Providing mobile coverage of a solemn occasion

Providing mobile coverage of a solemn occasion

The death of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, meant that the world’s eyes were turned to the city state of Singapore for his state funeral. Sunday 29 March saw MediaCorp, the major broadcaster in Singapore, provide comprehensive coverage both for its own viewers and for broadcasters globally.

The funeral was preceded by a procession through the central area of Singapore. To provide full coverage, the 17 fixed camera positions were supplemented by three mobile cameras, mounted on motorbikes. To minimise the impact on the solemn occasion, the requirement was for seamless reception of the RF from the bikes without the use of helicopters or plane repeaters.

Presteigne provided the RF coverage from the three motorbikes as a turnkey project, supplying the hardware and the engineering support to ensure it performed flawlessly.

Planning

Lee Kuan Yew was head of state for 31 years, and he led the transformation of Singapore from a port in Malaysia to an independent, and extremely powerful, state. As the founding father of Singapore, he was honoured with a state funeral.

Like broadcasters the world over, MediaCorp had a prepared plan to cover the funeral. They had also worked with RF experts from Presteigne Broadcast Hire some time ago to plan the reception for the three bike cameras. The Presteigne survey demonstrated that the whole route could be covered terrestrially using four receive positions.

Early in 2015 most of the hardware needed for the wireless links was shipped to Singapore to be held in readiness by MediaCorp. Once activated, Presteigne staff flew out to install and operate the kit.

RF

Each bike camera system was identical. Three Sony HDC-2500 high definition cameras were supplied by MediaCorp, along with a microphone for general atmosphere. Presteigne provided Cobham HDTX transmission systems, linked to Gigawave omni-directional antennas. The Cobham system delivered 10 watts at 2.0GHz into the Gigawave antenna.

The receive side of the Cobham HDTX system supports multiple, diversity switched antennas: it was this which allowed clear coverage in various parts of Singapore using only four nodes. Three of the receive sites had four channel diversity receivers, the other (at the headquarters of SingTel, the national telco) had an eight channel diversity receiver.

Because the bike cameras were closely tracking the procession, most of the time all three were being picked up by the same receive node. The three outputs at each location were multiplexed into a single ASI stream and carried over SingTel fibre to MediaCorp’s headquarters at Caldecott.

SingTel also provided an IP circuit between the four receive locations and Caldecott for control and communications.

At Caldecott the incoming ASI streams were demuxed, using ASI switching and management provided as part of the Presteigne installation. The strongest feeds of each camera were fed to the television director. Presteigne also provided Wohler monitoring for quality control.

Deployment

It is the nature of a funeral that you have little advance notice. In the case of television coverage, it amounts to zero.

The news of Mr Lee’s death was announced on Monday 23 March, and Presteigne’s crew travelled from the UK to Singapore on Tuesday, arriving on Wednesday for final planning. On Thursday the equipment which Presteigne had already placed in Singapore was collected from stores and installed at the five sites.

On Friday the system was comprehensively tested and proven, including mounting the mobile systems on the three bikes. Presteigne had the opportunity to confirm coverage during Friday afternoon before the first full-scale rehearsal that evening.

A second rehearsal on Saturday preceded the funeral procession itself at noon on Sunday. The equipment was then de-rigged, in time for the crew to travel home on Monday.

One of the challenges of Singapore is that the climate is extremely hot and humid, which is as demanding for the equipment as it is for the crew. The day of the funeral saw particularly challenging weather conditions, but the equipment performed perfectly.

Response

This event was a special demonstration of the responsiveness of Presteigne Broadcast Hire. It was an event that was certain to happen, but it was impossible to predict precisely when. MediaCorp took the sensible step of first working with Presteigne to define the coverage and therefore the equipment required, and secondly, to hold the equipment itself until required.

This meant that there would be no hold-ups in shipping or customs processing, at a time when customs officers would be under great pressure by other broadcasters shipping in equipment. It also had the advantage that the technical plan was fully prepared and tested in advance.

Once notification came, Presteigne could respond with its customary speed and responsiveness to implement the technical plan. This was achieved without problems, providing flawless coverage on one of the most important broadcasts that MediaCorp had undertaken.

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