Live TV – from an iPhone

Just a short time ago Luci Live was the pinnacle of what we could do with an iPhone – live radio in quality from a mobile phone.  Now the game has changed again with the first broadcast on the BBC News Channel of a guest being interviewed live via an iPhone.

Quality wise it was nowhere near as good as a satellite but it was far better than some of the other offerings that abound for live streaming like Skype, which seems to build in digital artefacts and “blocking” just for the hell of it.  The app we used was Dejero and the BBC’s got it on trial at the moment (other apps are also being tested so don’t think it’s an endorsement or anything!).

This is how it all happened:  There’ve been over 24 hours of solid rain in much of the UK.  Parts of the North East of England are badly affected.  We don’t have enough satellite trucks to staff the northern end of the problems as well as those further south (where I’m working for radio).  I’ve found a good guest at a bowling club that was underwater.  The BBC News Channel wants to talk to him.  The News Organiser, with a massive amount of help from Colin Muir of the BBC Edge Group and the technical team in the BBC Comms department, manage to get Dejero working.  The app bonds together a 3G signal with a wifi network signal – increasing the bandwidth and allowing better quality signals.  There was a lot of breakup at the beginning – not sure why.  The delay is 3 seconds – but we knew that was going to be the case because it’s assignable as a buffer (the longer the delay, the better the quality).  The guest was terrific – even when his own mobile phone started ringing in the middle of the live (my fault).  Have a look – and remember: while it’s by no means perfect it is being done with an off-the-shelf iPhone and around £50 worth of tripod, cabling and microphones.

 

In the past few months Sky TV has caught up with us on this and are now stealing a march by deploying kits to all its reporters.  It’s been used, really successfully, by lots of their reporters in flood locations and in OBs around the world.  The BBC’s Ben Schofield is also using it on a near nightly basis to provide regional TV in the North West of England with updates on the inquests into the deaths of 96 football fans at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground in 1989.  Note the quality of the signal and the positioning of Ben – he was working completely alone here.

And in early summer 2015 I was back on Dejero in Calais.  Because of ‘activity’ around the Channel Tunnel, the authorities closed it to all traffic.  A good story to cover because of the chaos that was caused.  An unexpected strike in France made things worse.  So Henry Jones, one of BBC 5live’s producers, and I flew to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris.  Driving through the night we arrived in Paris in the early hours.  Back out and on air for radio from 0600 I received a call from BBC Breakfast News (TV).  Their truck was stuck on the other side of the channel and there was no live link.  The call came in at 0726.  At 0734 I’d rigged the Dejero kit, sorted out the comms and was broadcasting on network TV.  A seven minute rig….