On WRC Circuit, LDM Worldwide Gives New Meaning to ‘Remote’ Production
Larry Meyer is no stranger to creating television shows in unlikely places, but, this weekend, he will be in a more hostile environment than usual. As a packager for North One TV, the owner of LDM Worldwide/Eco Broadcast Solutions is overseeing the television production of one leg of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in the desert of León, Mexico. Without wired power, Internet, or even cellphone service in the production compound, he is immersed in what he calls guerilla television, some of the most exciting events that he does.
Motorsport’s World Rally Championship pits cars and drivers in a series of two-, three-, and four-day events through varying conditions in more than a dozen countries. The circuit, in which drivers tackle closed-road stages one car at a time, began last week in Sweden and continues this weekend in Mexico before moving on to Argentina. The race in León, which takes place over three days and more than 1,000 km, has been a part of the WRC for years, but, for the first time, part of the event will air live.
“Traditionally, this event has been done ENG, and, every day, they’d feed out daily highlights and an end-of-the-weekend highlight show,” says Meyer. “Now they’ve started doing Sunday’s Power Stage live, and they air it in more than 100 countries.”
For London-based North One TV, Meyer is providing an OB truck, uplink satellite, and a crew comprising individuals from Mexico City and Monterrey, Meyer himself from Seattle, and folks from as far away as the UK, Ireland, and Finland.
“I like the international aspect where you get together a disparate group of people,” Meyer says. “It’s a diverse group, and trying to bring all those people together is the most exciting thing.”
The video production, which covers the 8.2-km course, uses eight cameras, including a wireless handheld at the start, a few on-car cameras, and a Wescam system in a helicopter. Working n the middle of a desert offers some unique challenges, including donkey brays’ interrupting the broadcast.
“It’s really unique because parts of the stage are in the city, but parts are on gravel and dirt in the middle of nowhere,” Meyer explains. “Our compound is basically in a big field, and on the opposite side is another field with a bunch of donkeys that make noises the whole time. There’s no cell service and no way to get phone lines, so I had to order some satellite phones just so we could do our transmission test. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve been to a lot of places all over the world, but this is unbelievably remote.”
In addition to signal maintenance and the overall broadcast quality, the show has plenty of other aspects that keep Meyer up at night, including the threat of sunburn, dehydration, and rattlesnakes. The desert climate and 90-degree temperatures strain the A/C systems, and generator power poses additional challenges to the production, but the challenge is what draws Meyer to events like this one.
“I like the guerilla-TV thing,” he says. “People would never suspect the conditions that you’re dealing with. You’re putting out a signal and covering an event that some would say is incredibly difficult to cover. There are still a lot of productions in this world that are all about getting out there, running the cable, and making it happen.”