March 2020 and Feral responds to the Covid 19 crisis with a six-event, UK-wide project for a national broadcaster. Navigating strict coronavirus protocols and using remotely operated cameras never seen before in eventing, we delivered more than 12,000 minutes of broadcast over a three-month period ending with a recommission for 2021.
As with much of the broadcast industry, March 2020 wiped the years work slate clean for Feral. Cut to May and we were knee-deep in planning for a mammoth six-part eventing broadcast for Horse and Country TV.
The challenge: deliver two 10-hour days of cross-country broadcast of up to 250 horses per day, across six events around the UK, to include commentary, featured VT’s, graphics and – later in the season – replay. Oh, and due to Covid do so with a team half the normal size.
Our answer: lay thousands of metres of fibre-optic cabling from four new, remotely operated, state-of-the-art cameras around each of the 4 mile courses, and then build all the engineering in to one Covid-secure truck that houses capacity for streaming, engineering, monitoring, vision mixing, audio mixing and graphics, seating one remote camera operator, a commentator, producer, director, engineer and hybrid graphics operator/audio mixer.
The main production challenge was giving confidence to the crew, client and event that all of this was possible under the newly imposed Covid rules. Thanks to a great deal of detailed preparation and the diligence of all involved, no outbreaks occurred and we were able to deliver all events safely and within protocol.
The technical challenge was somewhat more complicated. How do you take cameras that are designed for the controlled environment of programmes like 24 Hours in Police Custody and SAS Who Dares Wins and apply them to the fast-paced world of equestrianism? Well, you employ one very clever engineer and then find the country’s most experienced remote camera operator and set them the task of making them fit for purpose. It’s safe to say they rose to the occasion, commissioning and adapting special waterproof housings, writing code that better engineers the pace of the camera movements and then spending countless hours trial and error testing until they reached a point where the untrained eye couldn’t tell the difference between the traditional setup of multiple operated broadcast cameras and our new remotely operated ones.
The season was a success, which we define as a happy client, 12,000 minutes of broadcast, a recommission for the following year, remaining profitable and giving a handful of industry professionals a challenge and much-needed income stream.
Wild Ideas Mastered…this project was the very definition of that mantra.