Broadcasting Indoor Sky Diving


Daniel Harker Barnes TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
Download PDF
Download PDF

When you say you’re broadcasting skydiving, there are two types of reactions. One is the creative, who’ll say something along the lines of “Wow. Those shots must look great” and other is the engineer who’ll say “That must be a real hassle to get all the infrastructure in and secure.”

When you say you work on indoor skydiving, both people will think it’s a bit easier; and whilst that’s true in the respect that you spend less time in airplanes, other than that it’s still challenging. You have to work in a building not designed for broadcasting, with space restrictions meaning it’s a lot harder to get full quality cameras into the wind tunnel, and you have to integrate with a complex scoring system. That’s just to name just a few challenges.

As any sports broadcaster will tell you, the key to any show is the action. It’s all about what’s happening right now. What’s the story?

In indoor skydiving, as in any sport, a big part of the story is the score. It’s what dictates the intensity of each round, the speed of the competition, and tells you how far or how tantalisingly close a team is to that coveted first-place spot. But the challenge for us as broadcasters is that, for several reasons, the scores are not released live, and they aren’t released first on the broadcast either; meaning we have to expect the viewers of our program to already know the scores, making it even more challenging to create an intriguing show.

To create a broadcast that grabs our audience, we use two key components.

Firstly, atmosphere, the feel of the competition. Using a wireless camera, we travel around the venue with 1 or 2 presenters to see competitors practicing (‘dirt diving’ or ‘creeping’). We refer to this as ‘Roaming’, and it offers us the opportunity to demonstrate the event is more than just a competition, it’s a social occasion.

Secondly, a variety of content. In skydiving, everyone knows everyone, you don’t just support your ‘local’ team. As such, the coverage we produce has to be varied and feature as many teams and people as possible. To achieve this, we use a mixture of segments: Formal seated interviews in a studio environment; our ‘roaming’ sections; live commentary on the tunnel footage as well as reviews of judged rounds to give technical analysis for the geeks of the sport.

We also have a live tunnel camera, which is useful, but rarely plays a significant role in the production You can’t have any sounds (have you ever tried pointing a microphone at 180mph wind?) and it doesn’t provide any context due to the lack of scores.

As the production manager, it’s important the technical set up we put in place allows the producers to fill the stream with as many varied and interesting sections as possible. Indoor skydiving facilities are large buildings, and don’t just have the tunnel, they also feature ‘creeping’ areas’, where competitors practice their formations on what are essentially skateboards that you lay on. All these facilities also have a social area of some sort, whether it be a temporary marquee, a bar area or a restaurant. It’s important to cover these spaces as they are a big part of the atmosphere for any competition. The final key space is the entrance to the tunnel, or the ‘anti-chamber’ as it’s called, which is a key area to see as it shows the build up to each jump taking place.

With the ability to put presenters in all these spaces, and have them interact with competitors, spectators and judges, the producers have a wide arsenal of live content to choose from to fill the show.

The final part of any stream is pre-produced content. We bring a content producer along to every stream we do; it’s someone to film and edit videos, highlight reels, comedy sketches and so on, meaning two sets of content can be created at once, the stream and the videos, so there is backup content if the scoring is falling behind, and rounds for the next team to be interviewed haven’t been released yet. This content serves two very important purpose, firstly to provide the audience with a bit of relief from constant live content, and secondly, to provide the broadcast crew a bit of relief from constant live content too!

One of the technical challenges of producing a sports broadcast which is so segmented (10 rounds with potentially hundreds of teams) is that if the presenters want to recall a round for them to analyse live, it’s not that speedy to scroll through so many videos, let alone having to import them into the playback system. This is where we look at integrating with the scoring system, which has to host all the videos of the judged rounds anyway. The scoring system which most competitions use has a little-known feature that allows for quick playback of round VTs. Once the presenter has called a round to be analysed, all we need to do is input the class that team compete in, the team number and the round, and we can have that video playing back in a matter of seconds, rather than the up to 30 it could take to locate that teams number and scroll through potentially thousands of videos to find the one they want.

This sorting by team-number idea is what we also use to allow us to do run-and-gun style graphics recall. If we’re live from the social section of the event (usually a bar) with the roaming camera, the presenters can (and do) jump into any conversation and as most competitors will have either their team name or team number on the front of their jump-suit, by the time the presenter has finished saying ‘Let’s jump in and have a chat with…’ you have that graphic ready for when they introduce themselves.

Obviously, these competitions end, and to celebrate (as with most sporting competitions), there is a closing ceremony where the organisers give out the medals. These are often the most engaged sections, as it’s a big celebration, and this is one of the reasons we go all out, sometimes even doubling our crew, not only having more cameras, we’ll very often use kit such as Polecam’s to help give the audience a view that they wouldn’t even be able to achieve, even if they were with us here at the venue

Ultimately, that is the core of the reason we are hired. If we make the competition appear big and exciting, more competitors will turn up the following year, leading to an even more exciting broadcast; and this repeats on a yearly basis. These are just some of the techniques we’ve used and developed over roughly 5 years of working on the broadcast of skydiving, and hopefully we’ll develop even more over the next 5.

Our thanks to Bodyflight World Challenge for use of their photography


Tags: iss131 | sky diving | ally adams | roaming camera | Daniel Harker Barnes
Contributing Author Daniel Harker Barnes

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Download PDF
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Articles
NAB Intelligence
Bruce Devlin - new It's that time of year again. 06:30 on road bikes on the Las Vegas Strip with a merry bunch of folks who believe they look good in lycra. As we pedal West up the hill towards Red Rock there will be stories of the year just gone and questions about what to look for at the show. I, for one, will be attending the Devoncroft event to check up on who is spending what and where. I will then look forward to the topics that might be buzzing around the halls. I predict there will be many displays of Machine Learning hiding under the banner of Artificial Intelligence. Some of these will show better picture quality, others will show personalisation engines, some will be improved search tools and yet more will be synthesising pictures and motions to replace reality with and Artificial reality that's more compelling for the viewer.
Tags: iss136 | nab | class | ai | smpte | st2110 | imf | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read or download PDF
Streaming - Shut up and Sit Down
Matt Lees Twilight Imperium is a board game all about strategy and backstabbing. Known for its length of gameplay, the team behind Shut Up and Sit Down decided to deliver a mammoth 10-hour live broadcast, streamed to Twitch. Matt Lees is here to tell us how it went down.
Tags: iss136 | streaming | blackmagic | atem | 4k | canon c100 | sony pxw-z90 | Matt Lees
Contributing Author Matt Lees Click to read or download PDF
TV Futures - The Shadowing Experience
Daniel Jones My name is Daniel Jones, and it is no accident that I’m currently studying BSc (Hons) Television and Broadcasting at the University of Portsmouth. Since completing GSCE media studies I have been constantly questioning what I watch with questions such as, “Wow, how was that filmed?” or “That looks amazing, I wonder how long that took?” It should come as no surprise that I made it a big focus of mine to get myself some real work experience to give myself some answers to these production questions.
Tags: iss136 | portsmouth university | runner | student | education | training | Daniel Jones
Contributing Author Daniel Jones Click to read or download PDF
Living LIVE at BVE with Ross Video
Jon Pratchett KitPlus’ Jon Pratchett chats to Stuart Russell, Ross Video, in the BVE studio. Covering customer partnerships and loyalty, pain points, growth, industry trends, pace of IP adoption, 12g SDI technologies, UHD / HDR, 8k, AI and we try to get a hint of new products on the horizon...
Tags: iss136 | ross video | 12g sdi | uhd | hdr | ip | bve 2019 | bvexpo | Jon Pratchett
Contributing Author Jon Pratchett Click to read or download PDF
Preserving the British Film Institute Archive
David Feller Today, the media and entertainment industry faces numerous challenges. To remain successful and competitive, these organisations must be ever innovative, agile and cost efficient in the way they produce, store, manage and distribute their digital assets. Content creators have traditionally relied upon outdated storage models, comprised of legacy interfaces, file structures and historical proprietary storage management software that tend to be complex, cumbersome and expensive. This makes it difficult to forecast and budget for ever-growing content in the effort to reach viewers.
Tags: iss136 | bfi | archive | blackpearl | spectra | storage | film | tape | David Feller
Contributing Author David Feller Click to read or download PDF