Services Global Viewpoint – June 2019

Moving to the Middle

There was a time when broadcasting was split into two distinct disciplines – production and engineering. Both focused on their area of expertise, engineering and technical operators on one hand making the best professional broadcast pictures and sound possible, and the production team on the other delivering content for cutting edge news, sport, entertainment, and educational programs.

But as cameras, sound recorders, and editing systems continue to grow more reliable and intuitive to operate, the division is becoming increasingly blurred, especially when we consider all the auto calibration and configuration functions available.

This is a massive advantage for producers and content creators. It’s far easier now than ever to pick up a smart phone or compact camera and start shooting until your hearts content. The size and portability of these devices opens a whole new world of opportunities.

Shooting 4K hi-res pictures with outstanding shots to deliver phenomenal and compelling video images is easily achievable. Even gimble stabilized compact cameras mounted on selfie sticks allow high-quality recording in the most difficult places.

Digital electronics largely negates the need to calibrate sound and imaging devices. Manually adjusting amplifiers to take into consideration cable frequency and signal loss is largely gone. And with it, the on-site engineer who would keep the wheels of production well oiled.

With opportunity comes caution. Although you can shoot on the latest compact camera with little or no training, and you can jump in there and start editing on a desktop computer, the potential to wreak havoc is limitless.

As an example, it’s easy to take material shot in 30 fps (frames per second) and convert it to 29.97 or 48 fps, then to 50 fps, and back again. But do you really want to do this? Frame rate conversions such as these are readily available on many desktop software editing platforms. To the uninitiated there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. But the seasoned professional broadcast engineer knows the fluidity of motion will soon disappear degenerating into a chaotic mess of jerky images.

And broadcast engineers are also moving more to production and getting involved in the creative process. As HDR increases its prevalence in broadcasting, camera shading is now becoming more of an art than a technical discipline. Vision engineers are finding they need to work incredibly closely with the Director of Photography (DOP) to achieve the “look and feel” the DOP wants.

Creating engaging content still demands an equitable combination of high technical quality and strong production values. As technical people move to production, and production people move to technology, great care must be taken to ensure both respect the values and disciplines of each other.