Clique is a French daily current affairs show produced by Première Fois Productions (PFP) for Canal+. The programme, which is broadcast Monday to Friday at 8pm, has gained a cult following thanks to its meaningful and super-documented conversations with leading individuals that shape the world through culture.
The show is produced in a studio at Bastille, in Paris, and recorded ‘as live’ on the afternoon of transmission.
In order to enable the programme to continue with most of the production staff working from home, an innovative intercom solution has been installed that enables French outside broadcast company, Boîte à Outils Broadcast (BOB), to maintain its output.
“BOB is responsible for the set-up and management of the technical control room for Clique, which is broadcast from Paris,” explains Cyril Mazouer CEO of BOB. “With severe restrictions in place for travel and social contact, our technical team needed to ensure that this daily programme could continue broadcasting while limiting travel as much as possible and keeping technical teams at home.”
There are 14 people who work on the ‘as live’ shoot, including the director, producer, editor, sound engineer and camera operator, all of whom have been relocated to their homes. The equipment manager and sound assistant are the only team members who still report to the studio.
Mazouer goes on, “Producing at a distance should not mean a drop in quality. The technical choices we made when we built the control room made it easier to set up as a remote production as most of the equipment could already be operated virtually. Clear and reliable communication has always been a crucial element of live production, but it becomes even more important with virtually all staff working remotely.”
He reports that the main challenge was the need to keep the budget as close as possible to the original costings. “For that, we needed to use the internet access that everyone has at home. Also, it was difficult to send a lot of equipment and technical people to every location, so we needed something that everybody could use on its own and easily.”
One problem that quickly became apparent was monitoring. The team needed find a solution that had the shortest delay. “We asked BOBi, our little sister, who specialises in development, to build a solution with a low latency protocol. With that solution, we’ve got a video and audio monitoring solution working from a simple web browser, with between 150 and maximum 500ms of delay.”
An existing Clear-Com Eclipse HX-Delta digital matrix intercom system was installed at the studio. This system enabled seamless and flexible integration with intercom panels that were subsequently installed at each of the production team members’ homes. Some staff are using V-Series panels, while others have downloaded Clear-Com’s Agent-IC mobile intercom app to their mobile devices, giving them a fully functional panel on their smartphone, tablet or wearable device that allows them to talk and listen to all the ports of the matrix, including IFBs.
“The solution had to be easy to set up in private homes,” says Philippe Delepine. He is a sales engineer from Audiopole in charge of giving the technical support for this deployment. Audiopole is the French Clear-Com and Calrec distributor. “We used only IP products because there was low bandwidth through 4G or ADSL boxes in the homes. We were able to establish audio monitoring in real time with high quality and low bandwidth.”
The equipment was delivered to the production staff’s home by courier. A tutorial was included to show the users how to install their Clear-Com panels and agent IC in their private home. No one from the distributor needed to visit the homes, yet full installation was completed in just a few days.
Delepine explains that the V-Series panels allow audio staff to remotely monitor the audio console (and any other audio coming from remote technical rooms) via two additional channels on the panel’s Aux audio connector. “At the studio, the console’s control room outputs are connected into two matrix inputs, and the Eclipse HX-Delta frame then routes these to the Aux audio connector on the remote sound engineer’s intercom panel.”
The panels are all connected via IP through ADSL interfaces or 4G connection. All panels can talk to the presenter’s on-set wireless ear-piece with very low latency – approximately 100ms to 150ms.
Delepine continues, “We succeeded to get a 15kHz audio bandwidth monitoring with roughly 30 ms latency. The latency has a fixed value which is crucial whatever is the IP bandwidth used by third party devices during while the show is on air. Two Clear-Com LQ boxes were used, one on each side, using an OPUS codec.”
The Calrec console used remotely is a Type R mixer. All the faders or screen are connected in IP to the Core. And stageboxes are connected to the core with a ST2110 feed.
“This mixer fits perfectly for this use because it’s made for IP,” explains Sound Engineer, Marine Martignac. “The 2110 connection between the core and stagebox is not mandatory for what we do, but the fact of having multiple network and multiple IP for the mixer is very useful. All the console settings can be managed via Web Interface. And in the case of a network problem at the sound engineer’s home, we could take over from the control room, using a web or a physical fader.”
Although a Calrec system was used for the BOB application, the solution would also work with any audio console system.
“Having said that, in the near future we plan to test Calrec in/out interface connected to the remote core using a PtPv2 clock, which could offer a lower latency,” states Delepine.
In the studio, eight cameras are used with all but one controlled remotely. “At the beginning of the project, PFP asked us to provide small 2/3’’ HD cameras that could blend into the set,” says Mazouer. “We chose Sony HDC-P1 and Microfilms provided a solution for the remote operation.”
He reports that Microfilms Remote Systems communicate over IP and brings several advantages. First, one control desk can communicate with several machines. Next, data can be transported over any existing IP Network (local or Internet). There is easy integration into an IP-based remote production setup with GPIO or external IP protocol control.”
“Consequently, cameras can be operated from the set, the control room and even the operator’s apartment, even if that wasn’t planned at the beginning,” explains Mazouer.
Switching those cameras is handled by the programme director. Network and VM supervisor, Venceslas Breville, takes up the story. “We sent the lead director, Serge Khalfon, a panel for the EVS Dyvi switcher. That is the same panel as the one in the control room.”
Breville continues, “The Dyvi has been a real game changer for us. This switcher was the first of his category, and we couldn’t do the show with another one. For example, to manage the video wall on the stage, we’ve got a background with 27 layers, each with a DVE. For the remote production, the Dyvi really help us. The Technical Director didn’t need to have a panel to attach a macro or testing the setup. The Dyvi is the only switcher of its category that could be used fully with the GUI.”
The Dyvi also generates images of all the sources on a multiviewer.
BOBi, mentioned earlier, provided a character generator that is operated through a web interface. That enables the operator to prepare the show from home, without the need to go to the control room.
Mazouer concludes, “Thanks to the confidence of Première Fois Productions, Clear-Com’s communication solutions and the ingenuity and creativity of our teams, the best conditions for safeguarding the health of the teams have been respected while maintaining optimal quality of production.”