London Live was setup on the 31st of March 2014, and uses Nikon Digital SLRs exclusively to record and broadcast live television, as well as other television programs. It is broadcast on Freeview 8, Sky 117, Virgin 159, YouView 8 as well as online on www.londonlive.co.uk, and they broadcast around 5 hours of live television a day.
In Kensington, London, inside the Evening Standard offices, Bryn Balcombe, London Live's technology director gave us a tour of the station. They have two studios, and have a Director of Photography (DOP), something that you don't normally have in TV production, to give a more professional look to the production. London Live will also accept DSLR created programs, while many other TV stations won't. They are looking for contributions, which can be submitted on their website.
London Live use Nikon Digital SLRs for a number of reasons:
- Full-frame gives a good photographic / cinematic look
- Size and weight advantages compared to other broadcast systems
- Low light advantages
- Clean HDMI output, with live view monitoring
- Flexible solution, can be moved easily and lenses changed
- Cost advantages, a broadcast camera is likely to cost at least £20k and not give the same quality or look to the output
They currently use the Nikon D4 in the studio, with the smaller Nikon D800 used outside the studio on location by video journalists. Due to the cameras low-light abilities they are able to record video with minimal additional lighting, which they say gives the recordings a natural look, and also means that it's easier for them to get out and about without being weighed down by the larger, more traditional broadcast cameras. They can also control the focus area much more, so they can have a shallow depth of field in focus or a greater depth of field in focus depending on the look they want to create.
The camera kit used includes:
- Nikon D4 Digital SLRs
- Nikon D800 Digital SLRs
- Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 lens
- Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
- Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
- Yellobrik HDMI to HD-SDI convertor and sync pulse
The Digital SLRs are left switched on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and there have been no issues with the sensors getting hot or generating additional image noise. The studio uses 5 Digital SLRs on robotic heads, as well as one on a 9-axis robotic motion control rig. They can switch from one camera to another seamlessly without there being any difference in colour or exposure - the Yellobrik Sync pulse is used to ensure that there is no time difference between the output from the cameras. They use the Nikon picture control settings built into the camera to get the colour setup they want without having to use external grading systems, and the output from the cameras is broadcast as it is straight out of the cameras.
The main studio, shown above, has 3 stops of ND covering the windows to block too much light getting into the studio. The studio lights are daylight calibrated lighting, and they are planning on switching to a more ambient lit studio for evening shows, which is possible due to the cameras low-light sensitivity. This should make the program look more natural as well as allow the presenters to be more comfortable.
Part of the solution is made possible thanks to Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) robotics systems - this is an integrated system that lets them move the cameras, as well as giving lens control, including zoom control and focus control. Using the Nikon lenses they have chosen, with a constant aperture, they are able to zoom in and out without the aperture changing, meaning the exposure stays the same.
Each camera can be controlled remotely, on an MRMC robotic head, with another camera on a larger 9-axis robotic motion control rig that can go from one side of the studio to the other. This means they can automate certain movements, making them repeatable, so they can smoothly go from one position to another. All of the cameras can be controlled by just one or two operators, whereas in a more traditional, non-robotic studio, each camera would require a camera operator. Using DSLRs means that they can use these cameras in location on robotic arms, where previously there would have had to be a camera operator and camera, which has become increasingly difficult due to weight limitations being imposed.
Out in the field they use the Nikon D800 for video, with a Ninja-2 external recorder if longer videos are required. The Nikon D800 is setup to record with an external microphone, as well as a small LED lighting unit on top. They also use GPS modules to add GPS data to recordings, something that has often been missing from video Metadata, yet is commonly found on photographic Metadata. The idea being that correctly tagged metadata would make locating and finding the content they want much easier, much like you do when you correctly manage a photographic library of images.
They plan on using the new Nikon D810, as this features 50fps video recording which will be useful for smoother video recording as well as if they need to create slow-motion video at 25fps.
London Live are also currently investigating the use of Nikon Coolpix S810c Android powered compact cameras for remote video recording, as this allows optical zoom, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. The video feed could then be sent to a Sim block broadcast connection, which could feature 4,5,6 or 8 sim cards to support the high-speed transmission of video.
For more information, and to watch the broadcast from the Nikon D4 DSLRs, visit www.londonlive.co.uk.