Media Production Show ‘16 – fixed rigs, real-time stitching and 360 selfies
The Media Production Show took place last week just around the corner in N1 at the Business Design Centre. With over 60 seminars over the two days looking at how technology is changing the media production process in film, TV and advertising, me and Ashley knew we couldn’t miss it. Here are a few of our highlights.
Fixed rigs in factual TV
‘Factual TV: Behind the scenes of the UK’s biggest factual productions’ (pictured above) was a live talk and Q&A with Tania Alexander (Director of Factual Entertainment, Studio Lambert), Martin Conway (Series Producer, First Dates) and Simon Dickson (Creative Director, Label1). It featured a discussion of the benefits of fixed rig storytelling.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a fixed rig uses multiple cameras to capture unfolding events within a given space. Think of studio-based sitcoms like Cheers or Seinfeld which traditionally used two cameras to cover a set like Cheers’ bar or Seinfeld’s apartment. One camera to capture a wide shot and one to grab close-ups of character’s reactions to scripted events (e.g. a raised eyebrow or baffled facial expression).
Gogglebox, which was always conceived of as a comedy, took this idea and ran with it, using two cameras in each of their stars’ living rooms. The difference between this and a studio sitcom setup is that while the latter would employ camera operators on set, a fixed rig utilises static or remotely operated cameras.
This enhances the authenticity of the captured material in factual TV, because not only can the director capture everything that happens but they can also avoid getting in the way or otherwise influencing the action.
Upcoming Channel 4 show, The Interview, makes use of 12 cameras to capture the relate-able horror and hilarity of job interviews. This is the first time a fixed rig has been used on a show with a set of participants that hasn’t been cast – all the people are real job applicants – so being prepared to capture the unexpected is vital.
The ‘capture-everything’ nature of fixed-rigs does lead to some drawbacks though. While the cost of technology has dropped significantly in recent years, the cost of all those cameras still adds up. You also end up with a gigantic editing job with thousands of hours of footage to log (just imagine the shooting ratio on First Dates, which employed a fixed rig with 50 cameras).
Fixed rigs can also require superhuman efforts of concentration and stamina from a director, as this recounting of the filming of The Catch relates.
360 video for streaming live events
‘Soliton: The world’s first hardware encoder for mobile news gatherings’ was the exhibition that most caught our attention.
Soliton’s new piece of hardware (‘smart-telecaster’ Zao) is a lightweight battery operated mobile encoder which takes the multiple video feeds from 360 cameras and live encodes the footage as H.265. This enables Stitch HD Multiview software to stitch in as close to real time as possible (on a Windows tablet) the individual feeds into 360 video and stream that 360 video live online.
We used Oculus rift to emerge ourselves in live 360 video of The Media Production Show itself. We watched ourselves watching ourselves. This opens up some great opportunities for streaming events and allowing people to use VR or 360 video to ‘attend’ events they aren’t actually present for.
Given the size of the Ricoh (the 360 camera used for the demonstration) and the relative lack of delay in transmission, it might not be long until we’re recording 360 video on our phones, live stitching the footage feeds and streaming it live to apps like periscope.
Punter’s eye view: 360 selfie-stick
Our highlight from the attendees didn’t appear to be using a Zao but was making use of a selfie-stick and a 360 camera to ensure that his immersive footage of the show gave his viewers the full MPS experience – with himself in a starring role!