TM Broadcast International 84, August 2020

Page 1


American Idol: stirring up the us entertainment production scene year after year


36 46 Interview with LTN Global

DJ Stipsen: what we do behind the cameras

64 News


MUBI: when editorial criteria outperforms technology

Editor in chief Javier de Martín

Creative Direction Mercedes González

Key account manager Susana Sampedro

Administration Laura de Diego

Managing Editor Sergio Julián

56 AMC Networks International Southern Europe

70 Test Zone: Sennheiser 6000 Series, a solution to all problems

TM Broadcast International #84 August 2020

TM Broadcast International is a magazine published by Daró Media Group SL Centro Empresarial Tartessos Calle Pollensa 2, oficina 14 28290 Las Rozas (Madrid), Spain Phone +34 91 640 46 43 Published in Spain ISSN: 2659-5966

EDITORIAL The broadcast industry has undertaken throughout its history a number of key changes in work flows in the wake of the new technologies that have been gradually arising or because of the evolution seen in the value of TV as a mass media tool. However, other reinventions have been inevitably marked by dramatic events, things that have altered the way of reaching the greater public, thus driving reflection and subsequent breakthrough. One of them is Covid-19. This disgraceful pandemic, which has brought about an emerging economic downturn and a halt in the activity in many sectors, might have in the end left a meaningful positive note in the broadcast industry: a speeding up in the implementation of solutions that were latent in the market. This is not the sole opinion of our newsroom: Throughout many weekly interactions with senior positions in all kinds of corporations we have been able to establish that this is a shared feeling. Spearheads of this accelerated evolution are IP productions or remote workflows implemented both in newsrooms and in production editing. These procedures have come to stay. In the TM Broadcast issue that you are about to discover, we bring to you a fascinating case


study that will only evidence all possibilities brought about by this new context: American Idol, one of the most relevant entertainment programs in the recent history of American TV. We invite you to pay special attention to this exclusive interview for our magazine, as the program's leading managers tell us how they have reinvented production in order to adapt it to such extraordinary circumstances. We did not want to close this editorial feature without taking a look to broadcast's most immediate future with moderate optimism. Productions are resuming and are reinvented at their technological core; major international trade shows rearm in order to meet the ambitions of technology suppliers. In fact, IBC is planning an interesting online edition that we will closely follow. Obviously, we will sorely miss this one-to-one interaction, which makes these shows such a special thing. However, for the time being, reinventing oneself is the thing to do, as broadcasters throughout the world have done. The future of broadcast production is already here. And TM Broadcast International is certainly pleased to show it to you, once more, in its pages.


Qligent releases version 3.10 of Vision, its monitoring and analysis solution

Qligen has released version 3.10 of its flagship Vision software for media monitoring and analysis. Free to existing customers with a valid support contract and running on the Linux CentOS platform, Vision v3.10 enables full integration with Wasabi’s Cloud platform for agnostic video, audio, and data storage and retention. Vision v3.10 also strengthens software security, improves measurement, and more efficiently communicates performance through scheduled reports. Qligent Vision is a software-based solution 6

that combines “intelligent architecture, intuitive display, and limitless scalability for the monitoring and analysis of media service delivery”, according to the press release. Available as an onpremises, cloud-native or cloud-hybrid solution, Vision provides a picture of media performance across multiple delivery platforms out to the last mile, with actionable insights across QoS, QoE and regulatory compliance. Qligent began partnering with Wasabi for cloud storage last year on select projects to

offer customers a “lower cost”, cloud provideragnostic alternative to expensive proprietary cloud storage platforms. Vision’s security features are now fully compliant with Wasabi’s enterpriseclass cloud environments, allowing all Qligent customers to leverage Wasabi’s low data storage solutions. The latest Vision software release also strengthens stream measurement for cable and telco customers. Vision customers in these markets can now scramble each substream, or elementary stream, within each transport stream at the physical layer. This provides greater insight into QoS monitoring for the video, audio and data encoded within each elementary stream moving through the headend. 


Densitron makes IDS platform available as a managed service Densitron has announced the immediate availability of its Intelligent Display System (IDS) platform as a fully managed service. Reuben Such, Global Business Director of Densitron IDS, says that the starting point for IDSaaS was “the recognition on our part that by making the same offer available via an opex model, it could be brought within reach of smaller facilities such as local or community radio projects and even educational facilities. In other words, the kind of facilities that would like to have the IDS solution but would not be in a position to move forward on a regular capex basis.” But in light of the current global crisis and the more straitened economic circumstances, there is now an expectation that IDSaaS will also appeal to some 8

“enterprise and mediumsized operations who are facing budget reductions and are looking for a control solution that can be flexed and tailored according to their size and requirements. This is a need that can be addressed with IDSaaS.” Available immediately, IDSaaS is a fully managed service encompassing design, implementation, hardware, software, and ongoing support and backup. Customers can sign up for a determined time period, with two years expected to be the normal duration, while

they will also be able to scale their use of the IDS platform in response to evolving demands: “It can be difficult to predict how business will change over the course of 12 months, so we have designed IDSaaS to be flexible, affordable, and supportive of users managing their cashflow.” The new service also takes advantage of recent updates to the IDS platform that allow it to be used more flexibly – whether part of a hybrid approach or on-premise, at someone’s home, or in the cloud. 


Atomos to record 4Kp60 ProRes RAW over HDMI from Sony’s Alpha 7S III Atomos are today announcing RAW recording at up to 4Kp60 via HDMI from Sony’s new Alpha 7S III (ILCE-7SM3) full-frame mirrorless camera to the Ninja V HDR monitor-recorder. The Alpha 7S III has a

state-of-the-art CMOS image sensor and the Ninja V can record its full dynamic range in Apple ProRes RAW for maximum detail and latitude in postproduction. The RAW files are optimal for HDR finishing, or for greater

flexibility in SDR (Rec.709), giving stunning results in either. Images are recorded directly to affordable, reliable AtomX SSDmini or other compatible SSD drives for quick transfer to your editing system. 


Ultimate Gamer selects AJA Ki Pro GO to capture live eSports highlights For its first-ever “Valorant” LAN tournament, which took place over the course of three days this summer in Miami, Ultimate Gamer live streamed all of the action to fans worldwide via social media platforms. Using an AJA Ki Pro GO multichannel H.264 recorder/player provided by systems integrator CineSysOceana, the team also captured highlights footage for integration into the three-day stream. This deployment allowed Ultimate Gamer to limit the number of people on-site in Miami and practice safe social distancing while still reaching its international fan community. By the event’s end, the team had streamed more than 30 hours of gaming from 10 players to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Periscope. Concurrently, footage was recorded in real-time to USB drives as high quality H.264 files using the Ki Pro GO and passed onto the editorial team intermittently throughout


the event. Editorial used the files to cut replays and highlights for inclusion into the stream. All recordings were archived and will be used to create original programming that Ultimate Gamer is developing for broadcast and OTT providers. Developed by CineSysOceana Technical Specialist Javier Mendez, Ultimate Gamer’s workflow included three Sony cameras for acquisition, including two on jibs and one over the shoulder, which captured footage of the players and tournament hosts on-site. Each player’s gameplay feed, whether via Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Switch, was integrated into the feed for live switching, after being converted to SDI using AJA FS-Mini MiniConverters. A first-person view, shot via a webcam from each player’s computer, was transported via NDI for integration into the feed as well. Ki Pro GO recorded all three camera feeds and the 1080p HD

gameplay feed directly from a Newtek Tricaster video production system. “Recording each feed directly to USB media with Ki Pro GO is so convenient. We can quickly hand off the drives to our editors, who are mostly freelance and


working off of a laptop, and they can get to work right away with high quality files in their NLE of choice, whether Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro. Within an hour we’re able to fold match replays or highlights into the stream,” said Mendez. “Being able to control and configure the device from a web-browser is also huge, and with the new 10-bit support in the

latest firmware release, we can be confident that every time, we’re capturing high quality video with no risk of downtime.” Underscoring the importance of finding new ways to connect the gaming community during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, Suarez concluded, “Video gaming brings people together and often provides a much

needed distraction from the real-world, and with Ki Pro GO we’re able to capture our tournaments and deliver high-quality video content to our global audience. It’s truly a reliable plug-and-play solution, so we never have to worry about technical issues, and we’ve received positive feedback from the entire production crew and editorial team.” 



Sky News Arabia chooses Blackbird for remote and collaborative cloud video editing and publishing Blackbird has been chosen by Sky News Arabia for remote and collaborative cloud video editing and publishing of digital news content. Sky News Arabia is a 24-hour Arabic news channel broadcast across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). With a free-to-air TV channel, digital and audio platforms, Sky News Arabia delivers analysis of both news from the Middle East and North Africa region and international news. The channel is broadcast to more than 50 million households in the MENA region. Sky News Arabia will use Blackbird to drive major video production efficiencies across a number of key workflows. Sky News Arabia’s multisite production teams in Abu Dhabi, UAE and other locations will be able to 12

collaboratively and remotely edit and publish news content live to social platforms including YouTube for its 1.25 million subscribers to view. Production staff will utilise Blackbird’s marketleading suite of professional video editing tools such as multi video and audio tracks, graphic effects, colour correction, transitions and voice over to enrich content. Editorial approval will be a key feature of the workflow, ensuring content quality and accuracy. Blackbird will also be used by Sky News Arabia to repurpose the network’s output through

the editing and publishing of file-based video content. Sky News Arabia Director of Technology, Suresh Kumar, said: “Sky News Arabia operates one of the most progressive newsrooms in the Middle East and Blackbird will empower our multi-site production teams to work collaboratively in the cloud with a rich suite of video editing and publishing tools. The adoption of this platform supports our drive to continuously use technology and innovation to enhance our screens and digital platforms.” 


Canal 3 Radio integrates its new studio with the Lawo Ruby mixing console Bi-lingual Swiss radio station Canal 3, which broadcasts on two frequencies in the cantons of Berne and Solothurn, has chosen the Lawo ruby on-air console, combined with Power Core DSP mixing engine, as the centerpieces of their recently-completed air studio. Designed for dual duty as both a preproduction studio and a substitute on-air space, this is Canal 3’s third studio equipped with Lawo radio products. Their new ruby console features a workflowoptimized split-frame setup, with a 12-fader main mixing surface for DJs, and an additional 4-fader module for in-studio newscasters. This configuration allows radio presenters to work independently, using physically separate portions of the same mixing surface, which are flush-mounted to enhance studio ergonomics. Consulting, construction, installation, and

commissioning of both the broadcast technology and studio furnishings were provided by Zurich-based system integrator SLG Broadcast AG.

of 2016, these studios were

Canal 3 has relied on Lawo for many years. “The two existing production studios for German and Frenchlanguage programs were first equipped with Lawo zirkon mixing consoles in 2010 and 2011,” explains Benedikt Hurni, Sales & Operations Manager at SLG Broadcast, “and at the end

SLG in 2018, utilizing a 12-

upgraded to sapphire consoles.” Additionally, a mobile studio setup consisting of three flight cases was commissioned by fader ruby console with Power Core. “This new order for a third studio, which has just been completed, shows that Canal 3 is quite satisfied with Lawo technology, as well as with SLG’s services as a system house,” notes Hurni. 



CTV Outside Broadcasts adopts Riedel’s MediorNet MuoN and FusioN Gateways Riedel’s SFP-based MediorNet MuoN IP gateways provide practical interfaces for bridging SDI signals into IP. With their small form factor (SFP+, SFP28), the modules can be installed inside a standard 10GE/25GE IP switch. Because they are softwaredefined, MuoN modules can be configured to run encapsulation such as SMPTE ST 2110, ST 2022-1/2, CTV Outside Broadcasts recently deployed the Riedel MediorNet MuoN and FusioN gateways within its live production workflow to optimize the speed and flexibility of signal conversion during the production of a popular reality show. The MediorNet solutions move SDI-to-IP conversion “to the edge”, allowing for a fully scalable IP workflow.

possible, but easy,” said

and ST 2022-6.

Paul Francis, Chief

The MediorNet FusioN

Technical Officer at CTV

device deployed by CTV

Outside Broadcasts. “Other

Outside Broadcasts is a

manufacturers’ solutions

stand-alone gateway

require deployment of

designed for remote control

messy single boxes or large

applications. The FusioN 6

frames, but the MediorNet

can be configured with a

gateways work with a

combination of MuoN

switch that is already in

modules to deliver the

place, handling two or more

signal processing

signals as needed at each

capabilities the production

location. The granular

company requires. The bulk

nature of Riedel’s SFP

gateway is capable of

“With the innovative gateway devices from Riedel, we realized that scaling IP is not just

gateway deployment has

treating up to eight

really enabled the

gateway conversions for

efficiency and flexibility of

HD/3G signals or four in

our project.”

UHD. 



Swaraj Express chooses Grass Valley solutions for its newsroom operations 24/7 Indian news channel, Swaraj Express, has deployed a range of Grass Valley solutions for its newsroom operation. The Hindi-language broadcaster has deployed the iTX integrated playout platform with master control for its “proven future-proof features” and the ability to manage and operate multiple playout channels across multiple platforms. The iTX platform provides multi-resolution support, allowing the production team to handle 4K, HD and SD, as needed. The solution also can simultaneously play out both IP and SDI. Swaraj Express has

deployed GV STRATUS for news production and content management, Kula 2ME production switchers, alongside a range of infrastructure solutions.

tracks and manages assets

GV STRATUS operates as the main MAM system for Swaraj Express, offering integration with the thirdparty newsroom computer system (NRCS). GV STRATUS’ built-in social media management capability allows production staff to directly publish content and metadata to popular social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter as well as online platforms such as YouTube. It also

chose Grass Valley as our

on the platforms. Mr. Gurdeep Singh Sappal, Swaraj Express’ Editor-inChief, commented: “We primary technology supplier because they truly understand the requirements of a news platform and deliver solutions that help us meet the changing needs of our audience, across linear, online and social media. Through our rigorous selection process, they were able to clearly demonstrate that the combination of iTX and GV STRATUS was the best solution for us, offering format flexibility, scalability and a strong roadmap, while still being robust and easy to operate. Grass Valley’s strong regional presence and unmatched technical support were also deciding factors for us.”  15


Imagine Communications provides Sharjah Broadcasting Authority’s Al Wousta Channel with IP Playout Solution Imagine Communications has taken a leading role in Al Wousta, a new television channel owned by Sharjah Broadcasting Authority (SBA) and broadcast from Al Dhaid, the capital of the Emirate of Sharjah. A completely greenfield installation set in a striking state-of-theart new building, the station is entirely reliant on IP connectivity using the SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards. The technology platform was collaboratively developed by engineers from Al Wousta and Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, and supported by Imagine Communications, in association with UAE systems integrator Tek Signals. “With the rare opportunity to build a brand-new facility, of course we were going to use the most powerful, agile and future-ready 16

technology available,” said Aisha Alzareef, broadcast technology & information systems director at Sharjah Broadcasting Authority. “The whole industry is moving towards SMPTE ST 2110 because of the real benefits open systems and IP interconnectivity deliver, like compact and flexible installations, and the ability to add new functionality and standards like Ultra HD almost at the touch of a button. The new facility includes a large studio, post production and a playout center, with the infrastructure and automation for playout driven by Imagine Communications. Virtually all of the functionality of the center is implemented in software on COTS hardware, delivering costeffectiveness, operational

flexibility and the ability to easily scale in the future. All connectivity uses IP over fiber, with sufficient bandwidth to move to 4K and HDR Ultra HD in future. As well as building the master control and automation facilities at Al Dhaid, Imagine Communications was also tasked with implementing


a four-channel disaster recovery (DR) site based on the Versio™ modular playout system with ADC™ automation. This provides backup playout not just for Al Wousta, but also for other channels from SBA, ensuring comprehensive business continuity. Nexio® Motion™ software provides workflow management, optimizing content movement and exchanges between the main playout center and DR site, ensuring complete business continuity with minimal operator intervention.

Al Wousta’s main channel relies on Imagine Communications’ Nexio+™ AMP® video servers with Versio IOX SAN storage for its central storage and playout preparations ― with overall control again handled by ADC automation. These systems interface seamlessly with other broadcast equipment, including those in the live studio and the post production network ― delivering flexibility in workflows today and in the future. It also ensures tight integration with

Al Wousta Channel Opening, February 2020 - L to R Mohamed Hassan Khalaf, General Manager; His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, and Aisha Alzareef, Broadcast Technology & Information System Director at Sharjah Broadcasting Authority.

SBA’s existing Broadcast Master™ suite, also from Imagine, for automation and error-free management of linear and nonlinear rights, sales, scheduling and media boosting SBA ability to drive productivity and revenue streams. As the DR center provides redundancy for other SDI channels, it needs SDI connectivity. To integrate this content into the IP environment, the system includes a Platinum™ VX compact router for baseband signals and Imagine’s powerful Selenio™ Media Convergence Platform (MCP) for signal conversion, alongside an EPIC™ MV multiviewer, which allows engineers to monitor IP and SDI signals on the same screen. The equipment at the DR site also works under the management of Imagine’s Magellan™ SDN Orchestrator, a fieldproven software control layer, seamlessly integrating IP technology with legacy systems to protect existing capital investment while maximizing efficiency.  17


SES and Harmonic partner for transition of C-Band spectrum to enable 5G

Harmonic has announced that it will partner with SES for technology upgrades associated with the SES transition plan filed with the Federal Communications Commission on June 19, 2020. SES and Harmonic will work together to fasttrack this deployment, freeing up spectrum for 5G while simultaneously enabling SES's C-band customers to maintain the quality and resilience of their critical video services. This network transformation is based 18

on Harmonic's powerful software solutions for satellite video delivery. SES and Harmonic will work jointly to deploy Harmonic's XOS advanced media processing in the headend and XOS Edge transcoding solutions in remote sites for primary distribution of video feeds. The XOS solutions are based on Harmonic's widely deployed streaming platform, bringing unique OTT capabilities to satellite delivery.

"We are proud to support SES, its customers and the communications industry in enabling the transformation of C-band spectrum for 5G," said Jeremy Rosenberg, senior vice president, business development at Harmonic. "Our softwarebased solutions set the standard for flexibility by enabling these traditional satellite delivery networks to deliver solutions with industryleading bandwidth efficiency." ď ľ


TAG Video Systems joins the Streaming Video Alliance TAG joined the Alliance to stay close to the heart of steaming technologies and participate in the forum’s work groups which are dedicated to developing best practice solutions for the highest-quality video experience possible. “TAG is delighted to join the founders of the Streaming Video Alliance along with the brightest minds in the video value chain to address challenges that inherently arise with emerging technologies,” said Tomer Schechter, TAG CTO. Founded in 2014, the Streaming Video Alliance is a global technical association addressing critical challenges in streaming video. By educating the industry on the technical nature of the issues, providing a neutral forum for collaboration across the video ecosystem, and publishing documentation that defines technical solutions, the Alliance is helping to improve the streaming video experience at scale. Over 85 companies including network operators, content rights holders, OTT platforms, service providers, and technology vendors – representing some of the biggest names in global streaming – participate in biweekly working group activities and quarterly face-to-face meetings. 

Dielectric International Sales Director sails into retirement Dielectric announces the retirement of Federico d’Avis from his full-time International Sales Director position, capping a successful multi-decade career in RF and microwave sales. Federico will remain with Dielectric as a part-time consultant as the company welcomes John Macdonald to the role he vacates. Federico was responsible for Dielectric’s growth in the CALA region and Canada over 12 years with the company. He substantially raised Dielectric’s visibility and market share in these regions, and was responsible for the company’s largest regional projects. He also built partnerships in many countries that helped Dielectric get closer to its customers. This notably includes Brazil, where he established local manufacturing agreements to eliminate high import expenses, and minimize RF and antenna costs for Brazil’s broadcasters. “With Federico’s departure, we are very excited to welcome John Macdonald to the company,” Keith Pelletier, Vice President and General Manager, Dielectric.. “His track record of sales success, depth of transmission expertise, multilingual fluency, and strong relationships and experience in the CALA region will allow him to build on the foundation that Federico leaves behind.”  19




STIRRING UP THE US ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION SCENE YEAR AFTER YEAR Perhaps it was the hope it brought. Or maybe the illusion shown by participants. Or the fact that it came at the right time. The thing is that since it premiered back in 2002, American Idol has found a place in the public imagination, working in part as an emotional haven for millions of American families still traumatized by 9/11. This entertainment format, shown since 2018 on ABC, is already an intrinsic part of US TV (and culture). The program has crossed all kinds of borders and still nowadays keeps 'opening' branch offices throughout the world. Its usual production is both ambitious and complex in equal measure. However, the 2020 edition has meant an unprecedented challenge. Due to Covid-19 and the associated restrictions, American Idol was forced to close the recent season in remote by setting up real-time connections through IP between 45 locations. And it did so while keeping the high quality standards that are typical of this program. What technologies were used to complete their last season? What has their strategy been to approach this situation? These and many other questions will be answered by Trish Kinane, Showrunner and EP of American Idol and President, Entertainment Programming at Fremantle; and John Fekas, Technical Manager, American Idol. By Sergio JuliĂĄn Photo Credits: abc - Walt Disney Television



American Idol has been broadcasted on USA television since 2002! What have been the major technological improvements that the show has had during these 18 years? Trish: The interesting thing about Idol is that’s it’s coming into its 19th edition next season, which is a very long time. I don't even think YouTube or any of those platforms existed when we first went on the air. It's that old! Idol's always been at the forefront of technology. We've always liked to explore new ideas, new ways of doing things, and even though the show is 18 years old, we're still doing that. We were the first show to really embrace the new remote production during our last season. But also, Idol was the first show ever to enable people to vote. That was very important, because it meant people could really feel that they had an investment in the contestants. As you know, Idol started six months after 9/11 and I think it was the right time for a 22

show like Idol: very positive, very warm; talented kids who needed a break in life, families who wanted to get together to watch a feelgood show… I think all of that helped. And there’s the fact that technologically you could vote on mass. I came from the UK. We were trying to do mass voting in the UK, and the technology just wasn't there until around about 2002. We did a show in the UK and so many people called the line that the local ambulance service collapsed! So, the technology was around at exactly the right emotional time for American Idol to start. I think that helped the show to become successful. And then you’ve got text messaging. We've got hilarious footage of Ryan Seacrest with a huge phone teaching America how to text. He said: “This is what you do: press text and send it to this number”. And people love that! Again, that got them engaged in the show. More recently, once

American Idol went to ABC, we were the first entertainment competition show to do real-time coast-to-coast voting. In America, which is such a big country, usually both coasts can’t both vote at the same time. But along with ABC, the broadcaster, we scheduled the show in such a way that East Coast and West Coast could watch the show at the same time. Viewers could vote and, by the end of the show, there was a result. That was huge, that was historic. It hadn't been done before. So, even though American Idol at





that point was 16 years old, it still was breaking technological boundaries. And then, of course, with the Covid-19 virus, we've just had to do it again with the remote shows. We were certainly the first big shiny floor show to have to do that… So, American Idol loves technology!


Before getting into this remote season, what are the main technological challenges of a regular edition of American Idol? What are the critical points of the production?

those has its own set of technological challenges…

Trish: I think American Idol is the only show of this type that travels. A lot of the other shows bring the contestants to a studio or a theatre. American Idol doesn't. We really want to discover raw, genuine talent from the middle of America. We send our judges out around the country, and that's a big operation. For our middle rounds, we're filming in a theater in Hollywood, then we film in Hawaii, and then we do the studio shows in a studio in L.A.. So, John, I guess each of 24

John: We do it differently. We find ourselves not with the luxury of being in the same space, as far as acoustics, as far as camera shots, as far as lighting. Anyway, we manage it very well. If you think about it, Idol’s has always been very much of a very personal show. So, to make that happen, we really have to think outside of the box on what we're going to do technologically, on how we're going to manage the audio acoustics for the instruments, etcetera. So, it is truly a road show. I mean, it's our own little circus, but it does differentiate us technically.

Trish: It's a real challenge to go to different locations. One


day, you might have a location which is a room on the beach in a hotel. The next day, you might be in a conference center in a completely different city. You've got all those trucks with god-knows how much equipment and people traveling our set all around. We go to five different locations around America. Sometimes the elevators aren't big

enough and sometimes the acoustics in one place will be great, but in another museum, they'll be terrible… And there’s the Lighting! We like to have real views behind our judges, but the Lighting changes dramatically throughout the day. Now, the team are just about to going off to scout location for the next season. They’re going to completely different places. The team that's going is John, the lighting director, the sound recordist, the engineer in charge of production, the set designer… You have to 25


look at all these things. Technically it's very hard. But you know, we do it and we're going to carry on doing it.

How many people work to make a single episode of American Idol possible?

And also, what camera system do you use for a regular edition of American Idol? Do you use one single model, or do you match different cameras in order to create the look and then you go to postproduction to do the finishing touches?

Trish: I think that on the road it's about 150, and then when we get to the studio it's about 225. It’s a lot.

Trish: I think it depends of the different stages of the show, isn’t it John? This one is for you.

Is American Idol filmed in HD or in 4K? If it is produced in HD, are you planning to move to 4K?

John: Technologically, we've always been very willing to look, like I said earlier, outside of the box.


We mix and match manufacturers and formats, but also, we work very closely with creative. My accessibility as an engineer, as a vendor, as a technical supervisor, to Trish, the executive producer, is very rare in this business. Creative and engineers really work together and compromise towards vision. We shoot with a lot of prime lenses and sensors, but we still capture in regular HD. Like I said, to say we use XYZ is unfair, because I’ll bet you that on the road this year we might adopt


two or three different technologies. And, by the end of next season, we might have found something else that is exciting that really makes the show look better and feel better to people at home. And that's really the bottom line. Trish: I think also ABC doesn't broadcast in 4k, do they? John: No, nobody broadcasts in 4K. You

make a good point. I mean, at the end of the day, network deliverables are 720p 5994, but the better resolution and the better quality images that we capture, the better our deliverable is to the network and the more engaging it is. So that's why we mix and match a lot of things.

I asked this because shows like American Idol might be coming

soon to VOD platfoms, some of which are ready to offer these kinds of contents in 4K‌ John: No, absolutely. And as soon as the network asks for a 4K deliverable, then I have no doubt that American Idol will be one of the first ones. I think that probably is coming because of the advent of Disney+ and, like you said, all of these avenues to grab content. As far as a



deliverable to network, that's a long way away, but as far as native capture, it probably is closer than we may think.

Sound is a nuclear part of American Idol. At the way you deliver it is amazing. I would like to know how it is treated in the show. How do you manage sound in the production of American Idol? Trish: It's a music show, so it's got to be great.


John: On the road, we do obviously backup multitracks for everything. We are probably the only show on the road that has dedicated audio people to pick up certain areas and certain ambient sounds. In the studios it's a lot easier: we have a full 5.1 band mix, which sounds spectacular. And when it gets home, our audio quality is always extraordinarily good. It’s one of those very important things to us.

Trish: And, by the way, American Idol has got great people working on



its cruise and they come back year after year after year. This show is like a family, and everybody knows that we need top quality. The people at the top of their game want to work on American Idol and that really helps make sure the quality is great.

Before moving to the remote 2020 edition, I would love to know if do you have multiple teams that travel across the USA or do you count with just a one single team that moves throughout America?

Trish: It’s a single team. We move like a circus! John: Yes, exactly. Logistically, I don't think a lot of people have appreciation for how big our audition roadshow is. I mean, I think last year we had six tractor trailers on the road, so it's comparable to the size of an arena rock tour. There's a lot of moving parts and logistically it's a challenge, but like Trish said, everybody's has a lot of passion about this show and it's fun, we make it fun.

Moving to the 2020 remote / online edition, how was this conceived? What have been the technical complications you had to resolve to make the contest possible? Trish: There was a lot of uncertainty. We had finished our auditions so they were in the edit, and also we had finished our shoot in Hawaii just in time before everybody knew how serious the virus was, so we did the shows in Hawaii with a big audience on the beach. 29


Then, we came back to Los Angeles. We were getting ready to do the studio shows and the set was being loaded into the big studio of Television City, but then the virus was obviously becoming more and more serious. We had to look at lots of different scenarios. How do we do a show in the studio with no audience was one thing we looked at. We even considered doing the show in the studio with a virtual reality audience. We thought that for Disney night we might have the audience full of Disney characters such as lions, mice or princesses. We did a lot of work on all of this, because we didn't know 30

what we could do and couldn't do. Then, it became apparent that we just couldn't do this, because the governor of California was putting rules in place. We sent the kids home, the contestants, because they live all over America. Then the question was: do we stop the show now after the auditions and then we pick it up again when we can? We cannot just let it go. For these kids, this is really important. Winning or being on American Idol can change their lives, it does change their lives, so we felt that it was a responsibility to carry on and to finish the season. So, then we started

working out how on earth do we do this. So, John and his team, and me and my team, had meetings every day over Zoom at five o'clock, what we called “The Five O'Clock Club”. We met every single day for hours and hours on these Zoom calls trying to work out how we were going to do it. From a creative point of view, I was watching the late night shows, which were carrying on, and they were all boxes, you know, lots of people in boxes and varying degrees of quality; time lags for sound was terrible on a lot of them. So, my challenge to myself was how we do this but make it top quality, as American Idol always is. We all wanted to make it work, there were some tense moments because we were like “How are we gonna do this!”. It was a real challenge, and of course the clock was ticking because there was an air date. We had to get it done. We ended up with 45 different locations, including 25 locations for


the contestants, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Ritchie, Ryan Seacrest, Bobby Bones… This study I’m sitting in now, it was full of equipment and we all did it from home and all the editing happened at home. We had our creative director working with the contestants on “right, take your iPhone and show me around your

house, let's see which room we might do this, shall we send you a lamp from Amazon?” It was a real mix between mom and pop, with top technology. John, I don’t know if you've got the nitty-gritty of how difficult this was. John: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. We came out of the gate

with some great ideas. We did many tests with our musical director and one of his backup singers. We liked what we saw, we liked what we heard. We figured out a workflow from start to finish, as far as how the contestant was going to hear, what the contestant was going to see, how we were going to route images to keep the



conversations between the judges and the contestants relevant, how to work the intercoms between Trish and her team… We created all those things for literally 45 different locations, working in real time, in an IP based environment. We overcame all these hurdles very rapidly. Everybody got comfortable really quick. Creatively, all of a sudden, the juices began to flow. There were a lot of other shows that were dead in the water. They weren't even considering taking 32

on a monumental task like we did. And you know, we pulled it off and we learned. I think that, at the end of the day, Idol kept a lot of content on the air. I’m very appreciative that we even had the chance to do it. Like she said, until two weeks ago, the stage was literally a motherboard: the machine rooms were in, the monitors were in. Trish: I think you’re right. We kept pushing it creatively. So, once we’ve got the basic, we thought about making it even better. For some of the

performances we used green screens, which made the contestants coexist with even Disney animals in their living room. In addition, about the vocal coaching, we had the vocal coach on one Zoom, we had the pianist on another zoom, the musical director on another one… It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work. And then the sound was sent back and mixed. John: Yes. We had a very complex embedding and de-embedding scheme. They listened to it and then when it all came


back, we had tracks for all of the performances that just sounded spectacular. I know you're tired of hearing me say that, but not one person could take credit for it, because we all had skin in the game, and it turned out spectacular. I thought the audio was just unbelievable.

What IP platform or system did you use to manage all the signals to produce the show? John: We used a couple of companies, such as LTN Global. We concentrated on the H.264 transport. We did it all by first mile public internet and then we hopped on private data servers layered networks. We leveraged LTN’s Kansas City network operations center to do a lot of our transport and a

lot of our coordination, because we had a ton of appliances out in the field. And the ability of the crew at LTN to expand the contract as we needed, as we grew creatively, was very important. It was all done over the internet, every drop of it. Except for the live finale, it was a massive undertaking to do it over the internet. Trish: And the Internet at the homes of some contestants were terrible. There was one that had really bad internet. We sent somebody from the internet provider to her house and he said, “Okay, we've boosted this, we've done everything we can, she now has the best internet ever”. But what happened was that everybody else in the area was playing video games, talking on Facetime,


talking on Zoom, so her internet still wasn't great. Then, we had to send bonded cellular stuff.

Synchronization and latency were two of the crucial points of this production. How did you manage both challenges? John: Yes, transport was an issue. Like I said, we partnered with LTN, who managed our data services and our bookings. We used LTN appliances in the field. But you know, the pin in the hinge on the LTN was network, which is great data centers. I think they use AWS servers, which provided us with the best latency. We struggled with latency. If something wasn't good enough, we sometimes would move on to another contestant, and we'd work on it and get it better. It’s key to having a good partner to do that. But the key to it is you're only as good as the people you surround yourself with. By the first week, we had a pretty good partnership, a pretty good workflow, and we had good appliances in 33


the field. That was very important to our success. Trish: And then for the finale, John, because for the last part of the finale we went live, we had remote cameras outside every contestant's house, the finalists. That was slightly different, wasn't it? You had a sort of little studio set, control room… John: Yes. We sent robotic cameras that we controlled distantly. We did uplinks because it was live-live. We had a lot of appliances in the field that were from different vendors at that point in time. We had to think outside the box. And, again, it was live-live, it was no messing around. Trish: We could not afford the internet to go down!

I heard that you had to send a kit with cameras, lightning tools and sound devices to each contestant in order to complete the production. Could you provide us with more details? Trish: We tried at 34

different cameras. In the end, the iPhone 11 Pro was amazing. We sent three iPhones to each contestant, a ring light, and sound devices. We could see the images from the main iPhone back here in LA, but the problem is that we couldn’t see the feeds from the other two iPhones. But we wanted three angles for us to edit. We had to talk with their mom or dad or uncle so they could show us the image they were getting! The upload and the download also took a long time. We had issues with trying to increase the speed of that workflow to get it back to the edit, because we were doing it from 20 contestants, plus three judges, plus Ryan Seacrest, plus Bobby Bones. That was a lot of material coming to the edit, so it was quite tricky, everything took a lot longer than a normal production. And the contestants, even though they’re tech savvy, then they're not really tech savvy in the way we needed them to be. Funnily enough, nobody

could set up the tripod! I think everything else they found much easier than setting it up.

You have two impressive performances in your finale: Katy Perry and the All-Star collaboration with Lionel Ritchie. Could you tell us more about these performances? Trish: Lionel was interesting, because obviously he wrote “We Are The World” with Michael Jackson 35 years ago, and he has never


them on the keys and what to put where. I think it’s become a very special sort of iconic piece and people still view it on YouTube and talk about it.

performed it on TV since the first day. And he came to me and said: “I think this is the time to do it, and I don't want loads of famous people in it like it was at the beginning, I want this to be about American Idol”. We came up with the idea of finding footage of empty spaces which should be full, such as railway stations, beaches, streets. We sourced images of those and then we superimposed idols on it, both contestants from this year and idols from the past who’ve gone on to

have successful careers. Sort of the message was: “Yes, it's all empty, yes, we're in a crisis in the world, but mountains, lakes and nature, that all still exists, that will still be here, it's all going to be okay”. It took a lot of doing in the edit in postproduction and we'd all have loved to have more time to select even better images, but the emotion of it came through. And then, Lionel in his house recorded that bit that he did at the beginning. Kris Pooley, our musical director, worked with

And then, about Katy Perry, she would always have done a performance in our finale and it would have been on the stage in the studio. So, she wanted to mix the fact that it was remote, but she didn't want it to be completely remote. They put in this virtual technology on the American Idol stage at the beginning as “this is where I would have been," and then she went off into fantasyland and then came back to the American Idol stage at the end. I think she and her team did that with XR studios and the technology that they had developed. I think it was stuff that hadn't really been done before. And everybody had to have masks and all the safety precautions when they filmed it with her, especially because she was pregnant.  35





This is the time for IP. This technology, applied both to production and to transport, has been for years with the broadcast industry, but it has not been until present time when producers and broadcasters have decided to step forward to adopt it in their day-to-day workflows. It is not longer an alternative: it is a reality that is being now integrated by thousands of players in order to adapt to logistics-related complications brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. LTN Global can play and is definitely playing a significant role in this new scenario. Tokens of this are their multiple solutions and services already implemented by productions such as American Idol or the NFL Draft. We contacted Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products at LTN Global, to give us his views on the most recent developments about the company and the solutions they may provide to this unexpected digital media context.



First, we’ll love to know about the history of LTN Global and what have been your latest movements. Absolutely! LTN Global has been around for about a dozen years. LTN's core of services and business was building a one-ofa-kind global IP transmission network. It's deployed globally in data centers around the world. It's some really interesting technology that comes out of some really smart folks out of Johns Hopkins University, which is in Baltimore. The goal of that network was to build a really reliable, really low latency network that extends what's possible in both sort of traditional and fiber and satellite video networks, riding obviously on the everpresent growing access to the Internet that everybody has in the world. LTN was growing year over year profitable, 38

Rick Young.

but a couple years ago, so maybe 2017 or 2018, strategically we decided to extend our offerings beyond just traditional video transport. So, in 2019, we did a series of acquisitions. We acquired three companies. I will briefly go over them. Early in the last year we acquired a company called Niles Media. Niles Media is a production company out of Kansas City, Missouri, sort on the center of the United States. It was really our

first step into the production world. We'd been servicing the production world, but we haven't provided our own production services. It really was partially about getting our feet wet in that area, though we don't imagine ourselves as big time production services, that's not our long-term vision, but I mean, it's part of the story. Niles has been a partner of ours for years and they're really specialists in REMI style production. And they've been using the LTN network as the core transmission for the REMI or at home style production they've been doing for years. It made sense to do that. Then, the second really strategic part of that acquisition was to bring media workflow expertise into the company. We have a 24/7 network operations center that manages that global network I talked


about. Now, we have a workflow set of experts and they work together in tandem. That was Niles Media. Then, we acquired a company Crystal. Crystal is an Atlanta, Georgiabased company. They've been around for 20/25 years or so, and they have two core sets of expertise that are related. One is they've been running television networks via NMS or monitoring and control systems for years. They're embedded in some of the biggest media organizations in the world, like Disney and Fox. They run the Fox Television Network, run meaning control satellite uplinks, downlinks or what channel is tuned to what station at what time during what sporting event. I mean, very detailed workflows. And we continue to offer that as a service to the market. Buy they've also developed, in recent years, some valuable signalling ad insertion enablement technology, allowing live video streams, as they traverse a network like ours, to enable

downstream workflows. Most importantly is, obviously, ad insertion and targeted advertising on various platforms, and also content replacement, like targeting this channel for this region. Lastly, we acquired Make. TV. Make. TV is a german-based company from Cologne. They are a cloud-first, digital-first, virtual video router in the cloud. Very much public cloud-first, which is different than the LTN’s model, which is to have our own private data centers around the world. That allows you to basically take unlimited numbers and types of sources in, and publish them to various destinations whether they're sort of traditional media or digital, social, etc. So, it really is a cloudfirst, digital-first mentality that very much sort of complements the LTN mentality, which has been servicing the biggest major brands for years. And then, the last thing I'll say about Make. TV is they're really known for

beautiful, intuitive, functional user experiences. Again, we can leverage that expertise across all our product lines. That’s the story. We're growing very quickly and this year, 2020, is all about bringing those solutions together. We've been super successful in bringing cross-business unit solutions to the market.

LTN defines itself as a “trusted technology partner”. We understand that your services go beyond a simple product: they are an entire ecosystem of solutions, as you just told me, right? That's exactly right. You know, we think about the media landscape in terms of pillars. There’s the creation pillar, which is all about management and routing and capturing and acquiring. Creation is obviously the production team command, is all about this live video cloud expertise of bringing lots of sources in and acquiring contribution workflows. The next pillar 39


LTN Global at American Idol



is signalling, which is really what i just talked about with Crystal, like enabling different workflows by adding metadata to live feeds as it traverses this ecosystem or the network. And then, of course, transport is all about getting it where it needs to go whether it's a single location, hundreds or thousands, whether they're traditional cable headends or virtual MVPDs, or the next great social platform whatever that might be. That's how we reflect it to the market… and then we bring everything to the market as services. We don't license technology, it's not like “Here's your software, good luck to you”. We bring everything to the market as services backed by a couple of 24/7 network operations centers that I mentioned. Sometimes, we run those services and that technology; sometimes we run that technology ourselves, we can produce a basketball game for a customer or a soccer game or a football game or American Idol; or we

can put the technology in your hands and we'll just support you if you have a question or if there's an issue. We have a unique place in the market.

You have been developing IP video transmission solutions for years. What kind of products and services does LTN Global offer in this area? Transmission is the core of LTN. The fundamental strategy to it all is that the pieces that we put together needed to be made better by a network. The network has to be foundational. It can't just be additive in the most basic way. LTN's transmission network services all video transmission workflows, whether they're contribution or distribution; whether they're occasional-use, event-based or full-time. For example, we do distribution for major cable networks to cable headends, so sort of traditional satellite type workflows. That's a big deal today with C-band

capacity issues in the US and elsewhere in the world. We do backhauls from every broadcast affiliate to processing centers for Youtube, TV and virtual MVPD, so those are full-time workflows. But more relevant to what I think we're talking about today, are the thousands of event-based events that happen on our network every single day. That's sports and news and entertainment. Our network is deployed at 3,000 locations around the world, and those are venues, arenas, stadiums, stations, cable headends, studios… We have five or six hundred studios on our network, that are a good portion of the live shows you see on many of the cable channels in the US and also outside of the US. This low latency two-way talkback capability is really critical for that and that's kind of what got us into American Idol. And then I guess the last thing I’ll mention because it's really important in today's world is that we don't have to only deploy 41


hardware to a location. It's a one rack unit box, it's really simple, it's easy to install‌ but we can also deploy in and out of public cloud environments, and that's a huge growing portion of our workflows, both via the Make. TV live video cloud portion, but also just traditional transport and handing off to various services and customers that are either producing events in the cloud, or more and more originating full-time channels in the cloud. Our network is multicastenabled: we can deliver anywhere in the world with 300 milliseconds, so whether it's an event or a full-time channel, we can replicate what you get with satellite but you can do it via one network versus a two or three or four or five satellites.

Recently, American Idol has relied on your services to reinforce their flow and audiovisual quality. Could you tell us a little more about this project? Do you consider that the 42

development was a success? We worked with several partners to bring American Idol back to ABC television. American Idol needed a solution to replicate as much as they possibly can that vital interaction between their host Ryan Seacrest, their three judges and the final 20 contestants. That's typically done in a big studio, on a stage; everybody's in the same room, there's reactions and emotion and conversation and feedback. That's impossible to do in today's world. I mean, it's not impossible, but it doesn't feel vital, it doesn't feel real. American Idol had that challenge, and in order to be able to do a real conversation, real feedback, emotional-close, high-quality production, they needed a reliable transmission mechanism between all locations. What we did was we deployed flypack versions of our transmission appliances: we call them the LTN Leaf. They were

deployed to these homes around the country. Our network operation center, our managed services, basically worked closely with each one of those individuals to get those systems set up and


plugged in and ready to go. We also provided high quality IFB communications. That's critical in order to be able to have a conversation that feels real-time. We provided that as part of

the services. Those feeds were then managed and brought back to LTN’s production facility, where it was mixed into a live to tape workflow. We were able to bring this sort of real emotional two-way

communication to folks that were really standing in their living room looking into an iPhone, because that's what the camera was. So, iPhone was the camera, but we were the transmission. We 43


managed the feeds, we brought it back; it was a live to tape workflow except for just the final episode. That's what we did.

What were the main logistical challenges that LTN Global faced and how did you address them? One of the big challenges, and you see it every day on television, is that the quality isn’t great when folks are talking via zoom or skype or any other system. I mean, the latency is good and we can have a real conversation, but it's not the same. We provided a managed service, so we were constantly monitoring and troubleshooting and enabling really strong connections. We spent a lot of time making very average home Internet connections reliable enough to do a major television production. And then, of course, all of the communication and coordination that goes along with it. Because of the Covid-19, you don't 44

have big production teams of experts going in and plugging stuff in. Those are real challenges that LTN, along with our partners, were able to overcome. We produced what I think was probably the-best-of-its-kind in today's world production. American Idol was unique, because of its production and emotional quality.

To sum up, what was, in your opinion, the biggest challenge of that production? The biggest challenge was managing home Internet connections. Honestly, that was huge. The core LTN technology, at its heart, is all about managing the unreliable nature of the Internet. That's the core of what we do.

You also helped NFL Draft. Could you also explain what your role was? The NFL draft is a whole other set of workflows. American Idol was about 24 known contributors coming into a show. The other big area that we see

a lot of is “well, what if I want a virtual audience of 500 or a thousand?” “How do I bring sort of nonknown contributors to a production?” That’s a big deal. For the NFL draft, we brought in 500 fans. The monitor that was behind the commissioner was all driven by acquisition through live video cloud. These were folks sitting in front of their phones and their cameras. We provided the mechanism to bring them all in and manage them to have a conversation and then we handed it off to downstream partners. Basically, we enabled these 15 fans of a team to appear when that team is being talked about. Then the commissioner could interact with them. That experience was just one example, but there are lots of entertainment shows that we’re working with, such as MTV or others that we haven’t yet announced.

Coming back to the Covid-19, how has it affected LTN Global? Do you consider that it


has been an accelerator for the industry, regarding the implementation of IP media production solutions? Covid-19 was awful because of a lot of economical and health reasons, but I think we jumped ahead two or three years, honestly, which is kind of ironic because LTN has been doing IP transmission for years. We're no longer talking about “Does it work?”. It's more about, “What can I do with it? We do a lot of cloud-based stuff and there's just this general acceptance of using AWS or LTN’s network as a cloudenabled production. There’s like a different conversation literally overnight.

In your opinion, what will be the LTN’s global role in the future of media production for sports, news, entertainment and esports? Historically, a huge percentage of our business has been sports

and it went away overnight. We managed to immediately pivot into entertainment and some news production. We’ve already done a little bit, but we’re going to continue to play a role to enable content producers of all type to produce more content for more platforms. I think that this sort of jumping ahead three years will finally enable folks to think about distributing content and programming to more than just sort of the big platform, whether it's a TV network or a regional sports network. It's all about multiple platforms, so i think we will continue to service that. Obviously, we will keep enabling transmission and distribution. And the third part I think we're going to have a big role really comes out of the acquisition of Crystal. We've invested a lot over the last six to eight months since the acquisition in enabling our customers to monetize these events. We've built some tools that automate the signalling of the feeds

or the event, and then secondly, we've added as an optional service dynamic ad insertion. Basically, we can create it, we can distribute it and we can enable it on whatever digital platform you want to distribute it. Another thing we’ve been doing for a while is a product called Schedule. A good number of the most popular channels on Twitch, for example, are driven by this product and why it's important in the monetization sense is that it's a full-time channel origination playout solution. It doesn’t compete in the sort of traditional broadcast space where we're running big networks, it’s about building an audience up until a live event. You're able to aggregate an audience, capture an audience, continue to engage an audience and, obviously, monetize that audience. Those are the areas that we'll continue to play in, for sure.  45




WHAT WE DO BEHIND THE CAMERAS The play on words was simple, but, how to resist doing it? DJ Stipsen, photography director from New Zealand, is the last representative of a long-standing saga of technicians prepared to make the most of the so-called mockumentary art. In his main project as DoP, both the film and the serial adaptation of ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ (FX), turns being late to catch the action into an art as he makes us participate both in the dramatic narrative and in the bewilderment of camera people, who open the doors to the world of Staten Island’s vampires to us. Both this project and in the ambitious ‘Dispatches from Elsewhere’ (AMC) benefit from all resources offered by today’s technique in order to offer viewers a window into two worlds: one with plenty of magical and supernatural resources, and other in which ordinariness takes over the action. We shared a funny chat with DJ Stipsen and got a chance to know his work in more detail.



We have read in previous interviews that you have been closely related to filming all your life. How did you approach the direction of photography in particular? How did you start in that, we would say, techy world? I grew up in the film industry. My father was a props master, so I spent my childhood’s weekends on different sets of films. I learned lots of things from him, but also it was great fun. Although, when I left high school, I was not going to go into the film industry. I started training to be a builder and then I decided that maybe the film industry would be more interesting. Also, I’ve always had an interest in cameras, so I applied for different courses and got into one. Then, I’ve got picked up for an internship with the state broadcaster at their camera department. I learned a lot there. Then, I started making music videos and short films with friends… and that's sort of how I fell into it. 48

How would you define your style in a few lines? Do you have a particular style? Do you adapt to each one of your projects? What is your preferred way to do your job as DOP? I thought about this question a lot because I don't think I have a particular style. What I do have is a very strong belief in that the story comes first. The story will help me decide what the style may be for the film, the episode in a series or the whole series. I like to read the story first and find out what style is best to advance the story. I never want to push a style onto the story and then have the viewer sitting without understanding a thing. For me, the number one rule is that my style must make advance the story. It can be colour or it can be depth of field or framing: everything will be dictated by that story.

You are based in New Zealand. How is living these strange times the cinema and television industry there?

WWDITS Second Season

At the moment, because of Covid-19, New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that is free of Covid-19. So, our production is very healthy. We have several international productions running right now: “Avatar”, “Lord Of The Rings”, “Cowboy Bebop”… and there's a lot of interest from other productions to come here, because they don't have to wear face masks. Once they arrive and they isolate, they can start their


productions. Also, our local production is very strong. I couldn't tell you how many local productions are shooting right now, but it would be at least at least 10, which for New Zealand is a lot, because our local productions are funded by the government almost exclusively, so there aren't that many productions compared to Spain or Italy or France.

As you said, you have worked in commercials,

in documentaries, in music videos… Regarding to workflow and technology, what are the main differences compared to TV shows? In a commercial, you're selling a product, so your entire focus is about what that product looks like. That’s why you're there and that is what your main aim is. There is a storyboard and you will follow that storyboard. There's some creative freedom, but not a lot for

the DoP. It is a far more rigid form and almost all the creative decisions have already been made. Not on all, but on some. You are telling a very quick story, in just 15- or 30-seconds, so you need to make sure the audience gets it. Next, I would say that documentary is “reactive storytelling”. You are literally on your own listening to what's happening, watching what's happening, and if the story changes in front of you, you have to be willing to go where that story goes. I find that really liberating. You can really tell amazing stories if you're willing to just let yourself go and follow that story. Finally, I would say that TV shows are amazing as a DoP, because you get up to eight to ten hours to tell a story, to advance that story visually and to create a visual arc for that amount of time. And that's huge! You never get that opportunity. I love the fact that every hour you are creating another episode, another story… It’s incredible that episodic 49


television has come so far. 10 or 20 years ago that just wasn't happening. You were restricted by the networks. And now, my goodness, Netflix, Amazon, Apple… They all are letting you really advance story visually.

In your two latest main projects, What We Do In The Shadows (FX) + Dispatches From Elsewhere (AMC), you mix both fantasy and everydayness elements. How does this translate into your work? How are your decisions conditioned by both worlds? I’ll start with What We Do In The Shadows. The most important thing about it is that we feel that the vampires are living in their own magic world and, as the human documentary crew, documenting that world, it's incredible to us. We wanted to make everything in the vampire world warm and dark, but kind of welcoming and scary at the same time. If you were living in that world, it would just feel 50

normal to you. But, for us as human we’re going into it, it’s a pretty intense world. Then, we wanted to make sure that, when we shot anything outside of our vampire world, it had to be really banal. That was really important. We deliberately looked for locations and the ability to light those locations to

WWDITS Copyright 2019, FX Networks

make them feel bland, plain and banal. That was definitely the style the story told me to do, and that's exactly what we followed. For Dispatches From Elsewhere there was a lot of discussion about how to present the different worlds. Jason Siegel, the writer, creator, executive


producer, and actor, was very keen that each episode was different, and that's a real challenge, also for the audience. But once we broke down that each episode was about a character, we could give that character their own look and feel. Anyway, we established a couple of things: firstly, that the idea

behind Dispatches from Elsewhere is that if you're just living your life, you're potentially missing the magic around you; there is magic around and you can find it, but you've got to look for it, and that will pull you out of the world that you're in. In the normal world we always shot handheld, we had

side framing. Moreover, the lighting was always going forward: if you had light coming through a window, you wouldn't have them standing in the light, you'd have them slightly off from that light. We shot that with handheld and spherical lenses. Then, once we moved into the magic world, we used anamorphics. Then, often we would flare the lenses deliberately, just to give that extra bit of sparkle and magic. Also, we would use mirrors with light: when someone opens a door to a department store, the glass will pick the sun and throw it across the department store for a moment, it will just flash across. That was the magic part, very different from how the normal world felt. One other thing I must add about the magic world is that, as soon as we went into that magic world, we used a steady cam, a MoVI Pro, a Dolly, a Crane‌ Everything was very smooth. 51


Previously you said that your documentary experience has helped you for your work in What We Do In The Shadows. But isn’t it true that many filmmakers are heavily influenced by TV shows almost like The Office or movies such as This Is Spinal Tap? How much of your work in the TV Show has been influenced by these works and how much of your previous documentary experience? We drew influence from, of course, The Office, Spinal Tap and other kind of documentary, even The Blair Witch Project. You know that's been made, but that's only a start. I would say that the biggest difference between What We Do In The Shadows and those other is that we really made an art of being late to the action. We really wanted to make the audience feel that we were literally seeing it ourselves for the first time as well, and we were arriving late to whatever was happening, whether 52

that's in a pan or a focus move, or physically moving the camera to find something or running. And that's actually a really hard thing to do all the time. It's comedy, so we’re doing up to 10 takes: each of those takes has to feel new again, it can't feel like the operators and the focus pullers know what's going to happen. They had to untrain themselves from everything they’ve ever learned in their careers. They’d be fired on another show for not finding or not getting the action! Furthermore, unlike The Office we have a lot of visual effects. We never wanted to treat the visual effects like a Marvel film. We wanted to treat the visual effects like how it would be if it just happens in the world. You begin to believe it more, because the things that are happening in that world are so incidental… We’re not deliberately flagging them all the time.

One more about WWDITS! How has the cinematography of What We Do In The

Shadows evolved from Season 1 to Season 2? To me, they are almost two different shows when it comes to the lighting. Basically, between season one and season two, Astera brought out their two tube products, the Helios and the Titan Tube. Now, everything's battery controlled, wirelessly run, and we built boxes for them, which allows us to have more versatility during our shoots. Unfortunately, the one thing that hasn't changed are the lenses. We have to shoot on zoom lenses, because that is the style that gives us that ability to zoom in and out. That’s really important to the style of the show. But the handheld zoom, the lens technology that exists for 4K, because we’re shooting on the Sony Venice in 4K and 6K, is just no decent. So that’s the big let-down for me. The zoom technology is not very good, and they have a lot of aberrations and it's a real shame. I'm hoping that a lens manufacturer reads this and decide to build a decent lightweight


Dispatches photo by Jessica Kourkounis

zoom that probably covers a 4k sensor.

What was the biggest challenge you had to face during the shooting of a TV series? I don't really want to talk about What We Do In The Shadows so much, but it is probably the hardest show I’ve ever shot and the reason for that is that as a DoP you have to be willing to let the camera go

wherever it needs to go. You're still shooting drama, it's still scripted, it's still got visual effects, it's still got costumes, it's still got all the restrictions that you have when you're shooting a drama. But you cannot completely plan the shooting. We have to be able to shoot everywhere. We have to shoot a wide shot and a close-up at exactly the same time. And it has to

be dark, it has to have candlelights, and it has stunts. It is really hard! You end up becoming very skilled at hiding technology everywhere, whether it's on a location or at a set. When I first did it, it was really scary and hard, but as I got better a t it, it became way more fun and a lot more of a challenge. Ultimately, you're never going to make something that's 53


Dispatches from elsewhere

super beautiful, you're only ever going to make something that can be as good as it can be with the restrictions of that idea of shooting two cameras and they fact they can do whatever they want.

Recently, networks such as HBO or Netflix recommend certain camera models to maintain certain homogeneity in their productions. Did you have to experience something similar in FX or AMC? What’s your opinion on this? I didn't have that with FX 54

or AMC. As long as the camera is suitable for the job... We shot the movie of What We Do In The Shadows on Red Epics, but I thought the Sony Venice was a much better camera for the series. It not only does 4k, but it can do 6k very easily. The codec that it uses is very postfriendly, its noise to signal ratio is really good, its curve is really great in the blacks or in the shadows… And also it's a very good handheld camera. It's a bit heavy, but I’ll sacrifice that for the great information gathering that it does, and I really like the way the

pictures look. So FX never had a problem with that when I presented side-byside tests of other cameras versus the Sony Venice. It happens the same with AMC, which I shot with Minis.

What’s your approach with VFXas? How do you plan the shootings that involve these types of resources? First of all, when it comes to visual effects, to me it's a dark art [laughs]. Those women and men are amazing. I’m always blown away by the things that they can do and do


beautifully. I don't understand how they do it, but they’re great. But I really enjoy working with visual effects. I find it challenging but I also find it really rewarding. If the show's handheld and we have lots of zooms and things like that, I really sit down the VFX department and we have a good chat before the show starts. For example, for What We Do In The Shadows, I told them: “Whatever we do we can't let the audience think that this is a VFX shot ,we have to make it blend seamlessly into the show”. I really enjoy the planning stages of it and I

Dispatches photo by Jessica Kourkounis-AMC

really enjoy the input from the VFX supervisors and their clever answers to some really dumb questions that I ask.

And what’s your role regarding postproduction? Do you usually get involved on these stages? Absolutely. Before the show, we will have shot tests, a series of looks and feels that we present to the producers. We get everyone on board, so we can sort of move seamlessly into the final stages with the show looking like everyone expected. The downside to

that process is that, if you start playing around in the colour timing, the producers might come in and go “Well, that doesn't look like what we saw on set”. Then, you have to basically write a thesis explaining why you changed your mind and how it won’t be detrimental to the show. But honestly, when that has happened, I’ve found people really reasonable about it. It comes right back to question two: as long as it’s advancing story, you always get people to travel with you. If that’s interrupting, they will stop you, and then we should change it and go back to what we were doing or whatever else.

Finally, what’s next for DJ Stipsen? Will you remain doing TV Series? Are you moving to feature films or documentaries? So, with the Covid-19… [laughs]. Hopefully going to finish off a show, and then I'll go to Toronto and hopefully do another series of What We Do In The Shadows.  55


AMC Networks International Southern Europe: 24 TV Channels delivering first-class content AMC, Sundance TV, DARK, Blast, BLAZE, Odisea, Historia… They are just some examples of the channels that AMC Networks International Southern Europe produce and distribute for the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian markets. These ambitious developments are preparing for the future via OTT developments, 4K-ready workflows or even a mobile platform which offers VR videos (OdiseaVR). TM Broadcast interviews Jose Nabais, Chief Technical Officer de AMC Networks International Southern Europe (AMCNISE) to learn more.

What’s AMC Networks International Southern Europe scope of action? At AMC Networks International Southern Europe (AMCNISE) we produce and distribute 24 pay- TV channels targeted to a wide range of audiences, with brands specialized in film and series, documentaries, lifestyle, music and kids’ content. We are headquartered in Madrid where we manage all of our operations in Spain, Portugal and France, while our broadcasting centre is 56

in Barcelona. We also operate our direct to consumer services OdiseaVR, Microcanales and Planet Horror. As for the channels Historia, Blaze and Crime + Investigation, these are produced in Spain and Portugal through The History Channel Iberia, our joint venture with Hearst. Additionally, Canal Hollywood, Canal Panda, Biggs and Casa e Cozinha are exclusively produced for the Portuguese market through DREAMIA, our

joint venture with the operator NOS. We also operate and distribute a number of our brands in Africa, including Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. Our pay-TV brands are distributed through the primary subscription platforms in each market.

What specific competencies AMCNISE has regarding AMC Networks International? AMCNISE is a business unit of AMC Networks




International, the global division of AMC Networks. We produce and distribute the brands mentioned above in Spain, Portugal and France.

AMCNISE has channels for all audiences. Could we have more details? What’s your offering? At AMCNISE we strive to provide the most diverse offering of brands in the market. We offer film and series through our channels AMC, Canal Hollywood, SundanceTV, DARK, XTRM, Somos and Blast; documentaries and factual through Odisea, HISTORIA, Crime + Investigation and BLAZE; lifestyle through Canal Cocina, Canal Decasa and Casa e Cozinha; music through Sol Música and children’s content through Canal Panda and Biggs.

In the same way you have OTT platforms such as Odisea VR, Microcanales and Planet Horror. What’s your strategy in this area? We’ve developed an original OTT strategy for our markets. For example, 58

Jose Nabais - AMCNISE CTO

Planet Horror is a unique and customised horror movie service with exclusive never-beforeseen content in Spain (both DTC and integrated in two of our affiliates, Vodafone TV and Orange TV). Microcanales is a free VOD sampler service that allows anybody to discover our channels, regardless if they are payTV subscribers or not, and Odisea VR is a free mobile

app that offers virtual reality clips. In partnership with AMCNI Latin America, we’ve developed Cocina On, the largest on demand service specialized in Spanish-language cooking content. It was launched quite successfully both in Latin America as well as in the US with Sling, Amazon and other affiliates. We are also exploring new initiatives to continue to growing our offer.


AMC Selekt is another ambitious VOD development, as it includes content from all AMCNISE. Could you tell us more? AMC Selekt is the most varied on-demand service in the Spanish market. It is currently integrated within Vodafone TV and Orange TV’s VOD offering, at no additional cost. The service includes more than 5,000 a la carte programs from AMCNISE’s thematic channels, in a wide variety of genres including films, series, documentaries, lifestyle programs, children's content and music.

A hallmark of AMCNISE is your commitment to “in house production”. This implies a challenge, considering that you’re managing 24 TV channels. How do you undertake these productions? Do you unify your production resources? Does each televisión have its own production capabilities? Original programming is highly relevant for our lifestyle brands such as

Canal Cocina, Canal Decasa and Sol Música. These channels are programmed and managed by our in-house production department, and our content resonates very well with local audiences.

Does AMCNISE have its own production facilities? For producing our programs, we rent TV studios or do outside recordings. We normally use our own production equipment, including cameras with 4K UHD capabilities. It is also significant that all of our local productions are currently done in 4K UHD. All post productions are managed in-house. Our current facilities include six post production rooms, connected to a Quantum Xcellis high performance shared storage, which are equipped with Adobe Premier and After Effects software solutions. All post production rooms are equipped to work 4K UHD natively. Audio Post Production is held by 2

Avid Pro Tools equipped rooms. Besides the mentioned post production rooms, our Madrid facility also has another 17 PPV rooms, capable of editing in HD. Our facilities in Barcelona also have three PPV rooms using Avid Media Composer software solutions.

AMCNISE has been one of the first European companies to launch thematic channels with 4K resolutions. Can we expect further developments on your 4K offering in the near future? We are evaluating technologies and solutions for improving the UHD experience with HDR (High Dynamic Range) and WGC (Wide Color Gamut).

How do you manage the playout of your televisions? What system do you use? Do you have agreements with broadcasting companies in each country? Our main technical 59


facilities are in Barcelona. From there, using Pebble Beach Marina automation, Dolphin integrated channel devices and Harmonic Spectrum servers (for UDH playout), we currently broadcast 24 different linear TV services with three of them in 4K UHD resolutions. Channels are encoded and distributed over IP, using Ateme Titan Live and Titan Mux solutions. SD versions of 14 Spanish TV services are also broadcast over Hispasat satellite. Nonlinear TV is also key for our business and plays an important role in our broadcast operations. Besides linear TV services, our broadcast centre also manages and delivers high volumes of nonlinear assets, including videos, metadata files and artwork, associated to all types of requirements from operators with nonlinear services (Catch up TV, xVOD, etc.). The core of our broadcast operations relies on Provys Broadcast Management System. Besides programs rights, 60

Barcelona facilities

programming and scheduling management, Provys, which is fully integrated with the main core systems (including Pebble playout automation, Tedial Digital content management and BPM system, Telestream workflow management and transcoding farm or VSN artwork MAM) also controls and manages

other fully automated processes associated to our core broadcast operations.

Contents are fundamental assets for AMCNISE. What platform do you use to manage them in your internal production? Is it the same for every station?


Artwork is stored and managed by a VSN MAM solution, which incorporates specific tools for dealing with the requirements associated to process, format, catalogue, store and deliver all images associated to EPG’s and nonlinear services. This system is also fully integrated with Provys. Archive management is controlled by EcoDigital Diva solution. Near line storage is supported by a Quantum Xcellis SAN and deep archive makes usage of LTO 8 technology over a Quantum Scalar Tape Library.

All assets, including videos, audios, subtitles, metadata and artwork, are registered and managed in Provys. To bring efficiency to Broadcast operations, Provys is fully integrated with the Tedial DCM (Digital Content Management) solution, allowing the implementation of fully automated processes

associated to asset management and asset usage. Video, audio and subtitle assets, associated to internal productions or received from external distributors, are all managed by the mentioned Tedial DCM (Digital Content Management) solution.

What system is applied for the storage of your assets/content? Do you deploy a cloud or hybrid cloud system? As already mentioned, we use Tedial DCM solution. Archive is managed by EcoDigital Diva solution. We currently use LTO 8 digital tapes as core for deep archive content storage but hybrid solutions (using AWS, 61


Microsoft, Google or other cloud platforms) are under evaluation. We think hybrid solutions are the future and our systems are prepared to move in that direction.

What are the main technical challenges when adapting your channels to TV, DTT, IPTV and more? Do you commonly find different technical specifications between countries and/or platforms? Over the last four years 62

we invested in reengineering main core systems and broadcast processes. All broadcast core systems have been replaced, upgraded or reengineered to comply with the most challenging operational requirements. In what concerns nonlinear services, each operator has its own requirements for video, metadata and artwork deliveries. On the other end, to keep broadcast operations as efficient as possible, we need to

ensure fully automated delivery processes. Our approach on having fully integrated core broadcast systems and fully trained operational and engineering teams, gave us the capability of managing all sorts of complex technical and business requirements and allows us to integrate with whatever platforms our customers are using. This includes integrations with platforms that uses rest


API’s, Web services or other types of integrations.

What’s AMCNISE’s technological future? We will continue developing solutions that allow flexibility, resilience and security. To stay competitive in our business, we need to anticipate the future, to be agile and be capable of giving answers to all customers and business requirements. In parallel, we need to continue improving operational

efficiency at all levels, including broadcast operations. The right technologies and integrations are fundamental tools to achieve those goals. Fully integrated systems and the use of automated workflows, made available by BPM solutions, already are part of our reality. We believe that nonlinear delivery platforms, cloud-based solutions, BI, machine learning, and AI will grow

in relevance over the next few years and will bring competitive advantages to our operations and our business. Our main goals are to continue the digital transformation started four years ago, to be agile and to be capable of using innovative technologies to create innovative services, capable of supporting demanding business initiatives and thought to improve operational efficiency. 






WHEN EDITORIAL CRITERIA OUTPERFORMS TECHNOLOGY We are more than used to see how video on demand platforms are left on the hands of artificial intelligence in order to get to know users more in depth. This is a global trend aimed at targeting the offering to user preferences, a kind of hyper-specialization of content with a broader editorial offering. MUBI takes a different approach. This OTT platform, present in more than 190 countries, relies instead on a significant panel of human experts to contribute recommendations or thematic blocks, and so differentiate itself from other competitors. It is the only aspect in which technology does not stand out, as MUBI has its own CDN and makes an excellent use of the user interface, which turns it into a reference in usability, accessibility and resource optimization. In order to gain a deeper knowledge of their proposal and get a rough idea of their technical means, TM Broadcast got in touch with Bryan Mueller, Director of Business Strategy.



For beginners, what’s MUBI and what are its main differences to other VOD / OTT Platforms around the world? To introduce us, MUBI is a global film platform, available in over 190 countries, and offers a hand-curated selection of the world's best films on demand, streaming adfree on its proprietary technology. Since launch in 2007 we’ve built a platform that focuses on the highest quality and attention to detail, that will appeal to anyone with a genuine love for great films. Our model and approach is very different to other SVOD services as we are focused on human curation, and we make our films available in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or frustrate people, introducing one new hand-picked film a day in our NOW SHOWING section. Each film is chosen by our team of film experts who look at local culture and cinema to decide what people would 66

Bryan Mueller Director of Business Strategy MUBI.

enjoy watching in each country. We also recently introduced our LIBRARY, which is home to films we’ve previously handpicked for NOW SHOWING. The section simply allows members to re-watch or discover films we’ve shown before. Our community of 10 million members also has access to our vast international film database and news publication Notebook. Another key differentiator for us in the UK, Ireland and India is MUBI GO, our cinemagoing initiative and app. This gives members a weekly cinema ticket to

selected new release films picked by MUBI. We plan to expand this to the US and Germany in Spring 2021, and then other markets will follow. MUBI also produces and theatrically distributes films by emerging and world renowned filmmakers, which members can see exclusively on the service. Recent releases include BACURAU (Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho), BORDER (Ali Abbasi) and SUSPIRIA (Luca Guadagnino). Digital releases have included BEANPOLE (Kantemir Balagov), EMA (Pablo


Larraín) and coming soon Werner Herzog’s latest feature FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC and Xavier Dolan’s MATTHIAS & MAXIME.

MUBI’s main offering is movies. What about TV Shows? Have you ever considered that they become part of MUBI? We’ve thought about it, but we are movie experts and our focus will remain on being a film streaming service, distributor and producer. We are, however, executive producing Nicolas Winding Refn’s TV series MANIAC COP and can’t wait to see how that develops.


MUBI operates in several markets worldwide. How do you adapt the content and location for each country? Is this a hard task? MUBI is available in over 190 countries, and each country has a different film line-up hand-picked by our team of curators. It’s a lot of work curating and programming each month with new films, but it’s what we love doing and what keeps our content so fresh for our members. MUBI memberships aren’t geolocked either, so you can use MUBI practically anywhere when you travel, your film selections just change as you move. The platform is available in multiple languages and wherever we can we subtitle films in as many languages as possible, focusing on English, French, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and Turkish. We have a very efficient translation and encoding process to ensure this runs smoothly, and as we become fully

localised in more markets we’ll keep expanding the team that is responsible for this area.

What were the main technical difficulties you had to face? We have always had a very talented development team, so nothing was too difficult, it just took a lot of work, long days and vigorous testing. We find it exciting when we’re faced with new technical challenges and development opportunities. Since 2007 we’ve evolved our user experience and developed apps for many platforms. We were one of the first VOD services to be on a games console in 2010 and co-developed the PlayStation app with Sony. We were also one of Apple TV’s launch partners in the US, as well as one of the first apps on Amazon Fire TV. MUBI is currently available on the web, Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation, Apple TV, LG and Samsung Smart TVs, as well as on mobile devices including iPad, iPhone and Android. 67


Right now, you are showing movies in both SD and HD. What about 4K? Have you considered 4K so far? What about UHD (4K + HDR)? Wherever possible we show films in 1080p. We are always discussing and evaluating our options with 4K and UHD. Due to the breadth of cinema we show, some of our classic films date back decades and wouldn’t have 4K sources available.

Users can access MUBI from PS4, Mobile, Desktop… and Smart TVs. How do you manage the development of apps for each one of the platforms? Do you have a standard app and then you adapt it to each ecosystem? We develop everything in-house at MUBI, and we start all apps from scratch in their native platform language.

MUBI’s signature is to offer curated content for cinema lovers. Have you studied AI tools so 68


far to suit users’ preferences? We do not use any commercial AI tools. As you said, MUBI is focused on human curation and our content team bases its film selections on local culture and what our members engage with in each local market.

What’s the cloud platform that hosts the MUBI VOD/OTT platform? What services does it offer you? From day one, we chose to build our entire infrastructure in the cloud, and we use AWS. One of the benefits is that we can scale easily, which is vital when you’re seeing fast subscriber growth and increased viewing globally. We also recently added new functionalities to MUBI including our LIBRARY and FREE film page.

What kind of system do you use to manage the distribution of your content on each of your channels? We developed our own CDN and encoder service, and we’ve been using it for over six years now. We used commercial CDNs earlier on in MUBI’s development but we eventually decided to build our own to have more control over the entire process and be able to fix any issues that arose much faster and more effectively. With commercial CDNs you rely on their support to fix any problems users are having with streaming and we wanted to have the option to deal with it immediately ourselves. In addition, we found over the years that the whole video stack needed to work together to be efficient, from the moment


the source gets to MUBI to the moment it's played by a user, there are many steps involved and we wanted to own the whole process in-house to make the user experience as smooth as possible.

What is MUBI’s technological future? And, in your opinion, what’s the tech future of OTT platforms? We are constantly improving and evolving our user experience across all platforms, as well as exploring new opportunities. Right now, we’re working on bringing

our LIBRARY section to additional platforms and because it only launched a month ago, we’re adjusting the design and navigation based on user feedback. Looking at the devices our members are using, in addition to the web, iPhones are the most used right now, followed closely by Android. Usage of Smart TVs has also been increasing each year as well, so we will continue to optimise the user experience on our existing Smart TV platforms, and keep

working with Apple and Amazon to launch our app in more markets. Regarding the future of the industry, technological innovation has led to greater portability so we will see OTT platforms continue to focus on how their content is best viewed on mobile devices. New use cases like IOT and Smart Home technology will also create new forms of engagement, which entertainment platforms will start taking advantage of as integration opportunities emerge. 



Sennheiser 6000 Series A solution to all problems The fact that these 6000 series is compatible with the top of range, the 9000 series, is yet another clue of what Sennheiser has been searching here: maintain both top-notch quality and features in a robust system that is capable of undertaking any production. We must be really grateful to Magnetron for giving us the opportunity to test equipment with these features. We have had the privilege of laying our hands in the following items of the 6000 series:  Two EM 6000 dual receivers.  Two SKM6000 handheld microphones, winners of several industry awards.  Two SK 6000 transmitters, winners of several industry awards.  A SK 6212 micro-transmitter.



It has been a long time since digital wireless microphony came to stay and solve typical issues relating to audio coverage, intermodulation and interferences that are so typical of analogue transmission. And of course, Sennheiser has always been the referent when it comes down to wireless audio, as proven by its 6000 series. Lab tes perfomed by Yeray Alfageme



 An L 6000 smart battery charger.  Two e965 capsules.  Antennae, lavalier capsules and all associated accessories. Starting from the very end, a detail showing the quality and also what can be expected from this system –which may seem trivial to many, but an important feature to those of us who have devoted hours to configuring and putting together microphony systems- is the accessories kit for the capsules, which is just beautiful.


Details such as the sponges, which come in different skin hues, are not found in other systems or manufacturers. But let’s examine the system in depth.


EM 6000 dual receiver This receiver has everything that is required to become any audio technician's best ally, both at the set or in live events. It certainly comes with all features inherent to


Sennheiser systems. Its robust metal build is made to last and both its construction and proper control are guaranteed even in the most demanding environments. Furthermore, it has features found in high-end digital systems such as encrypting -a must in certain critical environments- which offers yet an additional security layer without increasing a latency of just 3 ms. Something already usual, but which works great in Sennheiser is the autoscan feature. The only thing that needs to be done is specify the frequency range to use, mainly based on the local legislation applicable in

our location, and this receiver will perform an automatic scan of the full spectrum and recommend what configuration to use. This, coupled with the Sync function that we will examine just below, both facilitates and ensures proper configuration of the system in a few minutes. Not any longer required are a spectrum analyser o extra metering equipment, as the system does everything for us. Add to all this the Wireless System Manager piece of software -reviewed at the end of this article- and the progress achieved is enormous. Going over all features offered by this piece of equipment would be an endless task and, honestly,

I think it would be of little interest to our readers. Therefore, we will focus here on two features that do make a difference as compared to others: Sync and Walktest. The Sync function, by means of which the receiver automatically configures the transmitter in order to transfer to it all the configurations required, works surprisingly well. Just by pressing the Sync button for the channel of the receiver on which we want to work and getting the transmitter closer to the blue light that will flash on the device the task is successfully achieved. Nothing, nothing else at all needs to be done in the transmitter and the whole 73


configuration is then synced and ready to operate. This solves a number of issues that are easily avoidable and saves a lot of time so technicians do not have to navigate through the menus in the transmitters which, let's be honest, no matter how well they have been designed, are always more awkward to operate, given their smaller size. The other ‘WoW’ feature is Walktest. Once the autoscan and sync procedures have been completed, and in order to have our system operate in the best conditions possible based on our environment, we just need to enable the Walktest function in our



receiver and, as its own name indicates, take a walk through the area to cover so as to make sure there will be no reception issues. The system will automatically record minimum and maximum signal values for each of the two antennae, as well as signal quality and audio level thus ensuring that, if

no issues are found during this test, our production will be guaranteed throughout our entire stage, set or outdoor environment we may be working in. As for connections, the EM 6000 has balanced analogue outputs, AES outputs and even a Dante network output so we can


both a comfortable display and lots of information for this size. It is not a simple two-line screen, but a fullyfeatured display showing level, frequency and easy access to the entire configuration menu. We hope that by making use of the Sync feature, there will hardly be any need of using it.

directly get in our audio network with no need to resort to conversions or any additional equipment. As the equipment comes also with digital output, we have worldclock input and output for synchronization and Ethernet monitoring connection for its WSM software.

SK 6000 transmitter The SK 6000 is the standard belt-pack transmitter in the 6000 series. It can work with the BA 61 battery, offering over 12 hours of operation, or even with standard batteries if needed. Its monochrome white-lit LED screen offers

SK 6000 automatically detects the capsule we have connected to it – provided it is a Sennheiser model, of course- or whether we are using the transmitter for conveying a line signal, and therefore automatically adapts its previous to the microphone or system connected to the input jack. As we mentioned at the beginning, the entire 6000 series is compatible with its bigger sibling, the 9000 series, and proof of this is the fact that the 6000 series comes with both AES 256 and Digital 900 encryption –the latter a proprietary feature of the same series by Sennheiser. 75


SK 6212 microtransmitter This micro-transmitter is no doubt the brand's major innovation when it comes down to using beltpack microphones. It is approximately one-third the size of the SK 6000. However, in this instance, its lithium BA 62 battery cannot use regular batteries due to obvious construction reasons. It offers 12 hours of operation, the same as its bigger sibling, and all features and audio quality with no compromise at all. Its 100% metal build and the main -if not the onlydifference, is that it is completely robust, even more so than the SK 6000. Its display, which features just two lines of text, is sufficient for checking status and highly visible as it comes with two highluminance white LEDs. With this model it is certainly obvious that the Sync feature will be of great help, as in the light of its compact size, configuring the device is a somewhat tedious task. We have been positively 76



noting is the fact that the battery is distributed throughout the entire microphone body, which has not impact on weight balancing and ergonomics.

surprised by this microtransmitter, which we believe may even replace bulkier devices as it has no drawbacks but all the advantages associated to smaller, more robust equipment. However, regular batteries cannot be used here.

SKM 6000 handheld microphone Construction of Sennheiser handheld microphones, the ones most used in music events, amongst others, is beyond question. And the 6000 series is no exception. Sennheiser has created a microphone that supports both the brand’s and Neumann capsules, offering 5.5 hours of operation with is BA 60 lithium battery, which can be replaced by a pack of AA batteries in the event of emergency. Worth 77


Buttons, both on/off and for menu access, are conveniently located and protected, with no need for awkward lids or covers as in previous models, in such a way that there will be no chance for accidents or undesired configuration changes during operation. As all other transmitters, the operation indicator LED, that in this instance is the Sennheiser logo itself and which also works as on/off button, can be disabled for a more discrete operation of the microphone in sensitive environments such as theatres or similar venues. The rest of accessories and pieces of equipment within the 6000 series make the grade as for what we have seen so far in the Sennheiser professional series. Worth mentioning is the L 6000 smart battery charger, which comes with slots for charging both BA 60 and BA 61 and 62 batteries in a quick, reliable fashion without compromising their life cycle and no risk of overcharge-related 78

damages. We could even leave our batteries to charge overnight without any problems. A feature that is at least surprising is the Ethernet connection, but let’s see its use within the Wireless System Manager (WSM) software.

Wireless System Manager (WSM) software In order to be able to use the configuration, management and control software for Sennheiser wireless microphony systems -the Wireless System Manager (WSM)along with the 6000 series system, we must have version 4.3 or higher, which is available, free of

charge and free of license, at the Sennheiser website. This system may be used from a single computer or from several computers at the same time, thus allowing for monitoring, configuration and operation of the systems in parallel by controlling the rights provided in each individual computer. And it is here where the fact that the battery charger comes with an Ethernet connection becomes a useful feature that enables knowing the status of each battery and therefore if we can replace them in full confidence that we will have enough charge to


continue operating. In addition to this, the feature that really comes handy and means a real change even in the equipment to use in our productions is the frequency scan. This function enables marking the areas in the spectrum that are free from interferences, so we can locate our transmission in these areas. We have already mentioned that the EM 6000 receiver comes with the auto-scan feature, but having a graphic version of the spectrum and being able to monitor all frequencies in real time is really something else. It is like having a full-fledged spectrum analyzer within the receiver system in just one computer. In addition to all this, it also calculates the areas within the spectrum that are free from intermodulation, as these are adjacent transmissions which -even though not using the same frequencies- may cause transmission issues.

After having performed this advanced analysis we can tell the software to allocate frequencies offering lesser risks of experiencing issues to the various receivers in our system. The final step in the process would be to synchronize each transmitter with the relevant receiver and we are then ready to go. What we have just described is something really irksome and requires additional equipment when using analogue systems. For this reason, is easy to grasp that Sennheiser 6000 series is a system that truly facilitates wireless audio operations a great deal.

Conclusions The Sennheiser 6000 series does mean a change of paradigm in many aspects, as also does the 9000 series. It is not only a digital microphony system as such, but also makes use of the features offered by the new technology available in order to provide functions

and capabilities that had been impossible in previous systems. This, coupled with the new design provided by the Sennheiser microtransmitters and the support offered by the control software – enabling monitoring and smart scan of frequenciesresults in the elimination of risks associated to operation of wireless systems. This equipment can now be used in environments that were up to now unthinkable, with quality and reliability levels unheard of. We open the flight-case, connect our computer to the system, run a scan and follow the program’s recommendations, transfer the recommended configurations to the receivers in our system, sync the transmitters, and ready to go. And everything with no additional equipment required, in an intuitive, swift fashion.  79

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