DoP Michael Sanders Explains Remote Production Workflow

UK-based DoP Michael explains why AJA’s U-TAP SDI USB 3.0 capture device has become a standard part of his camera kit.

“Whether the production team is overseas and cannot travel or we simply need to reduce the number of people in a room, streaming the output of a camera is now standard practice, and AJA's U-TAP is an ideal tool for the job,” Sanders says. “It’s portable and plug-and-play, and most importantly it doesn’t require a power supply, as it’s bus powered. U-TAP is also so versatile; it supports nearly every format and frame rate imaginable. The fact that it also works with multiple frame rates from 23.98 upwards to 60p means that I only need one box to serve a range of clients.”

For one of Sanders’ first post-lockdown projects, a feature documentary, the director, production crew, and script writer were stationed in the US, but the interview subject was located in the UK. To facilitate a real-time connection between the group, the output from the camera was fed to the U-TAP, which just appeared as a source in Zoom. Connected to the Zoom feed, the production team was able to watch, listen in, and monitor the shoot in real-time. With the sound recordist’s audio mixer connected to the camera, the U-TAP could then extract the audio from the embedded SDI stream, and the team watching over Zoom didn’t experience any audio sync issues.

Sanders also recently used the U-TAP to deliver an earnings report live stream from a European company to a global audience. Using two identical camera set-ups located in different offices within the same building, one for the CEO and the other for the CFO, in addition to two U-TAPs and a collection of other gear, the team was able to send high quality signals from the UK to the US over the internet. In the US, the UK feeds were integrated with three separate feeds from other members of the executive team using vMix Call.

Sanders said, “Because U-TAP supports 1080p, we could easily send our signal over the internet at a quality that was high enough for a remote director to perform a very good chroma key and unify the output of the five remote sites. Although this can be done with other hardware, the U-TAP is so reliable that it gives me a feeling of confidence that it won’t suddenly stop working in the middle of such an important event.”

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