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ViacomCBS lead system engineer Matt Okotie describes the challenges of Covid-safe programme-making, his experiences using Sony’s Cloud-based Virtual Production and the benefits it brings to content creators

Adapting to the challenges of Covid-safe production Like other content creators, ViacomCBS has experienced the difficulties of Covid-safe production.

Lead system engineer Matt Okotie recalls the challenges his team faced while producing an event earlier this year at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens: “We had to be Covid-compliant, so we needed a monitor for every desk, spaced out 4m apart. We ended up with a massive hall full of people, just to do one production.”

In response to the pandemic, programme-makers are actively exploring the benefits of remote production, where crew members and equipment can be situated far from the event itself. Matt’s first experience with Sony Virtual Production was during an innovative demonstration of 5G-enabled remote production, participating with other broadcasters and technology partners including Sony.

Cloud Native Live Production means faster, simpler set-up

“Before Sony Virtual Production, our set-up was either taking a truck to the location, or taking flyaway PPU (Portable Production Unit) kits” he notes. “Then we’ve got thousands of metres of cable for video, and we’ve got data runs as well. With Sony Virtual Production, you don’t have to do that. You just need the technical crew to set up the data, and then away you go.”

Reduced equipment requirements

“Sony’s Virtual Production Service being Cloud Native, all these jobs can be done at home. The vision mixer, video runs, data runs, fibre runs, audio mixing – we don’t have to take all that equipment. All the vision side, the audio side and the graphics side can be set up before. All we have to worry about locally is the data connection to the camera, lighting and sound.”

Less transportation, better for the planet

As Matt observes, the reduction in on-site crewing levels offers big benefits in today’s socially distanced world: “I’d have to take a massive team, at least 27 people, to do a six-camera shoot. With Virtual Production, we can reduce that to two people or even one person on site. That gives me costs savings – and we don’t have to drive big lorries around the country transporting stuff so it’s really good for the environment.”

Fresh possibilities for sports and news

“Virtual production has caused a bit of excitement inside ViacomCBS,” confirms Matt. “Everybody’s talking about the possibilities of what can we do with this, like for sporting events where you can just send one camera operator down rather than a production truck. It’s cheaper to produce and we can increase our productivity a lot. Or for news: you can just roll up as long as you’ve got 5G, a network connection or WiFi and you’re all ready to go”.

The agile choice

“Sony Virtual Production for me basically means agility,” states Matt. “At the moment, we have to get everything on site and start testing every single cable before we go live. With this, we can test weeks in advance, rock up and load our profile for that production – and away we go. Would I recommend Virtual Production? Yes I would. It’s simple, easy to set up and it’s agile. What isn’t there to recommend?”

What is Sony Virtual Production?

Sony Virtual Production is a Cloud Native on-demand service powered by Amazon Web Services. It enables the production and delivery of a live event to a global audience on multiple platforms. A Virtual Cloud Switcher enables users to switch cameras, add captions, control comments and communicate to production teams all through an internet connection and laptop or any connected device.

Try it now for 30 days, with 5 hrs switching time for free

Visit to sign up for a free 30-day trial to live stream an event. It’s is easy to set up, using a combination of laptop or tablet, smart phone, wireless cameras and audio to live stream events over a normal internet connection. Online training guides and 24/7 email support allow users to get set up instantly. Anyone, anywhere, can set up and control a live event stream with broadcast streaming Quality of Service.

Pay as you go, cost-effective remote production

Only pay for what you use, no subscription needed. Operation of Sony Virtual Production can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection, meaning full control of the live stream can be achieved from a remote location.

Up to 6 camera/sources

Perfect for YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch and Stream, also stream to any URL address. Up to three simultaneous RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) outputs, two clips players and support for RTP/RTMP/QoS/SRT.

Professional, reliable switching quality

Lightest professional live streaming set-up (no on-site mixer or encoder, less crew), with audio/video synchronisation, easy and intuitive graphic interface, and Tweets insertion in graphics.

Communicate with production team

Intercom functionality – push and hold to talk with ‘Speak to all’ and ‘Speak to individual’ options. Use a mobile phone to access the intercom functionality and get tally feedback direct to your mobile using Intercom/Tally mobile page (currently only available on Android).

The Challenge

  • Social distancing presents major practical challenges for events production
  • Conventional live production requires deployment of on-site equipment/crew

The Solution

  • 5G-enabled Sony Virtual Production used to produce live multi-camera event 
  • Vision mixing, audio and graphics controlled remotely via an intuitive web-based interface

The Outcome

  • Covid-safe production with fewer staff needed on site
  • Greener, more agile, and cost-effective live productions with reduced equipment and transportation requirements