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Writing On The Wall For OBs And SNGs?

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Is Remote Production the death knell for the traditional Outside Broadcast truck/trailer model?

By Remote Production I mean having cameras with operators, mics, commentary and presenters, etc. on the site of the actual production event but with the vision/audio mixing, camera racking, record and replay done at a remote site, which can, in theory, be the other side of the world.

Many people in the industry would have you believe that the days are numbered for OB trucks thanks to the buzz around remote production. Having sold over a hundred used OBs in the last five years in my role as a broker and commissioned many new builds, I get to talk to a wide range of industry experts such as Coachbuilders, Systems Integrators, Engineers, Technical Directors, Managing Directors, down to one-man owner operators around the world. So I am not speaking as a specialist in any one field, but from my position a broker.

I am told RP is taking off in Australia where it saves taking whole production teams across large distances. It is also becoming popular to a lesser extent in the US for smaller events and some EU countries. RP obviously needs reliable high bandwidth/connectivity. Although the UK has good fibre infrastructure at many venues such as Premier League football stadiums, there seems to be a reluctance to go down the RP route at present.

With OB companies having only recently recovered from the "3D flop" and the new investment in 4K and IP, RP is not a priority. There is a view that if the whole crew and kit are onsite, any technical problems in the production chain can be fixed easily onsight.

RP will not improve picture or sound quality or increase revenue at this time. It also sounds a bit cold from a human perspective, and this may come across in the production, it is probably OK for the smaller less complex productions. Perhaps it will take off as connectivity technology improves, makes commercial sense and is demanded by broadcasters/production companies and the accountants at some point in the future.

So as they say, if it's not broke, don't fix it. There is a trend for UK Satellite uplink operators to own fewer SNG trucks in favour of renting out Fibre lines for TX. Of course there will probably always be a need for Mobile TX through the air for many applications such as news via satellite, bonded sim, etc. I have seen a trend where SNG vans being sold off by SNG operators and not replaced over the past few years. The traditional OB truck market is still alive and well in the UK with around 50 large OBs owned by the bigger operators and probably 100 or so smaller units owned by them and other mid sized companies. SNGs are also still necessary in many situations. So it seems we don't need to worry about OBs and SNGs disappearing just yet!

There are areas of the world, of Europe, Middle East and Africa where 4K will not be implemented for several years. Procuring secondhand first and second generation HD OBs is a cost effective solution for operators in these regions.

Onvision is an active broker for used OBs and SNGs in the UK and worldwide. We have been assisting buyers and sellers in this area for twenty-five years. Sellers pay a commission to Onvision of five percent for units over £75,000 in value and seven and a half percent for units under this value.

We handle the sales negotiations and assist with the logistics. We can also often help with the procurement of additional equipment and arrange any alterations a buyer might require. We work in partnership with FAL Systems in Leeds UK for coach work or systems integration. Due to current demands Onvision are actively seeking 6 – 12 camera HD OBs, 3 – 6 camera SNG/OB combination and well spec'd SNGs. Ideally, they need to be under about twelve years old. There is a market for older, realistically priced OBs, but if they do not meet with EU emissions regulations they are increasingly difficult to sell. The larger expanding trailer based OBs are still popular but this market slower.

Onvision are adding a new website feature soon which will allow sellers to list their surplus OBs, SNGs and Outside Broadcast related equipment on the site for free.

Article by Dave McCleave – Managing Director, Onvision Broadcast.

This article also features in the November edition of Broadcast Film & Video.

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