Sony Virtual Production helps ViacomCBS make programmes safely and efficiently

ViacomCBS Lead System Engineer Matt Okotie describes the challenges of Covid-safe programme making, his experiences using Sony Virtual Production and the benefits it brings to content creators.

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How we helped

The Challenge icon.

The Challenge

  • Social distancing presents major practical challenges for events production
  • Conventional live production requires costly large-scale deployment of on-site equipment and crew
The Solution icon.

The Solution

  • 5G-enabled Sony Virtual Production used to produce live multi-camera event
  • Vision mixing, audio and graphics controlled remotely via an intuitive PC interface
The Outcome icon.

The Outcome

  • COVID-safe production with fewer staff needed on site
  • Greener, more agile and cost-effective live productions with reduced equipment and transportation requirements

Would I recommend Virtual Production? Yes I would. It’s simple, easy to set up and it’s agile. What isn’t there to recommend?

Matt Okotie,
Lead System Engineer, ViacomCBS

Adapting to the challenges of COVID-safe production

Like other content creators, ViacomCBS has experienced the difficulties of COVID safe production. Lead System Engineer Matt Okotie recalls the challenges his team faced while producing an event earlier this year at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens: “We had to be COVID compliant, so we needed a monitor for every desk, spaced out 4m apart. We ended up with a massive hall full of people, just to do one production.”

White desks and office swing chairs within a high ceiling and light office.
Virtual Production Interface.

Remote production reduces on-site crew levels

In response to the pandemic programme makers are actively exploring the benefits of remote production, where crew members and equipment can be situated far from the event itself. Matt’s first experience with Sony Virtual Production was during an innovative demonstration of 5G-enabled remote production, participating with other broadcasters and technology partners including Sony.

Virtual Production means faster, simpler set-up

“Before Sony Virtual Production our setup was either taking a truck to the location, or taking flyaway PPU (Portable Production Unit) kits” he notes. “Then we’ve got thousands of metres of cable for video, and we’ve got data runs as well. With Sony Virtual Production you don’t have to do that. You just need the technical crew to set up the data, and then away you go.”

Virtual Production Interface with man on screen.

Virtual Production gives me costs savings – and we don’t have to drive big lorries around the country transporting stuff, so it’s really good for the environment.

Reduced equipment requirements

“With Sony Virtual Production all these jobs can be done at home. The vision mixer, video runs, data runs, fibre runs, audio mixing – we don’t have to take all that equipment. All the vision side, the audio side and the graphics side can be set up before. All we have to worry about locally is the data connection to the camera, lighting and sound.”

Virtual Production being used on pad.
Infographic of a row of men standing infront of an OB Truck and satellite

Less transportation, better for the planet

As Matt observes, the reduction in on-site crewing levels offers big benefits in today’s socially distanced world: “I’d have to take a massive team, at least 27 people to do a six-camera shoot. With Virtual Production we can reduce that to two people or even one person on site. That gives me costs savings – and we don’t have to drive big lorries around the country transporting stuff so it’s really good for the environment.

Fresh possibilities for sports and news

“Virtual production has caused a bit of excitement inside ViacomCBS” confirms Matt.”Everybody’s talking about the possibilities of what can we do with this, like for sporting events where you can just send one camera operator down rather than a production truck. It’s cheaper to produce and we can increase our productivity a lot. Or for news: you can just roll up as long as you’ve got 5G, a network connection of WiFi and you’re all ready to go.

Virtual Production camera, devices and cloud.

The agile choice

“Sony Virtual Production for me basically means agility” states Matt. “At the moment we have to get everything on site and start testing every single cable before we go live. With this we can test weeks in advance, rock up and load our profile for that production – and away we go. Would I recommend Virtual Production? Yes I would. It’s simple, easy to set up and it’s agile. What isn’t there to recommend?”

Looking for a virtual production solution? Speak to our team today.