On Friday the 5th of November Holdan were once again part of one of the biggest celebrations of the year and this one didn’t have a single firework go off. Why you ask? Well, we’re not talking Gunpowder Plots here, we’re of course talking about the highly anticipated AV Awards 2021 in Battersea, London.
Not only was it the return of hosting this event in-person, but it was also the first time that Midwich’s popular monthly live chat show - Midwich Live - was invited to run a pre-show live stream right from the red carpet itself. The Holdan technical team were on hand to help get this live stream off the ground, and in this blog post I’ll run you through the kit we used to do it and why.
A three-camera set up was used for the live stream, comprising two BirdDog P4K PTZ cameras and a Panasonic LUMIX BGH1 block camera. The BirdDog P4K cameras acted as the main presenter and guest cameras while the BGH1 was the locked off wide shot. As the presenters weren’t seated and could move freely around the stage, having that fully remote-controlled element was vital, especially as the cameras could not be physically manned.
The production was run in 1080p, so we didn’t choose the BirdDog P4Ks for their resolution, but rather for their large, 1-inch sensor, since we were going to be operating in a rather challenging environment in terms of available light. These cameras also have built-in image stabilisation, which is needed when working in busy footfall areas to ensure that any vibrations making their way through the tripod to camera cannot be seen in picture. From a presenter standpoint, having cameras with built-in tally lets them know which camera is live and of course the P4Ks have this functionality, which we used natively with the switcher (more on that later).
The LUMIX BGH1 houses a micro-four thirds sized sensor in a block body that’s incredibly compact. Although it’s not a robotic PTZ camera, we could still control all camera settings remotely because this is a networked camera, something rare for a camera of this type.
So why not use a third P4K instead of the BGH1, you might be thinking? Two reasons: portability and audio connectivity. A full PTZ camera would be overkill for what we knew would be a locked-off shot, so we went with the most portable option that would yield the best image, since it has that large sensor. Secondly, we wanted to run back-up microphones into the system without having to use a big audio mixer. The BGH1 works flawlessly with the DMW-XLR1 audio module that allows two XLR inputs with phantom power from the camera. The audio is embedded in the SDI output and was fed directly into the switcher.
Both P4Ks and the BGH1 were powered over Ethernet, making power management incredibly straightforward. The P4Ks ran into their POE++ injectors and then into our Netgear M4250 rack mounted PoE+ switch, which the BGH1 was connected to directly. A laptop was also connected to the switch, to give us full control over all the cameras.
At the centre of the production was the Roland V-160HD switcher, which is an incredibly versatile 8-channel HD vision mixer with some very neat features up its sleeve. Flexibility and portability were both important tickboxes for this setup, especially as it needed to be ran by just the two of us, but also needed to be de-rigged and packed away as soon as we finished the live stream so we could attend the event itself (we were sponsoring an award).
The V-160HD has selectable SDI and HDMI inputs for each channel with built-in scalers. It’s really a Swiss Army Knife when it comes handling inputs, so no converters were needed in the kit bag! All three cameras were connected via SDI. The V-160HD has a rather useful built-in screen which is configurable, you can switch between Multiview, Preview, and Programme feed – so it’s a neat solution if you just want to run one external monitor and use the built-in screen to show something different, which is exactly what we did.
We ran an Atomos Neon 17 as our main production monitor which has a beautiful and trustworthy screen with all of the pro monitoring tools you’d expect from Atomos. We also had a standard HDMI computer LCD monitor facing the presenters for confidence, which is particularly useful when playing in pre-recorded content (so they can see when the video is playing, and when it’s nearing the end).
A massive selling point of the V-160HD is the fact that it has PTZ camera control built straight into it. The vision mixer was connected to our Netgear switch, which allowed us to control our BirdDog cameras using VISCA over IP directly from the mixer itself. Roland has a fantastic tablet app for remote control of the switcher that gives you access to all parameters of the production. Most importantly in this instance it gave us a virtual PTZ controller which worked exceptionally well. Being able to control our PTZ cameras using the tablet meant we didn’t need to bring a physical PTZ controller. As the V-160HD knows which PTZ camera is assigned to each input, when you take that input live that tally information is pushed out to the PTZ cameras automatically – tally made easy!
For the live stream element, the switcher has a USB-C webcam output which essentially outputs the programme feed as universal plug-n-play USB video into our supporting laptop. From there we could whatever streaming programme/platform we wanted. As Midwich Live heavily use Restream as their tool of choice - not just for its ability to stream multiple platforms simultaneously, but also for the ease of adding dynamic graphics on the fly - it made sense for us to use it, not least for consistency.
The audio setup was very straightforward. For the two hosts we used Sennheiser HSP Essential Headmics with SK 6000 bodypack transmitters, and for the guests two SKM 6000 handhelds. These microphones were paired with two Sennheiser D6K rack mount receivers, as each supports two channels. The feeds then ran into an Azden FMX-42U audio mixer, which is a portable, four channel battery powered mixer with excellent pre-amps. The signal was then fed into the Roland V-160HD via two balanced XLR outputs. Backup Sennheiser MKH 8050 mics were also connected directly to the BGH1s audio adapter, embedding that audio over the SDI out, so should we need to quickly add it to the mix we could do it easily using the Roland remote control app running on the iPad.
We were given a small space to the side of the stage, and we needed to make sure our footprint was a small as we could make it so as not to impede operation. The Inovativ Voyager 36 EVO cart was perfect for this, and as a bonus it is super lightweight, which made shifting kit a breeze, whilst also being able to take a generous payload (up to 272Kg).
Everything bar the cameras and support laptop was on this production cart: the vision mixer, iPad, audio mixer, wireless mic receivers, network switch, power distribution AND the two monitors, mounted using the Inovativ BOA arms. When it came to de-rig, it made it really easy to transport everything to our vehicle, where it packed down on itself to slide into the back of the car.
With the experience gained from this project we’ll be working to streamline our setup even further by having more of the individual elements housed in a single portable rack unit, tidying up the cable runs around the cart to make rigging even quicker. Although this project had just the three cameras running, the setup will allow for up to eight, with tally working across different brands and camera types – so scalability isn’t going to be an issue. It’s amazing to think of what the rig can do with just a one- or two-person tech crew.
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Panasonic LUMIX box camera: MFT lens mount & sensor with Dual Native ISO, 4K/60, 3G-SDI, HDMI, PoE+, IP control, tally, internal recording to dual SD card slots (lens sold separately)