Zozobra 2015

SFCTV 16’s live broadcast of Zozobra this year was a whole new ballgame. We had a new location, new cameras, new cables, new tricaster and other new toys.  The cameras were Panasonic AC90’s, and a JVC compact eng. The video switcher was a Tricaster Mini.

This year we were able to set up everything on thursday  for the burn on friday night. This was a very nice change from setting up on the day as it would allow us to test and troubleshoot our new setup.

Our home for the burn was in the Ft Marcy ballfield press box. We had the whole space to ourselves and away from the crazy crowds. We spent the whole week testing, checking and prepping equipment so we didn’t have any surprises on the day.


Camera 1 Scissor lift. Near first base. JVC HM700, 200ft HDSDI to Blackmagic hyperdeck shuttle being used as a cross converter to HDMI into the Tricaster.

Camera 1a: JVC with SDI Teradek Bolt. Receiver ran through hyper deck to the tricaster. This was for OTF pre show interviews on the field. FAIL.

Camera 2: Panasonic AC90. Behind first base dugout, HDMI 100+10 ft. FAIL

Camera 3: Panasonic AC90. Rooftop of press box, HDMI 100ft

Camera 4: Panasonic AC8. In front of Zozobra behind 3rd base dugout. 350ft of component cable daisy chained together. This went into Kramer component to HDMI converter into the tricaster. FAIL

We were also supplying a video feed to the family area outside the park. This was, HDMI out of the tricaster into a Dac-70 converter downscaling to composite which then went to a microwave transmitter that shot it over to the screen. FAIL

We were asked (last minute) to supply the video to the main screens on the stage. The AV guys that were doing the sound for the event provided us with a HDMI to SDI converter. We came out of the Tricaster HDMI, converted to SDI which then ran about 200ft to their system. This worked without problems.

The Problems:

Camera 2: This camera was straight HDMI 100ft + 10ft. The camera worked most of the day until it rained and then it started cutting out. We eliminated the extra coupled cable and that did not work. Tested all ports and connections with no change. We tested another 100ft cable in the booth that worked and then ran it. That one worked for about 30 minutes before it started cutting out. We moved this camera into the press box and used a short HDMI. This left us with only a close up shot due to light poles and fencing in the way.

On load-in we tested all cables and they all worked fine. The only only thing it could have been was the rain. The cables must not be waterproof. We made sure all connections were dry and sealed but that did not help.

Camera 4: This one was a head scratcher. Since we had to go about 300ft with this camera, our only choice was daisy-chained component cable. We ran 350ft of cable and the camera worked perfectly all day Thursday and Friday. We lost signal friday night, never figured out why. Again, we checked all connections which were secured and sealed. Most likely the rain or people walking on the cable.

Microwave transmitter: This was human error. I mistook the SD-SDI signal out of the Dac-70 as a composite signal. I figured out in our load in testing that the Dac-70 converts HDMI to many flavors of SDI signals. It does not convert to composite which is what the transmitter needed.

Comms: Right at showtime we lost communications with camera 1 on the scissor lift. We were using a Sennheiser G2 wireless kit. I don’t know what the problem was, possibly wrong channel, interference or the bloody rain. Since this was our longest lens we were unable to communicate with the operators to get the close up shots we wanted from this camera. We should have had a quick production meeting prior to showtime to discuss the shots from each position but we did not have the time.

Camera 1a: The range from the Bolt was much less than advertised. It is rated up to 300ft line of sight. We had a perfect line of sight from the booth to the field and maybe got 100ft out of it before it would cut out. We were able to get one interview off as far as we could go. The Bolt is currently being sent back to the manufacturer for repair.

Moral: Even with lots of prep and testing there will still be technical difficulties. The difference between a professional crew and an amateur one is having a plan B, the expertise and the stamina to push through the problems and make the show go on without the audience noticing.

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