From Greenland to TV screen

21 August 2021

Broadcasting from the most remote locations in the world! That is something Extreme E and its broadcast team XE Studios is getting used to now, but Greenland could provide the toughest challenge yet. We caught up with Jenny James-Munoz, Production Manager at Aurora Media Worldwide (AMW), who has worked on the series since inception to discuss how the racing gets from a glacier to TV screens around the world.

Jenny has worked at AMW for almost three years now, and the company, along with North One, has created XE Studios, which is responsible for delivering the championship’s broadcast product. She is part of the on-site production team of just 15 and works with producers and production staff, Extreme E teams and sponsors, technical partners alongside managing production schedules and budgets, permits and much, much more.

We asked Jenny how a broadcast product like Extreme E is created from the most remote corners of the planet. She says, “the action is captured on-site using a mixture of operated cameras, fixed minicameras, point-of-view and several ENG cameras, which equates to 30 cameras, plus four onboards per car. More than 60 cameras are used in total. We capture a live race cut and non-live content around the races to send back to London via satellite. There are about 30 satellite feeds in total.”

The London studio is an integral part of the broadcast and the hub of pulling the production together. Jenny explains, “the London studio takes the 30 or so feeds from site and masters the programme. The team layers the camera angles, Command Centre point of views, replays, sporting graphics, augmented and virtual graphics, the presenter, commentators and so on to create a finished, formatted programme complete with pre-produced content ready for transmission to the world.”

The idea of a remote broadcast wasn’t by accident, though. This is all part of Extreme E’s strategy to be as sustainable as possible. By creating the broadcast in this way, it reduces the number of people required on site and, therefore, travel and carbon emissions. Currently there is a core technical team of around 25 required to set up and operate equipment on site, and a small production team of 15 including presenter Layla Anne-Lee. The equipment itself fits into two sea containers which travel to each location via Extreme E’s ship – the St. Helena. This also reduces the championship’s carbon footprint as sea freight is less carbon intensive than air freight.

There are also remote teams in Amsterdam who manage the augmented reality graphics plus Al Kamel’s team in Barcelona who create the sporting graphics. All of this is then fed back to the team in London, which is made up of around 15 people including the championship’s main commentators Jennie Gow and Andrew Coley.

But why are the commentators not on-site with all the action? Jenny explains, “the programme is being made in London, so it makes sense to have the commentators close to the production team. Jennie and Andrew can throw to our reporter Layla and the guests on-site and dial in contributors from anywhere in the world, which included X44 Founder Lewis Hamilton in Senegal. One of the big advantages of the London hub is its connectivity and the delays involved are small, despite all the signals going backwards and forwards to location by satellite.”

Putting on a production like this from some of the remotest locations in the world can’t be easy and Jenny says, “from an operational point of view the harsh environments test the equipment and the team to the limit. However, the payoff is that the hard work puts the production in a great position to capture the stunning locations anywhere in the world. Every setting comes with its own challenges – the canyons and sand of AlUla to the humidity and saltiness of the Senegalese coast – so the kit must be super resilient. The locations are so remote there is no option of sending footage back over fibre, so satellite connectivity is the only option.”

The next challenge is Greenland at the end of August. Jenny says, “we are most looking forward to the expansiveness of the race location and the backdrop of the Russell Glacier. We are racing in an environment that is changing before our eyes, and a location that really hammers home the climate crisis to our viewers. This is by far the most remote location we will race in. It’s going to push the satellite equipment to the limit because the location is so far north, but it will look spectacular, and we couldn’t do it without the hugely talented team of producers, engineers, camera operators and drone operators.”

When asked what it is like to work on Extreme E, Jenny says, “it is truly incredible. I love to travel and to be able to see these places and call it work is amazing. I supported the Extreme E launch back in 2019 so it’s been a great experience watching it grow and go from strength-to-strength.”

Fans can check out all the action via a host of global broadcasters including ITV, Sky Sports, BT Sport and BBC digital channels in the UK, FOX Sports in the USA, Eurosport in Europe, plus many more.