FEED Issue 15

55 THE LIVE LIFE Blue Planet Live

sent all of the feeds back via shortwave radio link to a midway point with a director and a mixer a couple of kilometres from wherever the boat was. They cut that onto the satellite feed, and back to London.” When it came to shooting the stunning footage of whales in the Sea of Cortez, a large drone and a helicopter were used in Mexico. Cowper explains: “We had some new DTC technology on the helicopter that allowed us to get four HD cameras down one normal HD RF channel. We had them on the pilot, the camera operator and the producer, while the final one was obviously the shot from the helicopter. So, it looks around for whales in the sea, but also lets you see the people behind the scenes.” The series also featured a so-called ‘snot bot’; a specialised research drone that flies over a whale to harvest DNA material exhaled from its blowhole when it comes up to breathe. “We had our drone with mini cameras on it to get live pictures as that happened,” recalls Cowper. Indeed, the live shot of Chris Packham catching a mouthful of snot when he looks down a whale’s

blowhole is sure to be remembered as one of the highlights of the series. BIG VISION Cowper explains that a lot of technology and planning went into making Blue Planet Live happen. But the same technology could – and is – being applied to other live television. While hosting Blue Planet Live , Timeline was also providing remote production for coverage of Formula One and The FA Women’s Super League at the same time. The latter uses a mixture of mobile networks and Timeline’s fibre network, which has been installed in a number of grounds hosting the Super League games. With increased connectivity rolling out across the world, remote production is on the increase, but satellite is still the choice for areas without reliable internet networks. “We could do a remote production for news really easily,” affirms Cowper. “We’ve got incoming circuits from BT Tower and we have satellite downlinks in Ealing. Out of our MCR, we have access to any circuit

around the world. We can take it in and produce a programme from it, so we can do all these live recordings and send them all round the world to people immediately.” DYNAMIC RANGE We’ve seen wildlife on our screens in UHD HDR – like Blue Planet II – and Timeline’s 4K OB truck was the mainstay of the BBC’s 2018 FIFA World Cup live trial in UHD HDR. But Cowper says there hasn’t yet been a call for UHD HDR remote production. “It’s not because we can’t do it,” he clarifies. “There is almost no difference really in terms of uplinks with HDR, but it’s the 4K element. We’ve invested a lot of money into technology from DTC that is able to send a 4K picture at the same quality, the same time delay and in the same space a HD picture would take up. There’s a lot of complication in mixers and conversion for HDR, but in terms of uplink and RF and facilities, 4K HDR remote production is something we could do straight away.” After all, who wouldn’t want to see whale snot in all its 4K glory?

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