World Class Player from Hilversum
It has been a busy summer or Broadcast Rental. The European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, the Olympics in Rio, the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the European Football Championships, Tommorowland, Andre Rieu concerts in Maastricht, the 100th anniversary of the Nijmegen Four-Day Walking Event and David Gilmour in Pompeii… To name but a few examples of this Hilversum-based company’s recent accomplishments.
Broadcast Rental is an international full-service company leasing special cameras, file-based work flows and HD RF (wireless) video connections. About 75% of the company’s services consist of live international sports productions. But the crew is not daunted by any situation that calls for wireless connections: Sinterklaas parades, King’s Day, concerts of renowned performers like Beyoncé and Rolling Stones (Cuba), the file-based work flow of Tomorrowland all feature on Broadcast Rental’s resume.
Owner Geert Paul Slee started the company in 2009, after setting up the Dutch branch of Presteigne Charter. While his TV roots lie in Cinevideogroup’s light division, he has meanwhile gained over 25 years’ experience in the business. ‘In 2009 I started in my own garage, with just two EVS’s and a long lens. That’s how it all began’, he explained at Broadcast Rental’s current quarters at Mediapark in Hilversum. From here all the materials needed for recording and broadcasting leave for the biggest events all over the world, often accompanied by Broadcast Rental’s own staff.
A telling example of Broadcast Rental’s versatility (and excellence) is the weekend of 9 and 10 July when the company had twelve RF systems running at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, one in the Tour de France, one at Andre Rieu’s concert at the Maastricht Vrijthof, while that very same weekend United got supplied with equipment for the finals of the European Football Championships in France, telemetry was done for David Gilmour’s concert in Pompeii and preparations were made for the North Sea Jazz Festival in Ahoy. In Pompeii Broadcast Rental arranged for the shading of the Sony F55 4K camera’s. ‘We do that, too’, Geert Paul Slee said. ‘Almost all our RF jobs are including camera control so that all required functions are available wireless via the RCP that goes with the camera brand. Of course including red signalisation. For the Canon C300 we have developed our own camera control solution. Our camera man Ben de Graaf uses it in his Mōvi rig. Because he wanted to use this set-up live, we came up with this solution specifically for him. We buy what we do in that respect with Sony or Grass Valley cameras. But we devised our own little hack, to make it just that bit easier and more practical for the people who use it.’
Finding solutions that make things a tad easier, is one of Broadcast Rental’s qualities, Slee boasted: ‘We design and develop our own solutions, of course in consultation with the end users. Like a data
back for the Grass Valley LDX and LDK cameras. We draw and design it, 3D-print a plastic prototype, and then make the final model in the original adapter’s colour scheme, to the satisfaction of the manufacturer, Grass Valley in this case. Usually, they are not interested in developing such additions and modifications themselves, while we are always trying to find things that can make the job of cameramen, for instance, easier’ Anything that Broadcast Rental does, is inspired by user demands. It starts with how equipment is packaged for shipping. Handsome crates, tailor-made inserts and always packed just how the client likes.
This, together with the volume of high-quality equipment and the trove of knowledge, all contributes to Broadcast Rental’s position as a player at the absolute top. ‘That’s true’, Slee agreed. ‘Especially when it comes to wireless equipment, we are really ahead of the game. Without wronging other companies: we do almost everything that goes on wireless live.’ Meanwhile Broadcast Rental has some fifteen complete systems of its own. ‘If necessary, we rent additional equipment, but usually that’s just some bits and pieces.’
European Athletics Championships
An ambitious project this summer were the European Athletic Championships in Amsterdam. To the question whether it was a job bigger than usual by Dutch standards, Slee replied: ‘Well it was just like any other European Championships, but it is true that a job this size is not common in the Netherlands. It felt great to be part of it. Our clients were United, Eurogrip and Facility House. We supported United with wireless connections and special ultra slomo camera’s for their work for NOS. They also did the overall event presentation, for which we provided the RF camera sets. Our system means that we had to set up the reception infrastructure just once. We hauled in all twelve cameras with three cables from a central point, distributing it from there. For Eurogrip we also did the wireless bit. Speedcam….flycam….all with our connections.’
At the time of the interview Broadcast Rental is busy preparing for the Olympics. All the necessary equipment has left Schiphol for Rio and Ron Eshuis (RF Specialist) and Martijn Swart (Broadcast Rental’s co-owner and file-based workflow specialist, among other things) will be staying in Brazil for some two months (Broadcast Rental will stay for the Paralympics). Mid-May Broadcast Rental ran a trial for Rio, which on 30 June was subjected to a final test, in the presence of NOS operators. ‘In Rio we will be responsible for distributing everything NOS receives at the International Broadcast Centre from 64 venues. We will all watch it on four OLED TV’s. Using EVS we will record all on the ISIS. Behind that are three editing units that can edit anything coming from all those venues. The same applies to the equipment of the ENG crews that come with XDCAM’s. We can ingest those on site as well. From ISIS it is put back on EVS so we can send it to Hilversum as recaps. We can transmit those images also to Holland Heineken House or the Olympic Park, where they tape the studio show at night. This means we take care of the entire infrastructure.’
Going with the times
This year’s Olympics are more challenging than in previous years. That’s how it has always been, and that’s how it will always go, Slee expected. ‘What’s different in Rio than at previous editions is that all signals are supplied on fiber and have to enter the router on fiber, while all audio signals are MADI. That’s a first, so you cannot simply build on what we did in London four years ago. Every time it’s a
little different, you just have to go with the times. In London MADI was hardly available, who knows what Tokyo will bring in four years.”