Written by Simon Lloyd Category: Projects
Published on 20 May 2012

Almost two years ago the hospital updated the TV system in the wards. Since that time we haven't been able to transmit any of our programmes to the patients. Sadly, without a regular programme many of our members have lost interest and given up coming. Even the core team have spent very little time at the studio in recent times.

Something had to change if we were to continue and not just give up the past 25 years work. So we have come up with a project to get all the remaining team back working and most importantly of all – give us the ability to broadcast to the wards again, albeit only for special events.

HHTV has many strengths, one of these is our love of multi-camera live productions around the hospital. The lack of members means one of our weaknesses is the time and effort needed for our post production. If we can produce a live event, transmit it to the patients and record the whole thing for future broadcasts with a minimum of post production, then we would have a near perfect solution.

The answer is a Portable Production Unit (PPU). This is a set of portable, or maybe better described as transportable, wheeled cabinets. The two or three cabinets can be taken to anywhere in the hospital (or further afield if required) then quickly assembled by a couple of people. The result is a TV gallery in boxes with space for a director and sound engineer to work with up to 4 cameras, tapeless video recording and replay facilities and even graphics. Along with this comes sound mixing, monitoring and talk-back. Finally an encoder sending the resulting programme to the wards for a live broadcast.

Harefield Hospital TV was lucky to be given some wonderful TV equipment by professional broadcasters, but much of the equipment is old – some very old. If the new portable unit is going to work it needs to use only the most up to date equipment we have. We have made the decision to use only digital technology, leaving much of our existing equipment behind. There are also some items we don't have and will have to acquire or even make from scratch.

The biggest change of all for us in this project will be the use computers to record the video, produce the graphics and encode our programme into a signal that can be sent to the wards. Until now, with the exception of the edit suite, the computers at HHTV have only been used for script writing and general office duties. Luckily, much of the software we need to make everything work is “Open Source”, meaning it is free for us to use.

Only a couple of weeks into the project there seems to be a buzz of interest at the studio again, for the first time in at least a year. Everyone remaining at the charity wants it to continue and wants to produce programmes for the patients again. The PPU is going to take us several months to get up and running. It will take even longer than that to get everything completed and working just the way we want it. When it is complete we will finally be able to get HHTV back “On-Air” again – it won't be a moment too soon.

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