Although the use of remote interviews in broadcast news production was rising steadily pre-pandemic, the format has now become standard amidst travel limitations and social distancing restrictions. Simultaneously, the events of 2020 have driven up demand for interviews with subject experts, often in locations where broadcasters do not have a bureau or reporter presence. Given these circumstances, Seattle area freelance lighting cameraman and Full Nelson Video, Inc. owner, Geoff Nelson, has seen demand for high quality remote interview projects increase dramatically. To produce high-quality live interviews with remote subjects for incorporation into major news broadcasts on networks like CBS, CNBC, Warner Media, and NBC, Nelson has established a plug-and-play workflow built on technology that he can easily fit into a small production case, including an AJA U-TAP SDI video capture device.
At the start of 2020, the volume of remote interviews that Nelson was producing began to grow, so he sought out a more efficient way to streamline lighting and setup. “I like to call myself a purveyor of equipment, so I enjoy seeking out the latest and greatest tech that can help give my clients the best possible image and separate my product from the competition. I knew there had to be a better way to transmit the interview feed to my clients than with the computer camera, which took a lot of background and frame adjustments,” shared Nelson. “At the recommendation of a friend I ordered a U-TAP and it turned out to be just the right technological ingredient. I no longer have to spend time prepping and lighting for the computer camera for these interviews because U-TAP is so plug-and-play; it makes it easy to just hand off a clean camera feed to production.”
In addition to his usual complement of lighting and grip gear, Nelson harnesses a small stand, MacBook, and U-TAP SDI. Using the U-TAP SDI, he is able to capture the camera feed with better focus, framing and lighting controls than what the computer camera can offer. Nelson sends his HD images into the laptop over USB 3.0, which are then incorporated into a Zoom feed for the director to review as the interview occurs in real-time. With a switcher, he is able to send multiple camera angles through the U-TAP. “The setup is ideal because it’s so quick to get up and running,” he explained. “And everyone involved in the production, regardless of their location can get the camera lens view of the interview by watching the live feed. There’s no guessing about how the finished image will look.”
Having used U-TAP in a range of interviews, Nelson expressed an unexpected advantage he’s found. “One of the great things about U-TAP is the ability to loop out SDI, so I can send the camera feed to an external monitor, where I can do quality control by checking the real-world color and exposure levels versus relying only on my color viewfinder,” he said. “And crew footprint can be minimized. I just set everything up like a normal interview and get the U-TAP going. The loop out functionality is essential and even allows me to leave the room, if requested, with the ability to monitor remotely.”
In addition to U-TAP, Nelson has used AJA FiDO converters on previous projects that required SDI to fiber optic signal conversion for video transport over longer distances. “Whether FiDO, U-TAP or some other AJA solution, one thing you can count on from AJA is reliability,” he added. “That gives me peace in the new year, as I expect that even as we emerge from the pandemic, the efficiencies that broadcasters have found in remote interview production and travel cost savings will keep the demand for live remote interviews strong. As it does, I’m confident that I’m well-equipped to handle the continuous flow of requests.”