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It’s about time

News from the USA – a guest blog from Don Cardone, director of DMC Broadcast Group, supporting and selling Hitomi products to North and Latin America. 

If we’ve all had to learn one thing over the last year, it’s how to do remote broadcasts. News anchors are presenting from home; guest pundits are at a distance not at the stadium; links use IP circuits not video. 

In the early days, having a news interview over Zoom was acceptable because it was the only option. But as time went on, so audiences began to demand something better – “yes, we know it’s tough, but it’s your job to get us good pictures and sound”. 

“Pictures and sound” – you really cannot have television without both. And here’s the hard bit: they have to be in sync. Nothing turns audiences off more than on-screen talent’s mouth moving, completely unrelated to the words coming out. 

In sport, lip sync is vital even if it is nothing to do with lips. You know from the sound of driver hitting ball whether that golf shot is going straight up the fairway or into the trees. You know from the sound of the collision whether the quarterback is going to get the ball away. Provided the audio matches the pictures. 

But while this aspect of time is critical, it doesn’t mean that in a busy production schedule there is time to waste on getting it right. So you need a way to check the basic parameters, quickly and easily. The Hitomi MatchBox system is now very widely used, with a generator to create test signals and an analyser at the end of the circuit to check that all stays well. 

A newer addition is MatchBox Glass. This is a simple – and free – app for iPhone or iPad, which generates a unique test pattern on the screen and matching test tones. All the user has to do is set it off and hold the screen in front of the camera, wherever you are. The MatchBox Analyser back at base does the rest. 

It is quick, simple and ideal if you are setting up your home studio for a live broadcast: you can match latencies all the way from your camera and microphone to MCR in seconds. Some of the US’s biggest news and sports broadcast networks now routinely rely on it for remote anchors and guests and are thrilled with the ease and accuracy of the process. 

Sports production is moving towards remote production, using a mix of traditional cameras and bonded cellular from companies like Dejero or LiveU. It allows you to test all the paths, whether it is SDI or SMPTE 2110; HD, 3G or 4k; cabled, wireless or bonded cellular. You can match latencies from each camera and microphone to the truck (or to the remote production centre) to get maximum impact. Again, the big players in trucks have installed MatchBox. 

Lip sync is the headline issue, but the Hitomi system allows you to check other things too, like audio coherence: if you have 5.1 audio with some channels out of phase, it sounds really bad when downmixed to stereo. 

As a system, it is accurate and precise, which is more than can be said for clapperboards and scratching microphones: eyes and ears can only take you so far. When setting up for live broadcasts, time is always of the essence. MatchBox is the time-saving way to solve timing problems. 

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