TV3 cameras let out of shackles
PRACTISE YOUR telly walks now – if you see a TV3 camera in Dublin city centre with its lens trained in your direction, the chances are it could be live on air. The station has invested in technology known as the “Metrocam” that means its journalists don’t need to have a satellite van nearby to broadcast live images.
The Metrocam works by placing a radio frequency transmitter on a camera, which sends the video and audio wirelessly to a tower in Dame Court – near the Stag’s Head pub. From there, it is sent via fibre network to a base in Saggart, then microwaved to TV3’s studios in Ballymount.
It is actually less complicated – and cheaper – than the process of parking a van and booking satellite space, which incurs a cost each time, explains Niall Cogley, director of broadcasting at TV3.
“It’s an opportunity for new thinking. We can do segments on the same story from different parts of the city, for example – that hasn’t been possible for us up to now.”
TV3 currently only has one satellite van, after a second van crashed and was put beyond use – it had been near the end of its working life anyway. Having decided it was just that little bit too soon to invest in a HD satellite van, station bosses agreed in January to buy Metrocam from AirSpeed Telecom, the company that also provides LiveLinx broadcast video feeds to a number of companies from fixed locations.
TV3 has now started experimenting with Metrocam on air. “You’ve got to future-proof your technology,” says TV3 chief executive David McRedmond. “We prefer to invest money in technology, rather than spend it on the operating costs – we prefer to keep those low,” he says. It will get another van eventually, he adds, and it will be HD.
Metrocam has a 1.2 to 1.5 kilometre radius, taking in locations such as the Four Courts, the Dáil, Convention Centre Dublin, the O2, Croke Park and Ballsbridge.
“All these are logistically very difficult places to get,” says Paul Daniel, head of cameras. For Daniel, the joy of the technology is in its flexibility. Sky News, which uses a version of it in central London, couriers it by motorbike between its news teams, he says.
The broadcaster expects to use Metrocam across all its shows, from Liffey-side broadcasts on Ireland AM in the morning to live Xposé reports from the O2 in the evening. As the technology is mobile, it allows news reporters to follow public figures live on air – Cogley mentions the idea of tracking Ajai Chopra and other IMF executives on their now traditional walk from the Merrion Hotel to the Central Bank.
Then there’s always the possibility, executives note, of sending current affairs presenter Vincent Browne out on the streets – turning Metrocam into “VincentCam”.