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Blackmagic Design Marches Alongside Promar TV During the Divina Pastora Procession, Venezuela's Largest Live Event

The Venezuelan Divina Pastora statue is one of the most important religious figures in Venezuela and is celebrated with one of the world's largest Marian processions. With more than four million attendees, the landmark procession takes place mid-January every year and runs 24 consecutive hours, garnering Venezuela's largest TV viewing audience. Promar TV Chief Engineer Jorge Kossowski has been following the Divina Pastora event since he was a young child with a strong desire to be more than just a spectator. "When I was 16 years old, I had a fake ID, but not so I could go to a nightclub. I got it so that I could get on a helicopter to manage the aerial broadcast transmission for the Divina Pastora procession. That was how committed I was to being a part of this historic movement," he said. 

The love affair with the procession of Divina Pastora began with Jorge's grandfather. An immigrant from Poland, the senior Kossowski brought a camera with him from Europe, filming anything that piqued his interest. At that time (circa 1949), there were virtually no television sets in Venezuelan homes, and Kossowski senior sold his projects to movie theaters to make a living. 

"One day, my grandfather was driving through Barquisimeto, Venezuela and saw a massive gathering. It was literally the largest number of people he had ever seen together. The group was carrying a large wooden box. Intrigued, he decided to follow the march and record it with his camera. At the end of the procession, the crowd took the cover off the box and inside was the Virgin Mary," explained Jorge. 

The experience moved Jorge's grandfather so much that he decided to settle down in that town and work on his film projects. He would eventually establish Promar TV, an entity that would become Venezuela's largest broadcaster and the main production and broadcaster for all Divina Pastora processions since 1949.

Production Power House

A third-generation broadcaster who grew up in the production world, Jorge has seen the evolution of technology first hand. "I have been a part of Promar TV basically since birth and can honestly say I've seen how broadcast technology has changed. We can do things now that we wouldn't even have dreamed 10 years ago. Take the Blackmagic ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K live production switcher and the Blackmagic Teranex standards converters. These are remarkable innovations that have changed what we can do. Thanks to these solutions, we can capture the Divina Pastora procession from any angle with the flexibility to air it in multiple formats, ensuring just about everyone can experience it." 

The Promar TV infrastructure is a showcase for technology evolution, boasting cutting-edge broadcast hardware ranging from a customized 23 foot tactical OB truck equipped with Blackmagic Design's ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K, Universal Videohub router, four Teranex 3D Processors, seven HyperDeck Studio broadcast decks, an UltraScope for waveform monitoring, an UltraStudio 4K capture and playback device and numerous Mini Converters, to a fully-equipped studio with six Blackmagic Studio Cameras, an ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K, four Teranex 3D Processors, and DaVinci Resolve Studio for editing, color grading and finishing. 

In addition to the state-of-the-art OB truck and on-premise studio, Promar TV has eight Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K digital film cameras, two ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K switchers and seven Teranex 3D Processors dedicated to live event productions, like the Divina Pastora procession. The 2017 event required 24 hour broadcast to satellite and cable channels, news coverage commentary and distribution of the procession's two masses, one at the beginning of the procession and one at the end, to large 12 square meter LED screens. 

Jorge explained, "The Divina Pastora is the most complex live event production we do all year. It requires 160 plus production people and just about every piece of broadcast gear we own to manage. This year, we used a different approach for production. We wanted to capture more of the event, the emotion and footage of the crowd. 

"We set up four production points: one at the beginning, midpoint and end of the procession, and one at the Promar TV station. We used fiber to connect each production hub, and every piece of equipment used to capture and air the event was connected to one of these production hubs. We put four ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4Ks at the heart of the workflow to manage the eight URSA Mini 4Ks, switching, lower thirds and more. The ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4Ks were flawless in managing the massive amount of video we captured and aired over those 24 hours."  

Creating Consistent Image Quality 

To deliver a crisp and consistent image, the team purchased eight URSA Mini 4K digital film cameras specifically for the Divina Pastora broadcast. The purchase not only gave them continuity with regards to image quality, but it allowed them to continue to use their existing lenses. "We have big lenses, including a 55mm and 70mm that cost quite a bit of money. We could not afford to replace our entire stock, and there was no reason to. They work well for us, and more importantly, the URSA Mini 4K has a B4 connector that powers the lenses," said Jorge. 

"I can control the cameras remotely with the ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K's CCU control, which is very important. While the URSA Mini 4Ks all have the same look, feel, white balance and color temperature, if we didn't have centralized control of the cameras, we could have had difficulties maintaining the same look across the procession, especially on a big production like this. The ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K helped us drive a uniform look for the entire production, and, combined with the URSA Mini 4Ks, the image quality was outstanding this year." 

Jorge explains in more detail how they managed the consistent look: "We have a dedicated 'CCU' operator whose task is to ensure that all the cameras maintain continuity in terms of look. The broadcast transitions from dawn to dusk and back again, comprising the full spectrum of natural light. Some cameras are inside a church, some are outside walking with the crowd and some are on rooftops to capture the magnitude of the event. The ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K's CCU control allows us to balance the cameras and get the exact look and feel we want for a specific time of the day, then 'copy and paste' the look to the other cameras. There is no need to white balance every individual camera. All the white balance is centralized, so we have the same look all around."

Dynamic Broadcasting

Capturing great image quality was only part of ensuring a successful production. Promar TV also had to devise a broadcast workflow that would work for multiple playout scenarios. Because Venezuela has not fully adopted HD, Promar TV still had to offer its broadcast in SD, requiring the team to produce four formats in all for the on-air playout: 1080 HD, 720 HD, 480 4:3 SD and 480 16:9 SD. They captured the event in HD and managed the format conversions using the Teranex 3D Processor. 

"One of my favorite features of the Teranex 3D Processor is that I can configure the output, and it will auto reconfigure the input," said Jorge. "It doesn't matter what kind of video resolution I have set for the input because the Teranex 3D Processor will recognize it and cross convert to whatever my set standard is. This is incredibly helpful when I am managing multiple cameras and formats." 

This was also helpful for broadcasting the two Divina Pastora masses delivered by the Archbishop. Both were broadcast live over satellite, cable TV and on large screens at two different procession locations. To capture all the angles with the URSA Mini 4Ks, Promar TV had the camera crew spread out across the crowd and near the stage. The camera feeds went into the Teranex 3D Processor for conversions via the ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K and then back through the ATEM for distribution, with the large LED screens airing the HD feed and the NTSC SD 16:0, NTSC SD 4:3 and HD formats broadcast to air. 

100 Percent Accuracy Every Time

In addition to having the Teranex 3D Processor handle every major input of every major connection for Promar TV's down conversions, it was the last step Promar TV took before final distribution to ensure video levels were correct. Just before the broadcast, Jorge ran all content back through the Teranex 3D Processor in the studio, which was paired with the UltraScope via Thunderbolt. This combination let the team know definitively what video and audio levels they were broadcasting to Promar TV. It was also helpful for Promar TV's clients, including national and international networks like CNN en EspaƱol and EWTN Catholic Television Network, which picked up the Promar TV signal for their viewers. Because it was a simple video output controlled by a computer, Promar TV easily sent it through a dedicated satellite feed for stations and networks to monitor directly. This gave the clients the confidence that their dedicated feed for the Divina Pastora was broadcast according to plan. 

Keeping Records

As with any live event, backup is key, and Promar TV records all broadcasts onto solid state drives (SSDs) with the HyperDeck Studios. Jorge commented, "I record all of our broadcasts for a number of reasons. First, it's required by law I keep all broadcasts for one year, so I need a clean feed from all cameras. Additionally, my director could make a mistake when he's switching or maybe a camera could have fallen over. Having clean camera feeds means I can edit potential mistakes later in post. I also have the Blackmagic H.264 Pro Recorder in the studio, which I love. Since it is H.264, the files are very small, and I use it for streaming projects and recording live events 24/7."

Reporting from the Big Event

In addition to capturing and airing the massive Divina Pastora procession, Promar TV reported the news around the event. "We had journalists walk the entire event, interviewing participants and reporting on various happenings. We also had anchors deliver event commentary over a 24 hour period," Jorge said. "You cannot have a wireless microphone, walk seven kilometers and expect the microphone to be reliable; you need to be able to go from one production hub point to the other. To do this, I put portable receivers for each microphone on every camera and used an ATEM Studio Converter to bring the video and audio back."  

The ATEM Studio Converter and fiber cabling allowed Jorge and team to manage cameras from a distance. Leveraging the Blackmagic Design Mini Converter SDI to Audio, the team could extract the embedded audio from the cameras, convert it to analog and use it for the broadcast.

Camera feeds from journalists walking the procession were sent back to the studio, compiled into half hour segments and then edited in DaVinci Resolve Studio. The finished content went back through the broadcast workflow for playout either as a supporting piece for the anchors at the procession, as a standalone news package update from the procession or used in a post-event news show as highlights or excerpts from the procession.

Jorge and the team at Promar TV are already planning the Divina Pastora 2018 production and, without a doubt, Blackmagic Design will be along for the march. 

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Design, URSA Mini 4K digital film camera, ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K switcher


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