I joined Gravity Media in March 2021, and so far it has been non-stop. I’ve worked on the Welsh Elections, the Europa League Final and the six weeks of the Euros, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and the 2021 UEFA Nations League Finals. Gravity Media is one of the few companies that pioneers the use of IP, which is what excited me about joining the company, and thanks to my previous experience ‒ working on the integration and build of the UK’s first IP trucks ‒ I’m allocated to many of the IP and SDI-based projects.
Every single job I’ve done, right down to the cards in the glue frames, has been completely different. A bespoke system rolls out of the door every single time. Each project begins with the client brief, and from that I will establish what needs to be delivered: which formats we’ll use, the type of conversion necessary, how to integrate audio into that. Then the system needs to be decided on, and the project engineer, head of engineering and director of services will discuss the client’s requirements to agree on the appropriate kit. Assembling the kit takes time. If a job is big, the number of individual pieces of kit required runs into the thousands. For the Super Cup, the kit alone totalled 1,300 items transported to site in a 40ft articulated lorry ‒ and that was just a medium-sized project; a single football match.
The next step is to build the system, which involves lots of screen time creating rack layouts, paperwork, the cable schedules and kit lists. I will work with both the Asset and Warehouse teams and, once everything required is booked out, then it’s time to build the test rig. For the Super Cup Technical Operations Centre (TOC), I looked after the technical workbook, which we used to build all the systems and make sure the rigs were assembled and tested before shipping. Time-wise, normally you get a couple of weeks to prepare for a TOC.
All the rigs travel pre-built, so everything goes out as it is ‒ the router rack, the sound rack with Codecs and Lawo core ‒ it is all rigged and tested and travels in a flight case with that rack. For the Super Cup, it was a five-day rig; the kit landed in Belfast on match day minus eight, and I had to be ready to hand over by lunchtime on match day minus two. But that wasn’t the end of my duties. The role of Project Engineer has three elements: rigging engineer, support engineer, and team manager. It’s at handover point that my role moves from rigging engineer to onsite support and team manager. I have to handle the distribution of feeds to the unilateral broadcast partners (UBPs) and all the feeds to QC, which is continuous. If anything breaks or there are any faults, it is down to me to find it and fix it if it originated with us. In addition to this, I am running the onsite crew; I must look after them, keep everyone fed, watered and happy, and make sure their travel arrangements are sorted ‒ all the personnel aspects. Most of it is routine, and the only crisis management I’ve had to do so far was COVID-19-related ‒ test results did not return, so retesting needed to be done, which meant flights back home were delayed.
When a project involves flypacks, you know the job is going to be a minimum of about two weeks, and can be anything up to eight. We fit our downtime around that. We’re incredibly busy at the moment, so it’s more on than off, but we’re all just pleased the business is doing so well. It is always full-on during a project, but that’s what I thrive on and, onsite, team spirit is what keeps everyone going. We provide each other with a support network onsite, which keeps morale buoyant – and delivering an outstanding result for the client is an incredible feeling. Over the six weeks we did on the Euros – across the 11 UEFA TOCs, BBC Sport and the ESPN output – Gravity Media had 100% clean to air ‒ you can’t top that!
It’s exciting to be working on such high-profile events – particularly the Euros, which had such an incredible, positive impact on the country for a few weeks. You’re working of course, so you can’t fully get into in like the fans at home, but for the Euros, I was working in the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), doing the remote operation for ESPN. We were sited quite close to two British areas, with a Spanish broadcasting team just down from us and an Italian one across the other side. Even though I was quite remote from the action, it was easy to tell how the game was going from which group was screaming when their team scored a goal.
My first six months have been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ve been loving what I’m doing. Moving forward, I’d like to continue running projects and designing systems, and whatever happens, I want to remain on a technical, practical project management route. One of the things I like about working here is that there is no chance of losing touch with engineering even when moving into a managerial role. As a vision engineer and EIC (engineer in charge), I’m always heavily involved in the engineering side of things. We have other great people dedicated to production account management and technical project management; it’s brilliant to have so much resource at our disposal, which is ultimately there for the benefit of our clients.
To speak to a colleague about how we can help with your next production, email email@example.com.