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CBC gets its HD cameras just in time for Olympics

Playback Magazine article by: James Careless
August 4, 2008

There is no such thing as just bringing a professional camera with you to China.

So CBC, along with broadcasters around the world, shipped camera and editing gear well ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (Aug. 8-24). At press time, the equipment had, after a nerve-racking wait, finally been delivered.

"A lot of our equipment was on the boat en route to China," CBC director of operations Joe Sidoli tells Playback. Fortunately, after major delays, he says, "everything has arrived."

CBC's Olympic coverage - for the first time being offered entirely in HD - is being produced in Toronto, but the Ceeb still needs equipment for its onsite studio and field camera people in Beijing. It has shipped nearly 20 Sony XDCAM camcorders, EVS file servers, FOR-A standards converters as well as NTT encoders and decoders, purchased directly from the manufacturers.

It has also sent Avid editing systems from its own stock, which arrived when the cameras did.

Sidoli says Chinese bureaucrats have been delaying broadcaster shipments to the Olympics venue. "There are so many levels of government in China," he explains. "Everything that we try to do, we find a roadblock in our way. It's the most complicated thing I've ever seen in my life."

Fortunately for the CBC and other broadcasters, they can turn to Sim Video's Beijing office for help. The Toronto shop, which specializes in HD production and post gear, opened a Beijing equipment rentals office last October to serve the growing Chinese production market. It is currently providing HD cameras to Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, the host broadcaster, as well as U.S. rights holder NBC.

"We didn't just do it for the Olympics," says Sim Video president Rob Sim, from his Toronto office. "There are a number of film and television projects taking place in China, and there now seems to be a need for a North American-style rental company there."

Despite Sim's emphasis on the overall Chinese market, Sim Video Beijing president Noah Weinzweig expects the Olympics to dominate his summer agenda.

"There will be a huge amount of non-rights holders looking for quality equipment and professional support," says Weinzweig, who also speaks fluent Mandarin. "Foreign crews feel a great sense of ease and confidence when equipment needs and services are presented to them in a familiar language, environment and standard. Being that recognizable beacon is where we find our market niche in China's often bewildering landscape."

Sim Video will not be able to provide any PDW-HDW-1500 top-end news cameras to broadcasters that need them, but it does have other HD cameras in stock, specifically Sony's HDW-F900R CineAlta HD cameras (being used by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting) and Panasonic VariCams.

"We also have some editing gear available," adds Sim. "We're still fairly small. When we open a new office in Beijing or Halifax, we don't go in with all guns blazing. We go in quietly."

CBC's Sidoli confirms that his network had talked to Sim Video about renting HD equipment, but only as a backup had CBC's equipment not cleared the Chinese bureaucracy in time.

Sim Video's Beijing office will be happy to help CBC or any other broadcaster in need of equipment for the Olympics, however the cost will be somewhat higher than usual.

"Everything goes up in price during the Olympics, and the Chinese marketplace has embraced this spirit like no other," says Weinzweig. "We're not interested in overcharging clients. Our rates will reflect the service and quality we provide within the context of the moment. Long-term relationships are far more valuable, so in this context we prefer running marathons, not sprints."