Report on Technical aspects of Leonardo Exchange Visit to community media in Switzerland.
The exchange visit to Winterthur in Switzerland was a very interesting affair. As par tof the approach to understanding tasks, roles, training and staff needs there was a series of technical workshops. Largely TV focused but placed nicely between quality and a price point that was accessible to stations within community media. It gave a nice insight to what was a available on the market and the quality of cheaper options. What was valuable about it was to get others perspectives on the cheaper end of equipment. When you look up a device on-line you might look at the technical specifications. These technical specifications might read that they are what you are after but it can be difficult to ascertain if they are implemented well. You can look up a review on-line but they might not take into account its use in a broadcast environment as national and state broadcasters would never use equipment that would be this cheap. It was invaluable to be able to ask for impressions of certain devices, they’re limitations or different ways they could be used to fit a purpose. It was invaluable to get actual hands on impressions, especially from those at the state broadcaster level and seeing how well these devices actually worked.
One of the more fascinating things that came up in the workshops were the investigations that NRK were doing into how something is broadcast. If we take for example how terrestial television is broadcast, giant masts broadcasting multiple gigabytes of video data and multiple streams of video. What NRK were experimenting with was not broadcasting the video but broadcasting a link to a video and how this can be used in smart televisions. If we take the case of Ireland; to have your signal broadcast on saorview it can cost €600,000-€1,000,000 a year for a standard definition channel (this is a figure from 2011). This is essentially out of reach of community broadcasters. The cost here is essentially the power it takes to transmit multiple GB’s of data. What NRK are investigating is if you just broadcast simply a link, which would be kilobytes of data, this link could connect your smart TV to where your video is on-line. It could also be used for playback and recording services. This could potentially reduce the cost of broadcasts by factors of 1000’s
Another invaluable insight were some iPhone apps that could be used as live switching units. In this scenario each I phone becomes a studio camera and it connects to a central iPad app, which acts as a switcher. What these apps are essentially doing is mimic devices and set-ups that can cost in the 10’s to 100,000’s of euro. While the apps themselves might not be suitable for live environments the could be really effectively used as training devices. And because they are readily available and numerous volunteers have these phones it could become be useful for volunteers to use them just amongst themselves. They wouldn’t necessarily need someone training them, they wouldn’t need a studio location and they wouldn’t need to be getting equipment from the station