Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Broadcasting from the Big Island
Hawaii makes a gorgeous backdrop for any broadcast, setting the stage perfectly for drama to unfold on the course, field or court. We supported our first broadcast from Hawaii in 1988 – Senior Skins at the Turtle Bay Resort. Since then, we have made the pilgrimage to paradise along side our clients – and officially opened an office in Hawaii in 1993. Today, in addition to several major events we support on the island for major national broadcasters, we also support a full schedule of shows year-round for Oceanic Time Warner Cable covering high school sports and University of Hawaii Sports.
For us, Hawaii has served as an interesting microcosm of the world of remote broadcasts – following in lock-step with the technology progression and increasing complexity seen in remote productions on the mainland: analog to digital; SD to HD; 3D and 4K certainly coming down the pike. In this beautiful microcosm, the normal challenges of remote broadcasting are heightened by the fact that it is 2,500 miles from the mainland – making for really remote remotes. So what have we learned in over a quarter of a century supporting remotes from the truly remote? Here are five lessons we have learned:
Lesson One: When it rains it pours
We all see it on the mainland too: In the fall with NFL and college football kick off; the entire month of February – between the Super Bowl, Daytona 500, Award shows, Olympics; in March with the NCAA Tournament winding down as MLB is winding up. There are times of the year when it seems like everything is happening at once. But when the onslaught is in Hawaii, and the solution can’t be double-teaming from an NBA game in LA to cover the Pro Bowl in Honolulu it gets complicated. And when there are multiple shows happening on different islands in Hawaii nearly simultaneously – in addition to a full slate of shows for our year-round Hawaiian clients - it get’s even more complicated. Luckily, we already have two HD mobile units committed to year round needs in Hawaii. We also have a team of skilled staffers who are able to look at the schedules for over 60 US-based mobile units and figure out a way to send one, two, and at times even three to Hawaii while still covering all of our shows on the mainland. The key is being prepared and having a backup plan… or two backup plans.
Lesson Two: Ocean sailing is longer and more expensive than a road trip
One day, perhaps the smart folks at NEP Integration will develop a sea-worthy mobile unit that can sail the seas on its own, but that time hasn’t come yet, so today, we are still stuck relying on container ships and barges to get trucks to Hawaii and around the islands. This means added time and added expense. On average, it takes five days from dock to dock to get to Hawaii – plus extra time at the docks to load and offload.
Though shipping trucks there is still an added expense, we work continuously to explore ways to safely and economically ship trucks and gear. cruises may be longer and more expensive than road trips, but the scenery in Hawaii creates a great backdrop for storytelling
Lesson Three: Make a list, and check it twice
Preparing an equipment list and packing equipment for a show in Hawaii is kind of like preparing for a camping trip in the wilderness – you better pack absolutely everything you need, because you aren’t going to be able to get anything once you leave. Our ability to overnight just about anything you might need to just about any location on the mainland is a huge safety net when a last minute need jumps up or something unforeseen happens on site. It is a luxury that doesn’t exist for Hawaii. With over 25 years experience preparing for shows in Hawaii, we have learned to predict the unpredictable and prepare for unforeseen problems pretty well. It is all a balancing act - pack enough to be prepared, but not so much that it adds to expenses and shipping costs.
Lesson Four: It’s a small world after all
The funny thing about doing a show that is really far from everything is that it all of a sudden, it isn’t too far from anything. Ok, backup, what does that mean? It means that, for us, when we are talking about supplying equipment or bringing in a piece of specialty gear, because the convenience of an easy shipment from city to city is gone, all of a sudden, shipping gear in from Europe or Asia isn’t that much more of a stretch. In the past, this has meant that we have been able to supplement our mobile units in Hawaii with a flypack from NEP Visions in the UK and have cameras shipped directly from Sony in Japan. While Hawaii limits possibilities in some ways, it opens them up in others. You know, it’s like that saying - when one door closes…
Lesson Five: The right sized solution year round requires flexibility and scalability
Our permanent facilities in Hawaii are perfect for covering a host of regional broadcasts for our major Hawaiian clients, but several times a year, we need the flexibility and scale to suit the needs of a variety of different major national broadcasts – from sports to game shows. Often, this means shipping a truck that is engineered to meet the needs of a major national broadcast. Other times this means shipping in gear, a support truck or maybe a flypack to augment what we have on the ground already. After 25 years of creating solutions for broadcasts in Hawaii, we have learned how to utilize our worldwide pool of resources to make sure we have the right solution in place for each individual broadcast we support in Hawaii - one of the major benefits of having resources around the globe.
So, there is certainly a “price for paradise” - but paradise pays it back when you see the results: Walker’s birdie to win on a breathtaking par 3 at the Sony Open or the excitement of an “unconfrenced” Pro Bowl match up at Aloha Stadium. It is clear why people tune in, and why broadcasters come back year after year. The key is just knowing what to expect and expecting the unpredictable.