More and more productions are restarting, but Covid-19 restrictions – such as social distancing and disinfecting equipment – still pose major challenges. David Fox rounds up how vendors are aiming to support productions with new launches.
Resuming production while Covid-19 continues to affect large parts of the world won’t be easy, but various broadcast manufacturers have come up with technology and new products that can help.
Of course, social distancing, masks, hand washing and disinfectant all help, but may not be enough – or even possible – in all cases. For example, how do you sanitise a camera made up of multiple materials, some of which may be degraded by contact with certain disinfectants?
Sunlight. Or, at least, part of the ultraviolet spectrum, UV-C (which ranges from 100 nanometres to 280nm), can kill viruses or bacteria within minutes. It’s also harmful to humans, so not a universal panacea.
Camera support manufacturer Cartoni has developed a UV disinfection case, UV-C Boxer, that can be filled with production equipment, from cameras to accessories, and safely sanitises everything in the box in just five minutes. [https://www.ibc.org/create-and-produce/uv-lightweight-cartoni-knocks-out-covid-19-with-boxer/6346.article]
UV-C can inactivate pathogens and can modify the DNA structure of an infectious cell so it cannot reproduce and therefore cannot spread. It is widely used to disinfect drinking water and is proven to be effective, including against Covid-19.
Belgium-based lighting manufacturer Luxibel has introduced several UV-C products this year, including units for direct and indirect disinfection of air, useful to help bring back studios or other enclosed spaces into use.
Where users want to disinfect surfaces, Luxibel’s direct UV-C fixtures, which use Philips 254nm 20W lights, can’t be used where there are people present, so incorporate motion sensors, however, it also has enclosed systems that disinfect air and can operate 24/7. The first user is Studio 6 at AED Studios near Antwerp, which uses Luxibel’s Mid-Air Disinfection System with multiple ventilation cylinders. It is claimed to be the first event location globally that disinfects the air in a room on a permanent basis using UV-C light. As Covid-19 is primarily an airborne disease, such systems are particularly appropriate right now.
“The main advantage of this system is ensuring that the air breathed out by guests is sucked upwards by the aerodynamically-patented system. Micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses are neutralised and germ-free air is blown back into the room,” explained Glenn Roggeman, CEO of AED Group, which owns Luxibel. He has also developed scanners that AED Studios will use to check the body temperature of every visitor at the start of an event.
Another way to keep equipment clean is to simply change any parts that come into contact with users, as Clear-Com is doing with its new range of refresh kits for sanitising high-touch headsets. These are available for five of its most popular models (CC-300, CC-400, CC-110, CC-220 and CC-26K), and include replacement ear pads, pop filters (windscreen), sanitising wipes, ear sock covers and temple pads in a cloth headset kit bag. User-replaceable items for each kit differ slightly based on the structure of the headset—single or dual ears—and the headset series.
Keep your distance
Maintaining social distance in a studio or on location isn’t always easy, and simply using Bluetooth on a phone app isn’t accurate enough, which is why Riedel Communications has developed the DisTag Distance Monitor. It can be worn around the neck or carried in a pocket and alerts its wearer whenever the mandatory minimum distance to other people is about to be breached.
DisTag offers three signal levels: a two-stage vibration alarm (haptic), a two-stage LED signal (visual) and a two-stage sound signal (acoustic). The proximity limits of the warning signals can be individually defined and adjusted in accordance with local regulations, with distance detection accurate to 10cm.
Jacky Voss, corporate business development manager at Riedel, said: “With its small size (93mm by 41mm) and low weight (61 grams), the device is compact, comfortable and hardly even noticeable to users. DisTag can be used virtually anywhere, whether indoors or out, and its integrated battery provides power for up to 12 hours (charged via micro USB). And, as it requires no additional infrastructure, it is easy to expand the system at any time – all that is needed are more DisTags.” They are simple to disinfect and there is no data logging involved, so no privacy concerns.
To aid social distancing, Matthews Studio Equipment has devised a smart, low-cost way of quickly building distancing dividers on set, using the new Matthews’ Sheet Plate Adapter Kit – for use with easily cleanable materials like Plexiglas, plywood, Masonite or vinyl.
It allows users to quickly build custom dividers to counteract virus transmission, and also offers a convenient holding method for standard grip equipment.
One way to distance is to use remote production technology, such as the new Mo-Sys U50 camera control head for box lenses. This has been designed and manufactured during lockdown and is a heavy-duty remote head that allows camera operators to safely return to work and control the biggest box lenses and heaviest broadcast camera set-ups remotely.
It is claimed to achieve the same precision and agility as a camera operator controlling manually on site. Mo-Sys claims that no other remote head is capable of smoothly and quickly operating box lenses and this offers a new way to tackle current challenges. “Previously remote production technology was an additional cost for broadcasters, but now it is essential to ensure camera operators can work safely,” said Danny Zemanek, freelance camera operator. The U50 “represents a new way that operators can control big box lenses with the same precision and agility that we have come to expect.”
The head can cope with fast acceleration and deceleration of heavy broadcast camera packages with super telephoto lenses of up to 50kg, while its combination of U-shape space-frame design and zero backlash drives give it enough strength to achieve fast panning shots with no bouncing, even when zoomed in.
With the new Mo-Sys TimeCam option, U50 has the potential to be operated anywhere in the world with virtually no delay by using Mo-Sys’ delay compensated global remote-control technique.
Wireless products are an excellent way of working together while staying apart, from microphones to camera links. For example, the new Came-TV F5 Pro field monitor, a low-cost 5.5-inch HD touch screen on-camera display comes with a mount for an external wireless transmitter or receiver (making it useful as a director’s monitor), which the company also makes.
But wireless products don’t always work effectively in every environment, so it is useful to have an alternative.
Lectrosonics has introduced a Miniature Time Code Recorder for use when the distance is extreme or a wireless microphone isn’t practical. It can travel with a subject and capture 24-bit, 48kHz digital audio on a microSD card, synchronised with timecode. It runs for more than six hours on a single lithium AAA battery, weighs 71g with the battery and comes with an omni lavalier microphone. [https://www.ibc.org/create-and-produce/long-distance-recorder-from-lectrosonics/5882.article]
You can also keep your distance and obtain professional audio using parabolic microphones, such as those from Klover Products.
Parabolic microphones allow a person speaking at a normal level to be clearly recorded from 1.8m to 3m using a parabolic microphone dish 23cm in diameter, and it means no clip-on mic has to be in contact with the interviewee (and therefore sanitised) and no boom mic is needed, so it is better for one-person or video journalist operation. “The microphone, and reporter, can maintain a safe distance during the interview, reducing the chance of infection,” said Klover’s president, Paul Terpstra. A larger parabolic dish gives a greater range, with the largest (66cm), claimed to be usable up to about 150m.
Many broadcasting organisations have had to rely more on cloud-based production as staff moved to working from home, and manufacturers have had to concentrate on enhancing their cloud offerings in response.
For example, Avid postponed its new product plans for this year early on to focus on helping its customers, and like many other companies it provided free copies of its various creative tools so customers could quickly get people working remotely, alongside helping companies duplicate their production environments in the cloud. “We’re doing a lot of pretty exciting cloud deployments”, often using public cloud set-ups to help customers to get their productions back in operation completely remotely, said its CEO Jeff Rosica.
Although its technology could cope, its main challenge was: “The sheer volume we’re dealing with. It is taxing not just Avid, it is taxing the public clouds, with people just generally working from home and doing a lot of video chatting and remoting a lot of production workflows and all kinds of enterprise activities. It’s really put a lot of pressure on resources, whether they’re technically in the cloud, or just people resources to help people deploy.”
Similarly, Primestream introduced Xchange Media Cloud, a completely cloud-based version of its Xchange media asset management platform, as its response to the pandemic.
By giving remote collaborators “easy access to content, projects and the creative tools they’re used to, Xchange Media Cloud removes roadblocks and ensures continuity in the video production supply chain. And it’s fast and easy to get started — we can get teams up and running quickly,” said Claudio Lisman, Primestream’s president and CEO.
It can be integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud software and combined with Primestream’s Workflow Server and ingest modules in the cloud to record and monitor incoming live cloud streams.
Video review and collaboration specialist Frame.io brought forward the launch of a new application, Frame.io Transfer, which lets users download large files and sophisticated folder structures, including entire projects, with one click.
It supports EDL and XML formats, so users can identify specific files, accelerating the process of relinking to original camera files for final conforms, colour grading, or sharing assets for visual effects. It can also monitor active downloads and reprioritise their order. It promises to facilitate fast, secure downloads, regardless of unstable internet connections; if there’s a disruption mid-download, Transfer pauses and automatically resumes once reconnected.