Ultimate RV Show Churns Out 49 Hours of Content With FOR-A’s HVS-2000 Production Switcher
At Hershey America’s Largest RV Show, Camping World annually broadcasts live coverage for a production it calls the Ultimate RV Show. However, in 2020, COVID-19 restrictions required the company to pursue a virtual option. Over the five-day event in mid-September, Custom Media Solutions, a live event video production company based in Cumming, GA, produced 49 hours of programming that was streamed to multiple sites. During the event, CMS anchored its production efforts with its HVS-2000 video switcher from FOR-A Corporation of America.
Eight cameras, including two robotic cameras and a drone, provided coverage from the Tom Johnson Camping Center in Marion, NC, across an area larger than three football fields. Two hosts toured more than 100 campers, while other on-screen talent offered transitions between segments from a dedicated stage.
The Ultimate RV Show used extensive graphics, including show-themed wipes, wipes and bumpers for specific segments, RV model names and floor plans, and numbers to call or text for more information. According to Anthony Young, who served as technical director for the shoot, the live show used 3 M/Es, two of which were used exclusively for effects, plus eight dedicated keys for DVE moves and three for AUX outputs.
Young praised the HVS-2000’s ease of use and flexibility. For example, he was able to add a defocus effect on the drone video for a background shot while simultaneously keeping the clean drone video as a separate source.
“Most switchers at this price point can’t add sub effects,” said Marc Shroyer, president of CMS. “If you want to talk about bang for the buck, we were doing things on this switcher that you normally need a much more expensive switcher to do.”
Young also built 40 macros for the show, many of which were used for custom transitions, and was able to edit macros on the fly without touching the switcher through its browser-based GUI. FOR-A simplifies the production of multiple macros by allowing users to copy and paste a macro, then add or replace clips, graphics, or other elements into the new macro.
“It takes maybe five minutes to build a basic macro,” Young explained. “You can literally choose a function and add it to your list, then test it and see if it does what you like. And it’s very quick to replicate macros. All my timing was the same, so I could copy the macro and then just change the clip.”
During production, the “A” camera for each host and the dedicated stage camera were equipped with a prompter, which received content from the HVS-2000. Young built two versions of the prompter feed. The first provided a countdown timer on the monitor, so the on-screen talent knew how much time was left in the segment. For the two parties that were not live, the prompter automatically showed the live program feed as well as a countdown for the next segment.
With the switcher’s bus follow feature, the AUX feed changed automatically for each camera when Young switched between production teams. “I never had to think about if I routed the timer,” Young recalled. “It was built into the system. The FOR-A really helped us out. We didn’t need an extra person to manage the feeds.”
With imminent rainstorms coming later in the week during the show, CMS had to produce some of the Ultimate RV Show content early. According to Young, they prerecorded more than two dozen “first look” segments that toured and highlighted new RVs.
Young and CMS producer Michael Simmons shared the HVS-2000; while one was directing, the other was prepping the next 30-minute segment. With two TDs seated next to each other at the control panel in the production trailer, CMS was able to eliminate downtime between segments and practically cut production time in half.
“That decision really made the show what it was, because Thursday would have been a complete washout,” Simmons noted. ”We were able to control everything in a small area because of the flexibility of the FOR-A console.”
The program aired on the Camping World website, as well as Facebook and YouTube. According to Simmons, CMS had to keep to a strict time schedule, as Camping World had encouraged viewers to pre-register to view specific RVs and features at certain times. “Everything was on the clock,” Simmons said, “and we remained within 40 seconds of the margin of time.”
The HVS-2000 2 M/E video switcher offers 24 inputs and 18 outputs as standard, and can be expanded up to 48/18 or 40/22 with optional I/O cards. The switcher also includes MELite technology that previews output from an AUX bus when applying transitions or keying for expanded M/E performance, as well as FLEXaKEY architecture for flexible reassignment of keyers separate from the standard keyers of full M/E buses.