Meet the experts: Phil Crawley

Meet the experts: Phil Crawley

Chief Engineer Phil Crawley was a customer for a number of years while working as a broadcast engineer, before jumping the fence and joining the team in 2002. He’s since helped hundreds of customers get to grips with the future of broadcast as well as designing bespoke fibre installations. As our resident king of colorimetry, we challenge you to find anyone who know more about HDR than Phil.

Putting news first

“I started off at the BBC in the 80s, and the BBC rotate engineers round everything – studio work, maintenance and outside broadcast – so you end up doing every job in TV engineering. After that I worked at Carlton, Oasis Television, which was one of the bigger editing facilities at the time, and Resolution, where I worked mostly on location shows. I was the Technical Supervisor for the first three years of Big Brother, then I did Fame Academy and a few more of those sort of on-location shows before joining root6 in 2002.”

Fibre a la mode

“I do a lot of bespoke fibre installations, and one of the things that is fundamental to the way that customers build their facilities is the difference between single and multi-mode fibre. Even quite experienced engineers can be a bit flakey about it, so we do a lot of knowledge transfer to customers around that. They’re often quite surprised when they ask, ‘how can I send 20 video feeds between a datacentre and our premises?’ and I can give them a proper, economic solution.”

Moving with the times

“There’s a real variation in how customers approach new things. There’s one sports team we’ve been working with for several years now, and I’ve seen them move from a very traditional, standard definition channel that went out on Sky to a HD web-delivered channel with virtual studios and distributed editing. They’ve really embraced everything we’ve shown them and pushed forward in a way that other teams haven’t. We’ve also done studios for teams who are still delivering in a traditional, linear way, and they’re only getting a few thousand viewers at any given time, whereas those who have moved with the times are getting hundreds of thousands of unique hits on their web channel.”

The most important meal of the day

“We’ve been running Tech Breakfasts for engineers and their managers to catch up on things that are in flux, because the underlying infrastructure at facilities is getting more complex. For example, there are a few tricks to make high speed Ethernet work reliably, compared to previous standards that just worked because they worked, and then there are a lot of considerations around dark fibre, multi-modal fibre, and more. You can sign up for the next event here.”

For future reference…

“One of the hottest topics at the moment is the difference between scene-referred and display-referred HDR. The HLG standard developed by the BBC and NHK is popular because, as dimensionless video, it’s backwards compatible with SDR and means you can continue using your existing 10-bit installations. As we’ve said before, HLG uses relative brightness values to dictate how an image is displayed. This means that the image can be displayed on monitors with very different brightness capabilities with little impact on the artistic effect of the scene. Because it uses relative values, HLG does not need to carry metadata, and can be used with displays of differing brightness in a wide range of viewing environments.

“Dolby, on the other hand, are promoting their DolbyPQ display-referred system, which uses absolute dimensioned values for the light captured. The metadata that travels in the SDI payload defines how video levels equate to light levels, and how they should be reproduced at the DolbyPQ display end. The display then reports back to the playback device via EDID or SDI payload to convey its maximum light output. To work out which is right for you, get in touch – our details are below.”

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