When Iraqi citizens headed to the polls, HDNet saw a chance to show the world what its portable HD transmission unit could do. It wasn’t easy, but the network devoted 16 hours to live coverage from Baghdad the weekend of Jan. 29-30. HDNet co-founder and GM Phil Garvin discussed the event with B&C’s Ken Kerschbaumer.
When did you come up with the idea to broadcast in HD live from Iraq?
We’ve always wanted our HD uplink at an event where we could turn on the camera and start transmitting. We’ve used our uplink a number of times, but this was the first time we were able to do our main goal: just shooting. We’ve had crews in Iraq for a couple of years, but we had never sent reports over the live uplink.
How hard was it?
It’s airplane-transportable and designed to go as checked baggage. So we sent a crew to Amman, Jordan, with the cases, then took a charter flight to Baghdad. Each step of the way, we were amazed it made it to the next leg.
There were 12 cases, each weighing 70-90 pounds. Some airlines will take it, and others won’t. Then, when we got to the Baghdad airport, we needed a convoy of armored vehicles with a bunch of guys armed with Kalishnikov rifles just to get the hotel. But once we got there, it wasn’t that bad.
How did you get it up and running?
It took us two days to find the satellite because it was so low on the horizon. But once we began shooting, we decided to extend the broadcast from six to eight hours. We also gave Sony HDV camcorders [consumer/industrial-grade cameras that cost about $5,000 each] to a bunch of taxi drivers to shoot alongside our camera crews. We used two Panasonic DVCPRO HD cameras and two Sony HDV cameras. If the camera doesn’t get anything worth showing for a day or two, it’s not a big deal. You can’t say that about a $90,000 HD camera that needs to work every day.