Broadcast Management Group Launches REMI Hub, REMI Mobile Unit To Serve Growing Remote-Production Needs
BMG looks to bring the data-center model to the broadcast world
As the pandemic has forced live production to shift increasingly to remote and REMI approaches, broadcasters, leagues, and event-organizers are searching for efficient and robust new options. With that in mind, Broadcast Management Group (BMG) has built what it describes as a first-of-its-kind REMI production hub in Las Vegas and a REMI mobile unit offering remote tools and backend infrastructure for sports, news, music, and entertainment projects in need of a remote-production facility.
“I love running facilities,” says BMG CEO Todd Mason, “but the one thing I was frustrated with in the past was, it often doesn’t matter where the facility is; it matters where the show needs to be produced, which is often driven by the talent: you could have the best facility in the world, but, if the talent isn’t there, it doesn’t matter. So that made me think: why do we need brick-and-mortar facilities at all? My plan when I founded BMG 15 years ago was for BMG to go wherever the client needed the show to be, anywhere in the world, and rent the needed equipment locally.”
From the Ground Up: Building the Data-Center Model
BMG’s purpose-built REMI Broadcast Production Hub and REMI Mobile Unit were designed and built by BMG’s Systems Integration Division. After just a year, business is already booming, with BMG having produced an average of 70 hours of live broadcasting per week via the REMI workflow over the past 12 months. The REMI Hub and REMI Mobile Unit work in tandem to produce shows, and production staff can be located anywhere in the world working remotely — rather than in a physical centralized-production facility.
“Everyone recognizes the benefits of centralized production services today,” notes Mason, “but I look at it more as a data-center model, and that’s what we built from the ground up. Sports broadcasters, particularly like ESPN, have been leaders in REMI production, and they’ve been doing it successfully for several years. But this is different.
“They have the frontend gear at the arena,” he continues, “and home-run those cameras to a brick-and-mortar facility — like Bristol, in ESPN’s case — where they have multiple control rooms where the production and the rest of the technical crew are located. Our model is a little bit different in that very few people have to be at that brick-and-mortar facility; the majority of the crew is located all over the world.”
The REMI Hub
The BMG REMI Hub is a permanent broadcast facility dedicated to executing remote video productions. It features multiple control-room facilities, transmission pods capable of handling more than 40+ incoming feeds (via TVU, LiveU, LTN, TalkShow, and Encompass) and 14 outgoing feeds (via Encompass, LTN, Live U, TalkShow, and TVU). The Hub is also equipped with redundant fiber and automatic seamless failover, as well as virtual-set capabilities, remote monitoring and comms, and three tiers of drop-kit packages.
“The first day in the brand-new facility, March 8,” says Mason, “we were producing a global 2½-hour live broadcast and two national shows live out of two different control rooms at the same time with crew all over the country. It was pretty amazing.”
With the BMG workflow, a minimum staff of a video engineer and an A1 work from the Broadcast Operations Center, and an EIC, A2, utilities, and camera operators are onsite at the game. All the remaining staff can be operating remotely from anywhere in the world with a solid internet connection.
Equipment at the Hub includes five Grass Valley LDX 86 WorldCam cameras with Canon lenses; three remotely controlled PTZ cameras; a mix of Shure, Sennheiser, and Glensound microphones; RTS intercom system with Clear-Com FreeSpeak II wireless beltpacks and six workstations with RTS intercom panels.
The Remi Mobile Unit
In the custom REMI Mobile Unit, BMG offers a variety of REMI transmission remote packages, remote interview recording, and three tiers of remote camera drop kits.
“There aren’t many REMI trucks,” says Mason, “so what usually happens is, networks go to the traditional truck vendors that they work with and, if a truck is available, the truck companies will make a great deal to make the economics work for a REMI show for that network. But, in my view, that’s not a sustainable business plan, because those trucks are very expensive to build and to roll out just to feed a few cameras and some audio. It’s just not economically sustainable.
“We have built a REMI-specific mobile unit to address that,” he continues. “It goes out [onsite], and transmissions pass back to the REMI Hub. It has the cameras and the audio gear and all of the specialty sports gear that you need for the commentators and everything. And everything comes back to the Hub.” BMG plans to build several of these mobile units.
Additional Services: Playout, DR, Master Control, Staffing
BMG’s REMI model can also manage playout services (including streaming), disaster-recovery services for broadcast networks and operators of production facilities, master-control services, network distribution services, and commercial-insertion services and offers a full staff of REMI experts.
“We can also provide all the staffing for the client remotely by leveraging our full-time staff nationwide,” says Mason. “When a network is doing only one or two hours [of live programming] a day, it’s hard to justify the full-time position, but we can leverage our staff to provide people for the times that our clients need them. They don’t need to book in two-day blocks or a full day when they need only a half day. We can take care of the staffing that makes the economics work with this level of workload.”
Real-World Scenarios: From AHL Hockey to TD Ameritrade’s Network
BMG has stayed busy over the past year, and the pandemic has accelerated the move to remote production. According to Mason, the shows range from a 24-camera shoot to smaller corporate events and award shows.
“While this is not specific to COVID,” he observes, “[the pandemic] has definitely accelerated a lot of trends that were already happening, and I think REMI has leapt forward five years as a result. The manufacturers have [sped up] development of all the key components you need in REMI. Last June, when we launched the prototype facility, we were flooded with work [immediately]. I said I want to take REMI to the next level, and that meant building the broadcast data center we have today.”
Among its sports business, BMG was contracted to provide live-remote-production services for the Henderson Silver Knights AHL hockey team in Nevada. Sinclair Broadcasting’s KVCW Las Vegas enlisted BMG to deploy the REMI Hub and REMI Mobile Unit to produce 10 live hockey games and 10 postgame shows from Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“When we produced a hockey series for the Silver Knights,” says Mason, “the line producer was actually at his home in Phoenix, the graphics operator was in Chicago and the director in his home in Chicago. They don’t have to go to the game and get in a truck. If the times were to work out, they could even do a game in the early afternoon and do a completely different game that night and never leave their home. It’s a much more efficient environment, and we’re able to leverage our technology to get it done.”
Other shows have included the Las Vegas Raiders Pre-NFL Draft Show and virtual events like the TD Ameritrade Network Town Hall, the Atlantic Conference, A Global Women’s Conference, and Liberty Awards Dinner, as well as running the TD Ameritrade Network remotely.
“We are confident that this is the first [REMI offering] of its kind,” Mason says. “There are people doing REMI productions, but this is really REMI on steroids. There’s no question that this is the future and this model is going to proliferate, so we believe we are leading the way.”