Bexel Shows Strength in Reality Competition Series
January 16, 2017 – Burbank, CA – Bexel Global has a long track record of providing complex services to reality contests such as Hell’s Kitchen, Big Brother, and Naked & Afraid. They proved their mettle once again with Strong, NBC’s transformation competition series. Strong matched 10 everyday women with elite fitness trainers to conquer the tough physical and mental obstacles put before them. The series, hailing from executive producers Sylvester Stallone and The Biggest Loser creator Dave Broome, featured elaborate competition structures and workout areas, constructed at the scenic Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, Calif. When it came time to design and deploy the show’s technical infrastructure, 25/7 Productions turned to Bexel Global Broadcast Solutions.
“Our production team sat down with Bexel Global in the very early stages of preproduction to figure out the technical solutions that would enable us to produce the show,” said Richard Devinki, executive in charge of production for Strong. “I have a long history of working with Bexel, and they have always done whatever it takes to make sure that we, as the client, are happy in terms of service, budget, quality of equipment and problem solving.”
Strong shot on an expansive location utilizing four primary zones; the arena, the tower, an indoor/outdoor workout area specially constructed for the series, and the Ranch’s existing pool/restaurant area. The arena, a major set piece where the individual challenges take place every episode, is a dome-like structure 120 feet in diameter, constructed with 40 feet tall steel I beams. The tower, where the bottom two teams compete to stay in the competition, is a four-story structure built out of truss, standing over 50 feet tall.
“The arena and tower certainly presented their own unique set of challenges, especially in trying to figure out how to cover the story and action of the show,” noted Devinki. “We were also situated on such a vast property, we had to figure out how and where to put a control room that could be utilized for not only those two areas, but also for other locations where ‘reality’ would take place. Everything was amplified in terms of size and scope on this show, and the Bexel team was very good about sitting down with each department, including the camera department, audio department and tech department, to develop workable solutions while still being responsible to the budget.”
Bexel Global provided Strong with a full complement of more than 40 cameras and lenses tailored for the production. “We provided them with a very flexible camera solution,” said Rod Allen, senior project manager for Bexel Global. “They were able to utilize 14 ENG cameras in all four zones, and dozens of POV cameras used in the arena and tower locations. The show’s requirements included reality coverage, as well as action coverage for the competitions.. The producers also wanted to be able to monitor the pov cameras live in the control room, so our engineering team developed a quick deployment solution to bring those signals back to the master control room.”
Strong used two technology centers to manage the series, all located geographically in the large expanse between the tower and the arena. The master control room and story room housed the technical production team in one trailer, while the engineering team was located in an adjacent trailer. “Bexel did an extraordinary job designing the mobile control room,” noted Devinki. “We were able to maximize its full potential, and they created the right set-up for executive producers, the director, the lighting designer, the audio supervisor, and the challenge producer to properly run the creative and technical aspects of the show.”
To support the production over such a large area, Bexel Global installed the company’s custom Managed Antenna Solution. This system included multiple diversity antennas, as well as fiber transport for the radio frequency (RF) signal. “As this production covered such a vast location, and so much was going on at each remote area, one of the first challenges we faced was how to practically get our cable to each zone without interfering in production,” noted Allen. “In order to accommodate the cable paths and not be in the way of day-to-day production, we fitted a piping system to install the fiber underground. We utilized over 12,000 feet of tactical fiber cable, which allowed us to centrally locate our engineering equipment for video, audio and RF.”
For Strong, Bexel Global utilized over 30 channels of Lectrosonics wireless microphones for talent, as well as for camera audio transport. For talent que, Phonak Invisity systems were deployed at each zone. The RTS ADAM intercom system enabled the audio monitoring, hardwire communications and wireless communications to all be managed from one location, allowing users to have one panel that incorporated communications, talent que and audio monitoring. “The show needed the 14 cameras to be visible in all four zones,” Allen commented. “We accomplished this with multiple microwave antennas deployed over our fiber infrastructure. Production also required that the story team view these signals in the area these cameras were shooting. We deployed Anton/Bauer’s Direct VU wireless handheld monitoring system to support this coverage.”
“Bexel was faced with the extraordinarily large challenge of how to build out this project, and they did so with a relatively short prep time due to the constraints of the production,” Devinki concluded. “Their RF system used for this show was a key component in trying to figure out how to ensure the show technically worked in such a vast location, and it worked flawlessly. Knowing that we are not going to have a problem is the most comforting thing about working with Bexel. It’s very reassuring to know that you can work with a vendor who will come through for you 100 percent of the time and never be a contributor to any problems during the production process.”
Jeffrey Bown, strategic accounts manager for Bexel, added, “We were very happy to be collaborating again with Richard and his team. At Bexel Global, we are able to provide a tip-to-tail solution, and that is what we delivered for this production. We had a pretty aggressive timeline, but everyone jumped in and got the job done right. Ultimately, this is what Bexel does best, take our knowledge and talent, match it with the project, and execute our work, so the show can shine. It was an honor to work with the team from Strong.”
Celebrating more than 35 years of broadcast excellence, Bexel Global Broadcast Solutions skillfully delivers unparalleled production services and engineering expertise for some of the world’s largest televised events. Bexel has mastered the art of service from concept to completion, and its unique solutions equip broadcasters to capture powerful content anywhere in the world. Bexel’s specialized broadcast offerings include fiber, specialty cameras, 4K solutions, graphics, custom flypacks, and intercom, as well as systems integration, managed services, enterprise solutions, and product sales. Since 1981, Bexel has continually enhanced and evolved the media production experience. Bexel is a Vitec Group brand.
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