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ATEM swings result on UK Election Night

Blackmagic Design and Sky News presenter and producer Martin Stanford talk about the ambitious UK Election Night Live for Sky Arts

Coming live from Sky News’ West London studios, Election Night Live was an ambitious broadcast project on Sky Arts that gave viewers a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the news channel’s 2015 General Election coverage.

The base of operations for the Sky Arts coverage of Election Night Live was Sky’s Studio D. The entire 10 hour live broadcast was produced with a Blackmagic Design live production workflow, with two ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K switchers delivering realtime vision mixing and routing for the show.

“When we specified this studio we didn’t have a huge budget, but we needed a space that could be as capable as our main television channel, in as much as it could be,” says veteran Sky News presenter and producer Martin Stanford. “We ended up going almost completely Blackmagic throughout the programme chain.

“The Blackmagic ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K was vision mixer of choice as well as their ATEM 2 M/E broadcast panel, offering the vision mixer a familiar interface. For flexibility we also put in one of a Smart Videohub 40 x 40 router, ensuring that everything was patchable — including monitor feeds, our Chyron caption generator, Vizrt graphics machine and the Apple computers we use to insert graphics to air.”

To cover the broadcast, Sky relied on a series of 25 remote PTZ camera systems throughout the production gallery, studios and backstage areas, as well as a camera handheld by Stanford, who interviewed members of staff on their roles throughout the broadcast.

Programme output relied on two key ATEM features. SuperSource, which offers multiple boxes to create a multi-layered output image, and was complemented with onscreen graphics. The team also decided to tag each camera, to ensure viewers immediately knew where Stanford was broadcasting from. The switcher’s new Macro feature allowed the team to set up one button to cut, change camera and change the label at the same time, rather than a graphics operator having to track and change manually throughout the broadcast.

Sky’s coverage included broadcasts from 200 ballot counts across the country. Fifty were traditional broadcast, with a journalist to camera and the remaining 150 were media students equipped with a small HD camera and LiveU 400 unit, with content streamed to YouTube.

Viewers watching via tablet could select their own count, which proved extremely successful. Special software was also developed to show all the live YouTube feeds on video wall in the main broadcast studio, enabling the director to cut to any of them if a particular result was being announced.

Election Night Live confirmed Studio D was a flexible space capable of scaling to host a main network programme. The Blackmagic-based studio took on a very ambitious brief and passed with flying colours.