5G to power live streaming
Patricia Doherty, Producer Director (pictured below) at consortium lead Candour Productions, explains that the aim of the project is to find out whether 5G can be integrated into the workflow of the programmes the company makes: “This is primary live streaming, which is difficult if you’re out in the field. We make documentaries: real people, no scripts. And we adapt to the story and to the environment where people are. So we don’t have a huge amount of control over where or when we film. We have to be incredibly adaptable and agile, so need technology to be the same.”
Leeds-based Candour is looking to 5G to handle vast amounts of video. The current method of getting video from the field to the edit suite is to transport an SD card. Candour wants to send rushes over the air. The company made a programme for Channel 4 that charted 24 hours of the Covid pandemic. Filmed at the start of the first lockdown, it involved 10 professional camera people who were roaming around the country, gathering stories, and the public was invited to contribute their content by Dropbox. Ordinarily production would take about three months; this was done in three days.
Doherty explains: “We had about two-and-a-half terabytes of raw footage that needed to be ingested into the edit, and processed and edited, and then exported, in time for a broadcast date. So one of the biggest headaches was getting the professionally-shot footage back to the edits in record time.”
The ability to take the video as it was shot would radically alter the kind of documentary that could be made. It was an experience that led to Candour applying to take part in the DCMS Create programme.
”Real people, no scripts”: Leveraging 5G technology for extreme adventure videos and documentaries
The programmes for the project are still being defined, but the initial thought is to have one for each season, testing 5G in the great outdoors in extreme locations. The aim is to present really challenging scenarios and monitor how well 5G can adapt with both live-streaming and uploading rushes. For each event, Candour will make a behind-the-scenes film explaining how the technology was used, to help share its lessons with other creatives.
The plan is to start with spring climbing of sea cliffs in North Wales; a beautiful and hostile environment. Then the summer plan is to film caving in North Yorkshire around the Settle and Ingleborough area, which will be a technically challenging project that will aim to provide 5G below ground. Doherty says: “I presented that to Adam Beaumont from aql, who’s one of our partners. It was a bit of a cheeky, kind of a what-would-happen, could you work with it? And I fully expected him just to say, are you completely mad? And he didn’t, he just said, leave it with me, and he’s come back and said, yeah, let’s give it a go.”
The autumn and winter projects are still at the back-of-an-envelope stage, with ideas around particularly gruelling triathlons, mountain runs and dog-sled racing; physical endurance tests for both the participants and the equipment.
The aql company is developing a base station as part of the project. This is going to be mobile; not a mobile base station but one that moves on the back of a Land Rover to take 5G wherever the project needs it.
To ensure this is done safely, Candour has called in experts in the form of MTN Safety, a company based in Keswick in the Lake District that is run by Zac Poulton. He is an experienced mountain and polar safety consultant, mountaineering instructor and expedition guide. His team provides safety for film crews when they are filming in extreme, remote conditions. Candour will work closely with him in terms of working out the logistics and the feasibility of each of the events.
The involvement of these partners sets Doherty’s mind at rest. “DCMS asked: ‘What are you most terrified of regarding this project? What keeps you awake at night? What are you worried about?’ And my honest answer was ‘nothing’. We’ve set the bar high here. I genuinely want to know how far we can push the technology. I genuinely want to know what extremes we can go to when we are filming going forward. And I feel that Adam and Zac are the perfect people to do this with. I feel I’m in safe hands with both.”
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