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Monday 20 November 2017

Last week featured one of the highlights of the media technology programme’s calendar – we were in Newbury with our outside broadcast truck helping BBC South with their local contribution to this year’s Children in Need.

There is a long standing relationship between Solent University and BBC South that allows them use of our equipment while our students are able to participate in large-scale outside broadcasts with one of the world’s most respected broadcasters. In total, thirteen students helped out over two days, lending a hand with the get-in, rigging, rehearsals and transmissions. The venue was particularly challenging this year as the crew were tasked with turning a school sports hall into a ‘backstage themed’ studio and choir stall.

Clockwise from top Left: Students setting cameras on pedestals; technical manager Martyn briefs the students; students changing camera lenses; camera supervisor Andy providing some tips

A unique feature of Children in Need is the live choir ‘bounce around’ where choirs in ten venues sing in unison whilst the national programme moves around the venues. Technically this is extremely challenging as the backing track has to reach venues across the nation at the same time and similarly the video and audio feeds have to reach London in sync. This is no mean feat when using a mixture of ISDN lines and satellite links with significantly different delays caused by the signal paths, coding and propagation.

In addition to the choir bounce around there were a number of opt-ins throughout the day to the lunchtime and evening news, BBC South Today as well as three segments during the main programme. The presenters and guests also recorded a number of pieces to camera for inclusion within the programme and online assets.

Left to right: lighting and vision in the outside broadcast truck (top), director and vision mixer in the outside broadcast truck (bottom), audio in the outside broadcast truck, transmission engineers in the satellite uplink truck

The students had plenty of opportunity to talk to the engineers responsible for power, lighting, vision, sound, transmission, radio and Facebook Live. All of the engineers were extremely generous with their time and the students learnt a lot about the technologies and configurations in use. The students were also impressed by the planning and preparation such as having dedicated power, phone and communications lines installed prior to the event.

As usual, the BBC crew did an incredible job and the Southern contribution looked amazing. The producer and technical manager were grateful for the use of the truck and commented on how useful the students themselves were. Thank you to BBC South and well done to all involved.

Left: Solent's outside broadcast truck alongside the BBC's uplink truck. Right: students pose with Pudsey on set