Case Study: Valenti Vision Films Relies on Blackmagic Design in Mobile Trucks
Valenti Vision Films, an independent film and television production company based in New Jersey, produces everything from movies and television shows to live sports and entertainment. Since 2011, Valenti Vision Films has created more than 600 hours of original programming for various television and Internet outlets, including ESPN3, NBC, ABC, NUVO, Comcast Networks, Ivy League Digital Network, PBS and more, for clients such as the FXFL, NCAA, PMTV, US Soccer, The Ivy League, and TV One.
To provide his clients with the best quality, Joe Valenti of Valenti Vision Films has built two mobile, multi-camera production trucks from the ground up.
Named “Vision 1” and “Vision 2,” the trucks help capture and broadcast live events in HD for clients all over the country. Vision 1 and Vision 2 have broadcast from venues such as Madison Square Garden, MetLife Stadium, Rutgers University, Foxwoods Casino, Wells Fargo Center, Princeton University, and more. Valenti also used Vision 2 at a recent “General Hospital Fantasy Weekend” charity event in New Jersey, hosted by some of the stars of ABC’s General Hospital. In 2014 and 2015, the two trucks have done mobile productions in 26 states and counting.
For broadcasting from inside the mobile trucks, Valenti relies on Blackmagic Design’s line of A/V and broadcast products, including ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher for live switching, HyperDeck Studio Pro and HyperDeck Shuttles for recording, SmartScope Duo monitors, and Mini Converters.
Identifying an Opportunity
After starting out in film school, Joe Valenti went on to make several feature films including “Echelon 8,” which became an ABC Late Night Movie of the Week as well as the CW Movie of the Week. His latest feature, “The Meat Puppet,” distributed by Tomcat Films, is currently available at outlets such as Best Buy, Target, and Barnes and Nobles. He then began freelancing, holding gigs at MSNBC for several years as a graphic designer, at AT&T as a creative director and at Time Warner Cable working on a few of their broadcast trucks. As he was freelancing, Valenti began to see new technologies coming out that were more affordable than their predecessors and that would significantly cut down on the costs of mobile production.
“I realized that you no longer need to have this two million dollar truck to do multi camera productions for concerts and sports,” says Valenti. “I saw the way people were starting to do things with flypacks where they build the control room at each venue. Rather than going that route, where I’d have to build it and break it down every time, I thought ‘Why not get a trailer and build a control room in there like a mini production truck?’ But it is important to remember that even with the lower costs of technology, a great production still needs experience, skill and an amazing crew to execute it successfully without sacrificing quality.”
Fulfilling a “Vision”
In 2011 and 2012, Valenti bought two different trailers and built a broadcast studio inside each one with his own two hands. He laid the flooring, built the walls, wired everything, mounted the monitors, and hung the shelves. Being familiar with a few Blackmagic Design products already, like Mini Converters, Valenti did some additional research into what he would need and decided to purchase the Blackmagic Design ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher, along with SmartScope Duo monitors, HyperDeck Studio Pro broadcast decks, and HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorders.
Valenti uses the ATEM with the ATEM Software Control through a touch screen monitor via a PC computer to switch between cameras and run transitions. As a backup measure, he also has it on a laptop so that in case the computer dies in the middle of a show, he can switch over to the control panel on the laptop.
“The ATEM has been just awesome,” says Valenti. “In the three years I’ve been using the ATEM it’s been 100 percent reliable. And I like that you can have layers of security. If something goes down, it’s not like your show is off the air. This is especially important when people are paying for commercial time. That’s when you can’t risk a system crashing.”
Harnessing the ATEM’s Capabilities
Typically during live events, Valenti and his team feed anywhere from four to seven cameras into the ATEM, along with a replay machine and two graphics feeds from a Datavideo CG-350, one for the video fill and one for the key utilizing a Blackmagic DeckLink 4K Extreme card. They also run an SDI feed out of the computer directly into the ATEM, and use either a HyperDeck Shuttle or a DVD player to run moving backgrounds into the ATEM when they are doing a full screen graphic or moving animation. With fiber running in Vision 1 and Vision 2, Valenti uses 22 Blackmagic Design Mini Converters Optical Fiber to convert the feeds to SDI.
Valenti also uses an on board AVID workstation also outfitted with a DeckLink 4K Extreme card in each truck for playout of commercials and packages. For example, at Rutgers’ basketball games this past year, Valenti would film the open before the game and edit together the intro along with some B roll and the first commercial break, so the first five or six minutes of the show were done and he could just play it back as soon as they went to air.
For most sports broadcasts, including the MMA’s “Grapple at the Garden” at Madison Square Garden and Princeton NCAA football games, Valenti uses the ATEM to its full ability, incorporating Supersource, graphics, keying in the clock, replay moves, moving backgrounds, and more. He especially appreciates the Supersource feature, which he sometimes uses to key in the entire scoreboard, eliminating the need for an extra graphics person on smaller productions.
“It’s great having all the inputs in the ATEM, because our setup changes depending on the event,” says Valenti. “We’ve done as many as 7 or 8 cameras for bigger shows, like the Maxwell Awards for College Player of the Year on ESPN3, and sometimes we’ll have two graphics machines. On bigger shows we run the audio through the board into the final mix, but when we do smaller shows where we don’t have an audio person, we use the follow feature in the ATEM. It’s great because the SDI feed carries the audio and it automatically goes to the commercials we play out of our AVID. We have also utilized the SDI embedded audio capabilities during our sporting events for our handhelds on the field.”
Adding Blackmagic Cameras to the Mix
Valenti has also begun using two Blackmagic Cinema Cameras and DaVinci Resolve as part of his workflow. For example, his company produced the television show “Knockout,” a reality series airing nationwide on NUVO in which three legendary boxers train nine pro boxers for a chance to become a top WBA contender. Valenti used the two Blackmagic Cinema Cameras to shoot the majority of the show, such as interviews and specialty shots.
“When I watched the show on television in HD, I could not believe how amazing the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras looked broadcasted,” he says.
The culminating event was a live fight at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, and Valenti captured the action using both Blackmagic Cinema Cameras as well as Vision 2. The highlight for Valenti was directing a bout in which former heavyweight champion Roy Jones, Jr. knocked out his opponent.
Recently, Valenti completed working on Vision 3, a film production unit for his feature film, documentary, television, and commercial work. He plans to use the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras for these purposes as well as for other for other multi camera live events.
“We were initially interested in the Blackmagic equipment for its affordability, but it has exceeded our expectations in terms of functionality and reliability,” says Valenti. “I am looking to add more products such as the ATEM Production Studio 4K for even more scalability and would like to have our entire camera line to be exclusively Blackmagic Design.”