialling the latest technologies to advance its broadcast offering.

The ATP Media and Gearhouse team were able to combine the Sapphire HEVC system seamlessly with the main production, with all the outputs coming from one desk and one Director’s cut. This allowed them to compare their existing 1080i output with 4K SDR, 4K HDR and 1080p HDR.

ATP Media is now engaging with its rights-holders to gather feedback on when they will be ready to broadcast in 4K or 1080p HDR.

The test was a huge success, as we are now able to offer our clients world class 4K productions, including wireless video with low-latency UHD. We’ll be working closely with the team at Broadcast Wireless Systems in order to roll out this new technology into future productions.

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