May 6, 2016 – BURBANK-CA – If there’s ever been a more apt name for a television show, it has to be Discovery Channel’s hit reality show, Naked and Afraid, whose fifth season recently premiered. Each hour-long episode covers the adventures of a male and female survivalist, who are challenged to live in the wilderness for 21 straight days – without clothing. From the jungles of Costa Rica to the Serengeti Plain to Louisiana’s swamplands, the two search for water, hunt for food, make their own clothes, and build their own shelter. A camera crew, which is not allowed to intervene, follows their adventures during the day and surveillance cameras monitor them while they sleep at their makeshift camps. One of the bigger challenges for the production was how to efficiently capture footage after the camera crew has left for the night. Because the production wanted to let their talent rest without the intrusion of a camera crew, Naked and Afraid’s Line Producer Joseph Trozera, pieced together a high-tech surveillance camera that the crew appropriately named Jungle Cam.
“Joe had designed a camera system from scratch that would work out in the jungles and in various places around the world,” says Grant Axton, executive in charge of production for Renegade 83. “You can’t plug a camera system into a tree out in the middle of nowhere, and Joe was able to design a system that would let us shoot 24-hours a day if we wanted to. But primarily Jungle Cam lets us capture footage at night with an infrared system that allows us to be a fly on the wall.”
Jungle Cam v2.0 Since they were shooting in such harsh conditions, the crew ran into problems when dealing with extreme heat, humidity and rain. Even though Trozera’s camera worked well, production company Renegade 83 decided they needed a “version 2.0” so Axton approached longtime colleague Jeffrey Bown, strategic account manager at Bexel Global Broadcast Solutions.
“We started by discussing that they had an existing apparatus that worked well to Joe’s credit,” explains Bown. “However, there were advancements needed that simply would have taken too much of Joe’s valuable time. We began a lengthy process of research and design in close collaboration, so that we could all understand what they really needed and what they were trying to achieve.”
Creating specialty camera solutions is one of Bexel Global’s core competencies, so the company’s engineering team began to develop a custom solution to fit the needs of this unique production. In developing Jungle Cam 2, there was a cost point Bexel Global needed to hit, as well as key features the camera needed to have. First and most important, the battery had to last at least 12-14 hours because if the camera died during the middle of the night we ran the risk of missing a pivotal story element. Jungle Cam has been instrumental in catching shelters burning up or four-legged visitors walking undetected through the survivors’ camp in the middle of the night. Jungle Cam 2 addressed the power issue by using a series of durable Anton/Bauer battery packs that run a run a single camera and a single recorder or a second camera and second recorder simultaneously. The brain of Jungle Cam 2 is a Sony FCB-EX7500 OEM camera. According to Edd Bonner, VP of Engineering & Operations for Bexel Global Broadcast Solutions, Sony manufactures a whole series of cameras that are not complete camera systems but more like functional circuit boards with a fixed lens, which a production can then build into their own custom camera package. “Depending on where the Naked and Afraid production goes, we’ve built a housing for the camera that is weatherproof to allow it to be exposed to the harsh weather required to get the shot needed,” explains Bonner.
“We were also able to wrap the camera to camouflage it from being obvious in a shot,” Trozera reveals. “Also, the adaptability that Bexel Global put together allowed us to have different clamps or clips so we could mount and adjust the camera to trees and studs, which allowed us to get better shots than our former system.”
Bexel Global designed, tested and then custom built the camera housing using 3D printing. “We didn’t have the tools to do that,” says Axton. “We needed help progressing to the next level with Jungle Cam – to make it that much better, as well as more durable in the field to withstand the elements, and that is where Bexel was very helpful. We’re dealing with everything from 120-degree temperatures in Australia to 50-degrees in the Amazon Rain Forest. It’s also constantly raining so we had to have a system that could work in extremes in terms of heat and water.” Another key to the camera system is that it had to record to an Avid codec since Renegade 83 works with Avid editing systems. Because of the volume of footage, they selected DNX 36 in 1920 x 1080 at 30p via HD-SDI to a Sound Devices Pix 240 recorder. “The choice between 36 and something higher res was mainly about space,” says Trozera. “You have 12 hours worth of footage and 36 keeps it manageable and 256 GB per night versus 4 or 5 TB worth of footage each day, times two recorders. Over the course of time, we can’t manage that amount of footage.” “The Jungle Cam 2 is a collaboration on a totally rebuilt camera,” says Bown. “We didn’t ‘MacGyver’ anything in from the previous system but, having said that, we took a lot of inspiration from what they had already accomplished on their own. We ended up building seven units and when you put as much R&D into this as we did you probably want to build 700, but that wasn’t what we were doing. We had to refine this very rapidly in order to meet our deadlines and I think we’re most proud of that.”
“The evolution of the Jungle Cam has been an incredibly important step in our ability to produce this show, which has so many physical challenges,” adds Axton. “Working with the Bexel Global team to create something as critical as the Jungle Cam, has been both creatively and technically successful.”
About Bexel About NEP For over 30 years, NEP has been a worldwide outsourced technical production partner supporting premier content producers of live sports, entertainment, music and corporate events. Our services include remote production, specialty capture, RF and wireless video/audio, studio production, audio visual solutions, host broadcast support, post production, connectivity and transmission, premium playout and innovative software-based media management solutions. NEP’s 4,000+ employees are driven by a passion for superior service and a focus on technical innovation. Together, we have supported productions in 88 countries on all seven continents. NEP is headquartered in the United States and has operations in 24 countries. Learn more at nepgroup.com. All trademarks appearing herein are the property of their respective owners.
For over 35 years, Bexel, an NEP Broadcast Services Company, has been a leading global provider of outsourced innovative broadcast solutions for producers of sports, entertainment, and live events. Our services include production equipment rentals and engineered solutions for 4K and specialty cameras and lenses, RF audio and intercom, production workflow, custom flypacks, frequency coordination, and fiber optic solutions. We pride ourselves on exhibiting operational excellence from concept to completion. From our custom shipping cases designed for each rental package to save our client valuable time and money, to our commitment to quality when designing, building and installing full-service broadcast infrastructures, Bexel’s reliability is unmatched for providing value-engineered solutions and services.
For over 30 years, NEP has been a worldwide outsourced technical production partner supporting premier content producers of live sports, entertainment, music and corporate events. Our services include remote production, specialty capture, RF and wireless video/audio, studio production, audio visual solutions, host broadcast support, post production, connectivity and transmission, premium playout and innovative software-based media management solutions. NEP’s 4,000+ employees are driven by a passion for superior service and a focus on technical innovation. Together, we have supported productions in 88 countries on all seven continents. NEP is headquartered in the United States and has operations in 24 countries. Learn more at nepgroup.com.
All trademarks appearing herein are the property of their respective owners.