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Nat Geo WILD: Setting Up for Live Broadcast

Any time you try to pull off a project as ambitious as this one there are going to be problems – especially when boats and the ocean are involved. Even without that part, going into a remote area of a foreign country and trying to build a full-fledged live production studio is an enormous challenge.

There are a handful of places where you can drive up to a venue, plug in your equipment, have sufficient power standing by, transmission in place (fiber or satellite), a communications infrastructure, and everything else. These would include some of the bigger studios, modern stadiums, and other venues that are prepared for the needs of TV Production.

That is not the situation in Scottburgh, South Africa. It is indeed one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and the people here couldn’t be nicer or more helpful, but it is not an area prepared for something like “us.” Every contingency was planned for by our team and layer after layer of back-ups, many of which we have already had to use. This has been a tremendously challenging job.

The studio/control room/edit set-up has been built at our hotel. The studio is in the penthouse and the control room, edit room and equipment rooms are all in regular hotel rooms, which have been stripped of their furniture (the good news there is that there is a bathroom in every area). We brought in our own satellite uplink and generator, had additional Internet service installed, and shipped in massive quantities of equipment.

There are two options when doing a remote production of this magnitude – bringing in a big Production Truck or individual racks and pieces of equipment, which are configured on site. The truck is a nicer and easier option, but not always economically or physically viable. Our equipment is mostly in what is called fly-packs, many of which were custom built for this job. Shipping is hard on this gear and we have had some issues related to damage and others that were just bad luck. The staff has risen to the challenge and we are in pretty good shape at two-and-a-half days to our live broadcast. Most of the tech work is done and we are able to start rehearsals at this point.

Everyone has put in really long hours already and fatigue is setting in. The adrenalin will kick in on Friday though, to get the crew through the live program. Failure is not an option.

Bob Sitrick is a 30-year TV production and operations veteran who’s produced countless live television and online events. Bob will be our eyes and ears in the field all week long, reporting in real-time from South Africa on Shark Attack Experiment: LIVE – a two-hour special event on Nat Geo WILD airing live this Friday, November 25 at 9pm ET/6pm PT.