By Royal Appointment
This article was published in TVB Europe. Click here to read the original version.
NEP UK Receives an Invitation to the Weddings of the Year
Two of the biggest television events of 2018 were a "royal" affair. Last summer, Prince Henry and Megan Markle's royal wedding was watched by a staggering 28.4 million in the UK across multiple channels, making the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's nuptials the most watched TV event of 2018. With a lower key broadcast, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's wedding back in October also brought in an estimated peak of around 7 million viewers globally.
Broadcasters around the world fought to meet the demand of the millions of viewers eager to watch the footage from inside St. George's Chapel in Windsor. Many broadcasters also presented the weddings in a magazine style format show, reporting on the build-up and post-ceremony procession and fanfare, as the couples greeted the cheering crowds of onlookers.
A Day to Remember
Having been the host broadcaster for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's royal wedding in 2011, the BBC once again turned to NEP UK as the trused outside broadcast (OB) provider for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials.
Along with taking the title for the largest worldwide viewing figures for a royal event in history, the BBC was also one of the only broadcasters to capture the ceremony and procession in full UHD HDR. "This was an exciting project for the NEP UK team. The prospect of capturing the first UHD HDR broadcast of a royal event was one we couldn't miss out on," comments Richard Lancaster, technical project manager at NEP UK. "We had to work closely with St. George's Cha[el staff to make sure we fully understood where we were able to install equipment. Other major considerations were the age of the buildings, the fact it was a busy tourist attraction and the timescales for set-up and dismantling after the wedding."
After numerous site visits, preparations started on the buildings to create a non-intrusive scaffold structure that would hold 650 metres of cabling, 60 kilometres of SMPTE cable and a mixture of 88 Sony HDC 4300 and Sony P43 cameras (five outside and 83 within the castle walls). This work all took place whilst Windsor Castle was still open to the public as a major tourist attraction.
On the day, three NEP OB trucks, including its two SMPTE ST2110 vehicles, were used by the BBC to broadcast coverage in standard HD and 4K HDR 2020. The first truck was dedicated to coverage of the ceremony within St. George's Chapel, the second transmitted coverage of the royal family and guests arriving at the chapel and the carriage procession, and the final truck captured all the BBC's presentation elements from its two studios and numerous presenters located around Windsor.
As well as the BBC setup, NEP provided facilities for Sky News' coverage, including an additional 60 UHD cameras over three separate broadcast units covering the route of the procession and Sky's persentation studios. NeP also provided a UHD multi camera SNG at Meghan's hotel, to exclusively capture the moment when the bride left for Windsor.
"It was critical that the HDR signal was converted into standard dynamic range (SDR) for onward distribution as most viewers would be watching the conversion. NEP UK worked closely with the BBC's R&D team to ensure it looked identical to Sky's SDR signal with accurately matched colour spaces," comments Lancaster.
"Overall, the broadcast was a great success with over 18 million UK viewers on the BBC and an estimated 29.2 million Americans tuning in to see the royal nuptials."
The Second Big Day
Due to NEP UK's experience at Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding and relationship with the estate at Windsor Castle, the team was approached by Spun Gold TV to help produce live worldwide feeds and exclusive live coverage of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's nuptials. this was the first time an independent production company had been awarded the honour of producing the coverage of a royal wedding for multiple channels and platforms.
Working closely with Spun Gold TV, NEP UK created a technical plan to deliver a programme that captured the arrivals at the chapel and the hour-long wedding ceremony.
Similarly to the royal wedding in May, the NEP UK team created a non-intrusive scaffold fixture that would hold extensive cabling, lighting and cameras in St. George's Chapel.
To capture the live coverage in HD, NEP UK again implemented its two new SMPTE ST2110 OB vehicles in order to provide ample data throughout and data linking capacity to create an end-toend 'single virtual truck concept'.
The ST2110 system infrastructure is identical in both vehicles, with the first truck used for Spun Gold's live worldwide feeds on multiple channels and platforms, and the second truck for the extended royal wedding special.
Each system is built around Grass Valley IQ UCP 25GbE Gateway cards, which provide two-way links between the robust and resilient IP-based equipment and existing SDI baseband technology. The trucks are also equipped with PHABRIX's HDR and IP-enabled test and measurement solutions. This includes three Qx 12G signal generation, analysis and monitoring solutions.
Other equipment installed in each vehicle includes Grass Valley Kayenne Video Production Centers and Hahuna vision mixers, Calrec sound desks, PHABRIX HDR and IP-enabled test and measurement solutions, Telex Talkback system, Arista 750 IP switches and Axon Cerebrum control systems.
"We decided to use our new SMPTE ST2110 compliant vehicles for Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's nuptials, because it allowed us to significantly reduce cabling as the system requires far less fibre optic cable with is much quicker and easier to integrate," says Lancaster.
"Events of this scale and prestige do not happen every day, and when they do, it tends to completely reset the standard for future broadcasts in terms of best practice and the use of new technologies," concludes John Bullen, client manage and business development at NEP UK. "From start to finish, these royal events were a challenge that only an OB team with the knowledge, relationship and experience such as NEP UK has could take on."