Viewers tuning into nightly news programs anywhere in the nation could draw a common conclusion about TV reporters - they don’t like being cooped up in studios.
Viewers tuning into nightly news programs anywhere in the nation
could draw a common conclusion about TV reporters - they don’t like
being cooped up in studios.
Breathless journalists jump into remote trucks and race each other to
disaster scenes. Weathermen set up on freeway ramps to show commuters
the icy streets. Sometimes, it seems being there is more important than
Beaming live video from afar via remote satellite media tours (SMTs) can
score PR pros big points with TV producers. But just as a stand-up from
a generic street corner might leave viewers wondering why the reporter
won’t get in out of the cold, moving an SMT into the field simply for
the sake of ’being there’ can be expensive and futile.
Transmitting your SMT from a remote location can double the expense.
Purchasing time on the Ku-band used for remote shots costs more than the
C-band used in studios, and you may need to hard wire extra phone lines
or string cable from satellite trucks.
Predicting cost can be difficult since each location presents its own
challenges. Gary Miller, VP of marketing at Medialink, New York, says a
typical remote can be about dollars 20,000. But Brian Unger, marketing
director of Target Video News, New York, adds that ’the cost variables
can just go any direction.’
Choosing a location far removed from major cities can escalate costs,
since crews and equipment must travel further. Conversely, Mike Hill of
News Broadcast Network recalls that parking regulations in NYC ran up
the price of one SMT his company produced for Sprint in a bank
The remote truck had to park a block-and-a-half from the site and string
cable into the bank.
Assuming your client doesn’t balk at the price tag, take a hard look at
your goals before booking Ku time. Sometimes, a story just can’t be told
effectively without going on location, or a celebrity spokesperson can’t
come to you. If no particular site enhances your message, or if the
story or spokesperson is compelling enough to draw interest without a
pretty backdrop, consider staying in a studio.
PRWeek asked more than a dozen vendors and PR pros for tips on insuring
a successful remote SMT:
1 Location, location, location. Choose an interesting backdrop that
doesn’t distract from the message. Make sure the setting tells viewers
where you are. If product references are necessary, keep them subtle and
’Putting a corporate logo behind your spokesperson will guarantee that
your SMT doesn’t get picked up,’ says Matt Coleman of Cohn & Wolfe
Meg Higgins of Chicago’s Orbis Broadcast Group suggests going remote
from special events or conferences. During a meeting of medical experts
in New Orleans, Orbis went live from a Bourbon Street balcony for a
story on sexual dysfunction.
2 And ... action! Remote SMTs lend themselves to demonstrations, says
Kevin Foley of KEF Media Associates in Atlanta. ’Talking heads don’t
work anymore. They want a circus.’ Activity in the shot gives anchors
something to talk about and can loosen up conversation, adds Jon Reiner
of Ovation Studios. Stations won’t need as much B-roll if you keep
3 Get the lay of the land. Site surveys are essential to scout the best
satellite positions and determine communication and lighting needs. Send
crews out as far in advance as possible.
4 Keep it legal. Special permits may be needed to use public facilities
or to temporarily close streets. Union requirements vary and can affect
cost. Make sure your vendor reads the fine print.
5 Take five. You want to make the most of your expensive satellite time,
but plan breaks between interviews to keep the talent fresh. And ’having
down time between interviews is essential if a tour should get behind
schedule for any reason,’ says Kevin Barry, VP of satellite services for
National Satellite/Production Media Services, Los Angeles. If your break
lasts 15 minutes or more, you can save money by temporarily going off
satellite, adds Linda Oken of National Video Center, New York. Use this
tactic in moderation as problems can arise when trying to re-establish
6 Prepare for the worst. Anything can happen in the field, so take along
backup equipment and reserve an alternate location in case Mother Nature
doesn’t cooperate. When News Broadcast Network went live from the
courthouse steps in Beeville, TX for Honey Nut Cheerios, it rented a
truck to keep the crew dry in case of rain, Hill says. Dan Johnson,
president of New Jersey’s DWJ Television, suggests keeping placement
staff on site to line up substitutes for interviews that fall
7 The early bird gets the uplink. Set up can take six to eight hours, so
arrive early. While the crew plugs widgets into sockets, coach your
spokesperson and get them acclimatized.
8 Why build a set? The point of going on location is to give your SMT a
real-life feel, Reiner says. ’If you are going on location and building
something that doesn’t exist, then you are duplicating effort.’
9 While we’re here ... Take advantage of location shoots to tape
background footage for future use.
10 Is anybody watching? Ask your vendor to electronically encode the
footage you transmit so monitoring services can accurately track how
much was used and by what stations.
Remote SMTs with legitimate news value can be pennies from heaven for
producers who can’t afford to send crews halfway across the country. But
make sure you have a good reason for leaving the studio before planning
your safari, says Melody Kimmell, F-H’s associate director of
media/presentation training. ’People become very enamored of
television,’ she warns. ’If it doesn’t reach the audience, you’re just
WHAT DID HE SAY?
You may never push a button or speak into a mic when you take your
client on the road for a remote SMT, but a basic understanding of the
native tongue can come in handy when conversing with techies. Here are a
few terms you need to know:
Downlink: the transmission television stations receive from the
IFB (interruptible foldback): the device your spokesperson wears to hear
the news anchor’s questions or the producer’s directions
Roll-in: taped shots played during the interview to illustrate the
TD (technical director): the person responsible for maintaining video
and audio uplinks
Uplink: the feed you send to a satellite
Window: a block of satellite time, often priced in 10- or 15-minutes