Optocore again passes the jungle test
Optical fibre forms key element of Gearhouse Broadcast’s flyaway production rig for I’m A Celebrity
The three-week series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here 2009, set in the Australian outback, again owed the quality of its transmission to the technical infrastructure set up by Gearhouse Broadcast.
Its advanced flyaway facilities enables the company to create a large production gallery, a Master Control Room (MCR), a CCU area, a VTR/EVS room, two big audio control rooms and a Comms area in the jungle — and a key component to providing reliable comms and signal transmission in such a challenging environment has been their Optocore optical fibre systems.
The London based broadcast company, which has been responsible for covering many series of Celebrity over the years, including the German and USA versions of the show, has also been responsible for the last two series for ITV.
According to Kevin Moorhouse, Chief Operating Officer at Gearhouse Broadcast, when they took over production of the show again, an integral part of their successful bid had been based on the transition to a digital and fibre optic based infrastructure — providing the ability to use a networked audio system. “This was particularly useful as there are many circumstances of signals being reproduced in several areas and a networked system allows transfer of signals and the multiple use of signals in an easy and integrated way without the need to lay in literally hundreds of extra cables.”
Gearhouse Broadcast considered Optocore to be the best choice as the redundant ring structure would give them the ability to send any source to multiple destinations easily, quickly and seamlessly. As a result, they now use fibre for the transport of all video signals from the camp to the MCR.
The Optocore system is a fully filled dual-redundant ring with eight nodes (although with the release of the latest firmware that node count will increase to a minimum of 11 for the next series, Gearhouse Broadcast confirms.
The production uses two Yamaha M7CL desks equipped with Optocore’s YG2 and YS2 cards for the continuous stream mixing from the camps. An Optocore DD4ME MADI interface connects to a Calrec Omega sound desk as the main transmission desk, while DD32E network devices and Optocore X6 I/O modules in the audio MCR interface to routers and DA’s. In addition, a further DD32E / Yamaha AD8HR head amp combination is used in the camps for FX mics and radio mics. The I/O count regularly reaches very close to the 256 maximum that the system allows, says Kevin Moorhouse.
A fundamental part of any broadcast of this nature is careful logistics and planning — particularly when isolated from back-up facilities and support in a remote location. Much of the technical construction takes place on site. “We would like to prebuild the Optocore racks but mostly it has to be put together on site due to the inability to get pre-built systems into the jungle,” says Moorhouse.
Weather also plays a huge factor. In addition to general protection from rain — with small ‘tech huts’ constructed adjacent to each camp — regular and violent thunder and lightning encountered in the areas where Celeb is filmed requires the system to be designed with built-in features that will help minimise the effect of lightning damage. Most line sources are fed out via DA’s even if only one signal is needed so that in the event of lightning the DA would ‘fry’ rather than the entire comms system going down.
“Fibre optic obviously features as a significant protection system in this case, as it removes the massive lengths of copper conductors that an analogue system used to rely on,” Kevin Moorhouse explains.
“We have never lost the Optocore ring due to lightning as the fibre protects the system from the static damage that destroys so much kit. We have occasionally lost input or output units but the modular design of the Optocore allows us to pull out the dead units and replace them without disturbing the rest of the system.”
He says that the Optocore architecture has matured significantly since Gearhouse Broadcast first adopted it on the ATP Tennis series in the Spring of 2007 — particularly in its ability to interface with the Calrec desk.
“With the distances involved in a project such as I’m A Celebrity, we no longer use regular drums of fibre and have to semi-permanently install burial grade fibre into each job and the terminate the fibre on site — this takes longer but means there are no joints exposed and each fibre is tested thoroughly on installation.”
Also the distances are vast, so regular drums of cable are impractical. For the US show, set in a new location in Costa Rica, the Celebrity camp was situated 1.6 km from the technical MCR building and had a full 48 inputs at that distance.
“In order to facilitate this we had a run of 300m to the programme studio then extended 700m to a mid point for (walkie talkie transmitters) then continued a further 700m into the camp.
“To do this in copper multicore and provide the same number of circuits would have required 12-16 km of copper multi and would not have been practical.
“Thus once again the Optocore solution becomes far and away the best option for such a difficult environment.”
For further information: www.optocore.com