Behind the scenes at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2021, with Dan Turner, Post-Production Engineer

Dan Turner blog2

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The Hampton Court Garden Festival runs for six days. We started work on a Saturday and finished the following Friday. I remained onsite for the duration of the festival, available for troubleshooting and sporadic bits of maintenance. It was a two-day pre-show setup, with pretty long days; my colleague Shane McGill and I worked from 10:00hrs to 19:00hrs on the Saturday, and on Sunday we worked from 09:00hrs to 19:00hrs. The rig was standard procedure for us really, as we take particular pride in making sure that our kit is very thoroughly stress-tested back at Southwood before it goes out. Shane works exceptionally well under pressure and, considering the scale of the job, we managed to get it done pretty swiftly. This meant that we got an opportunity to have a quick look at the show, which we were glad of because it was spectacular.   

Each day, the BBC would take in and edit large amounts of footage into programmes that were aired later in the week. To achieve that, we created an Avid Nexis setup in one cabin, with a network switch that fed out to the other cabins in the BBC compound. There were 13 PCs in total, all connected to the Nexis: three were for ingest, one was a reviewing station, and the rest were edits. The edit systems all worked on the project and sent it back; the ingest stations would take in and prep the footage they needed, and the reviewing station was then available for checking everything before it went on air. When it was time to send the show across, we connected to a satellite truck, using the main edit via a long BNC cable from an Avid Artist box. The show then played out through the main edit into the satellite truck and was sent off that way.    

Looking at that in more detail, to transmit the signal from our setup to the satellite truck, each edit system had an Avid Artist box attached to it  this device allows the PCs to take additional inputs, and feed out to other output sources. We connected cables from the Artist box to the main edit, and then another cable from the same Artist box into the satellite truck, so, as the show was played back, it would go from the edit through the Artist box and into the truck. It was then sent to the broadcasting house from the truck, and would be played out at the other end when it was needed. The BBC used their own cameras; I liaised with the truck’s engineer when he arrived at the site, and the two of us got the connection running pretty quickly.  

It sounds complex but it ran very smoothly and performed as intended. We had thoroughly, thoroughly tested the equipment before it went out, checking that each individual system connected to the Nexis had all the correct software versions and all the hardware was functional, and it clearly paid off. We had barely any issues, and those we did have were minor requests or replacements due to power failures in the cabins themselves. These replacements were promptly provided by the rest of the team at Southwood. The result was great feedback from the client, which is always very pleasing. The BBC team were particularly happy with our kit and our approach, and obviously happy that everything went by without a hitch. We then worked with them on the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show a couple of weeks later, so they appreciated having familiar faces there too.  

We tend to enjoy working on events like these as they can be really interesting when we get a bit of downtime. Some of the displays at Hampton Court were stunning – one piece was especially breathtaking: a crashed aeroplane, with Homo Sapiens written on one side, making a point about the impact of climate change. That has really stayed with me.  

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