When CTV was tasked by TwentyTwenty to deliver the hotly anticipated reality TV show First Dates Hotel for Channel 4, the OB company turned without hesitation to Axon’s Cerebrum control and monitoring platform to ensure the production ran smoothly. Shot on location in the South of France and screened early in 2017, the UK reality TV production demanded seamless control of a complex Powered by Ethernet (POE) workflow, including 80 remote cameras – with Cerebrum at its heart.
CTV already relies on Cerebrum for major OB sports productions, such as The Open, where it enables crews to simply control and manage a huge number of external sources. Given the complex set-up for First Dates Hotel, which employed IP infrastructure to capture and manage the action remotely, the team had complete confidence that Cerebrum would provide agile and robust control as well as support a hassle-free, flexible creative workflow.
A fully resilient Cerebrum system was employed, managing IP camera control units, tally, UMD contribution and linking together the main broadcast equipment including the video router and two Lawo V-pro8 video processors. 80 Panasonic fixed-rigged IP cameras throughout the hotel, with 18 robotic units located poolside, were controlled via twenty CCP-4200 42-button colored LCD 1RU panels. These high-density panels, a bespoke Axon design for CTV, dramatically simplified the workflow enabling all devices to be controlled from a user-friendly interface with flexible color-coding to easily navigate between the five main camera zones.
The dynamic features of Cerebrum – completing tasks in minutes that previously took hours to achieve – make it a perfect match for reality TV productions and its power was experienced first-hand by the team on location in Provence. With a dedicated remote operator sat beside each of the three directors in the gallery, recording four cut streams (12 in total), directions could be given in real-time and the results made available immediately.
“Cerebrum’s speed and feature-set offered great creative opportunities for the directors on this production,” comments Richard Morton, Base Technical Supervisor at CTV OB. “They didn’t have the time or the inclination to take on the technicalities of the set-up but with Cerebrum, the director could talk through ideas with the operator beside him, who then recorded, configured and executed his directions in front of his eyes. That blew them away! They were really impressed by the freedom Cerebrum gave them and the whole vibe of the production was upbeat and positive as a result.”
For CTV’s engineering team working in a new Powered Over Ethernet environment was also a positive experience. In a traditional hardware set-up, having to use the rig as a distributed system was a lengthy and costly exercise with miles of unsightly cable runs to manage. In this IP environment, the team reduced cabling on site and eliminated cumbersome kit in the rig, reducing a whole bay into a single server. Cerebrum provided robust, complete control and back-end IP integration with camera switching into the server itself – dramatically simplifying the workflow with control of local network camera switches.
“We have had extensive experience working with Cerebrum in live sports and have complete confidence in the system in that environment,” says Morton. “In reality TV, directors face different creative challenges and need greater flexibility. Our close collaboration with Axon lets us proactively address those needs and gives us real competitive advantage. With Cerebrum at the heart of our operational set-up, CTV can provide our clients with an impressive, glossy and flexible front-end and the ability to manage productions seamlessly. It just works!”
Away from Provence and the four-star Le Vieux Castillon hotel, CTV is currently working with Axon on two further deployments of Cerebrum for 2017: a studio facility and the refurbishment of OB11, the largest 20-camera 4K-capable OB truck in Europe which is undergoing a complete video technology refit, also featuring Axon 3G glue equipment.
Headquartered in The Netherlands, and with offices across the world, Axon develops, manufactures and markets high quality broadcast equipment for the conversion, processing and compliance recording of audio and video signals. Products integrate advanced signal processing techniques, innovative engineering and modular flexibility and provide high quality, affordability and reliability within mission-critical broadcast applications. For more information please visit