Live remote events are the core of television. They are the one thing television can do that no other medium can match.
There are things movies can do better. there are things radio can do better. but no other medium can bring you a visual report of an event as it's happening. Today's television production equipment is highly mobile, and able to access any location.
There are times when the only way a show will be authentic is to get out to the event. Most remotes arelive productions, with the director having little or no control over it, requiring the crew to cover whatever happens. However, other remote productions, such as dramas, have scripted (controlled)productions. Remote productions, other than news, usually utilize multiple cameras. As mentioned in other articles, single-camera remote productions are generally referred to as ENG (electronic news production) or EFP (electronic field production) productions. In this article, we will use remote productions to refer to both multi camera and single-camera productions.
WHAT IS A REMOTE PRODUCTION?
Any production that occurs outside of the studio is considered to be a remote production or an outside broadcast (OB). Remote productions include all kinds of events:
• News events
• Sports events
• Award shows
• Talk or variety shows that are "on the road"
REMOTE PRODUCTION VERSUS STUDIO PRODUCTION
Both of these types of productions have pros and cons. Studio productions provide the maximum amount of control over the subject. The lighting and audio can be minutely controlled, providing the perfect levels for the production. Studios provide a clean location that is usually impervious to weather conditions and has full climate control.
However, there are times when the crew has to be on location. Remote locations can provide context and an exciting atmosphere such as cheering crowds. While weather can disrupt or even cancel a remote production, when the weather is nice, natural lighting and outdoor scenery can provide stunning images.
There are also times when it is actually less expensive to shoot in the field than to rent and schedule studio time.
SHOOTING ON LOCATION
Remote productions require anticipating what may happen. It is essential to assemble a team that can anticipate what is going to happen and know how to deal with it. The crew must be able to work well together and plan for contingencies in case something goes wrong. CLICK HERE for sample check-list.
The more familiar the crew is with an event-especially a news or sports event-the better they can cover it. Understanding the intricacies of the event allows the director and talent to clearly communicate what is happening.
MULTICAMERA REMOTE PRODUCTION
Although a single-camera production has its advantages, there are many production situations in which a single camera has little hope of capturing much more than a glimpse of the event, and multicamera coverage is the only answer:
• Coverage from different viewpoints is to be continuous and comprehensive.
• Action is spread over a large area (a golf course).
• At an event where there is no time or opportunity to move cameras around to different viewpoints.
• There is to be a "one-time-only" event (demolition of a bridge).
• The location of action continually changes (sports field of play).
• Cameras could not move to new angles or locations (because of obstructions).
• Cameras must be concealed, or located in fixed places.
• You cannot accurately anticipate where the action is to take place.
MULTI-CAMERA PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Multicamera productions have a number of aspects that make them quite different from studio productions or single-camera productions. Because they are larger productions, requiring more equipment and personnel, they need much more planning and preparation regarding the basics, like whether there is power, how long the cables need to be, whether there is enough light-things you don't need to think about in the studio. Following are brief discussions of some of these unique issues. More in-depth discussion can be found in Planning the Production.
Coordination meetings are essential to the planning phase of the production. These meetings provide a forum for all parties involved in the production to share ideas, communicate issues that may affect other areas, and ensure that all details are ready for the production. Coordination meetings usually include event officials, venue management, and production personnel.
Once the production team has a good general idea of how the event will be covered, a survey team should visit the shoot location. This visit must assess the venue and determine how, where, how many, who, what, and how much. The answers to these questions will provide the foundation for the production's planning. The purposes of the remote survey are to:
• Determine the location for the production.
• Determine where all production equipment and personnel will be positioned.
• Determine whether all of the production's needs and requirements can be handled at the location.
Areas that must be determined and assessed include: contacts, location access, electrical power, location costs, catering/food, security, telephones/Internet access, parking, and lodging. CLICK HERE for a sample remote survey form.
There are many decisions that have to be made when it comes to cameras in remote locations. These can include:
• How many cameras are required to cover the event?
• What type of camera should be used (dolly, jib, handheld, POV)?
• Where are the best locations to place the cameras? Does anything obscure a camera's viewpoint?
• Are special camera mounts required (scaffolding, jibs, etc.)?
• Are special lenses required (such as long telephoto lenses)?
• Where can camera cables be run?
Although audio may be one of the least-appreciated aspects of a television production, it is one of the most important areas of a production. Some of the issues for consideration include:
• What does the audience need to hear? How many mics are needed to cover the event?
• What type of microphone works best in each situation (handheld, lapel mic, shotgun, etc.)?
• Stereo or surround sound?
• Can microphones appear in the shot?
• Wired or wireless microphones?
• Is the natural sound of the location a problem (traffic, crowds, airplanes)?
As in every other type of event, directors shooting remote productions must keep the axis of action in mind, placing all cameras on one side of that line.
Sports productions are a bit unique, because the participants can be going all over the venue. Some venues are large (a car racetrack or golf); other venues are very small (a wrestling match). Events here are categorized by different types of action: horizontal, vertical, and round.
Horizontal sports include basketball, soccer, American football, among others. The cameras are placed on a long side of the venue, panning right to left to capture the athletes' action.
One vertical sport is tennis. Although it is a sport that takes place on a rectangular venue, like basketball and soccer, the action is difficult to follow by the audience with two players hitting a small ball back and forth. Instead, the cameras are placed behind one of the athletes, looking over his or her shoulder at the other athlete. So the axis of action is located at the net.
Round sports include auto racing and baseball. Because cameras are needed to cover the action the whole way around the circle or oval, an axis of action is not chosen. Instead, the director has to constantly re establish the scene in order to avoid confusing the viewers. This means that if a camera has a close-up shot of a car as it drives around the track, every once in while a long shot must be shown to establish the current location of the car and where it is in relation to the other cars.