Network Crash Course:
Essentials of Audio and Video IP Networks
by Laurence B. Abrams
A new class offered by Local 695 called “Network Crash Course: Essentials of Audio and Video IP Networks,” has been in high demand, with eight sessions conducted in just two months. Instructor and Production Sound Mixer James Hunt designed the course to prepare more members to work with the kinds of networks that Local 695 Audio and Video Engineers are already installing and operating in nearly every area of film and television production, whenever audio and video signals need to be redistributed over copper, Wi-Fi, cellular networks, or the internet.
James explains that “for film & episodic productions, AoIP (Audio over IP) allows the Sound Mixer to develop truly creative solutions while maintaining complete control of their system. RF receivers can be hidden close to set, while the mixer sets up near video village. Multiple program feeds can be duplicated as needed and pulled off of any nearby network switch. The multitrack rig is reduced to a small laptop that can be placed anywhere convenient. The only cable to coil at the end of the day is a thin fiber-optic cable.”
On live broadcasts such as the Oscars or the Grammys, James describes how an entire performance group or orchestra can be offsite, and even miles away. “Dark fiber paths from your network provider can transmit more than sixty-four channels of Dante or AES67 audio from anywhere they have infrastructure. On the Oscars, we use a fiber-optic network that terminates in a wiring closet beneath the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, tying together the Dolby, Jimmy Kimmel, the International Press in the parking lot behind El Capitan, and all the media on the red carpet. Likewise with the Grammys, Local 695 members set up a fiber-optic network to connect across the sprawling Staples Center campus, providing pre-show, post-show, press feeds, and special performances anywhere the producers deem fit. On a production as spread out as LivePD, where multiple cities and control rooms were all providing input to the same broadcast, we used a solution from Unity to send low-latency audio over the public internet for multi-channel audio and intercoms.”
In this new age of social distancing, James says, “We’re finding the increased flexibility and reach of IP Technologies to be indispensable in our new workflows. Local 695 Video Engineers and Video Assist Technicians are using H.264 cloud services such as QTake and Sienna Cloud to allow encrypted remote viewing of takes and dailies for an almost unlimited number of local and remote users on a multitude of devices. Solutions from Unity and LuciLive enable broadcast quality multi-channel audio over the public internet. While cloud-based production switchers like vMix and Livestream enable multiple video villages to be set up far from the set, off the stage, in the office, or even at home. Audio console manufacturers across the board are releasing network protocols to control their products remotely, such as Lawo’s R3PLAY and Calrec Assist.”
Effective usage of IP networking allows us to be more flexible and more efficient in a wide variety of production applications and opens the door to new ways of working. This training helps more of our members master the core framework and principles that lie beneath all of these audio and video networking environments.
This training was funded with support from Liz Campos and Alex Weyman at the IATSE Training Trust Fund. Keep an eye out for future announcements about more Local 695 training opportunities like this.
Developing a Safe Path Back to Work
In June, the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee delivered its White Paper report, a broad, high-level review of on-set safety recommendations for film and TV production. That was followed up by The Safe Way Forward, a much more detailed, on-the-ground look at how the production environment must be adapted in order to create a safer workplace. That document, submitted by the IATSE, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters, and Basic Crafts, still awaits approval by the AMPTP. The final piece of this is Local 695’s Craft-Specific Safety Guidelines, an ambitious review of safety measures to be taken for each of the crafts and job skills represented by Local 695. The Chairperson of our COVID-19 Safety Protocols Committee was Jay Patterson who says, “Gathering together more than 50 members of Local 695, representing so many job skills, from Video Technicians and Mixers to Talk Show A-2’s and Utility Sound Technicians, was at first very challenging but then proved to be a hugely gratifying experience, with so much great input and participation from everyone, and I want to say thanks to all involved.” Local 695’s Craft-Specific Safety Guidelines, along with the White Paper and The Safe Way Forward can all be downloaded from our website, where you’ll also find updates and more COVID-related info. If you are on a job that does not follow these safety guidelines, call the Local.
695 2nd Quarter Membership Meeting
Due to Covid-19, Local 695’s General Meeting was held virtually, on the increasingly popular Zoom platform.
We had a great turnout at the 2nd Quarter Informational Membership Meeting on Zoom. For those who missed it, the meeting featured three presentations, all of which can be viewed online at www.local695.com/html/may-15-2020-meeting.html (log-in required).
The first presentation featured four representatives from MPI’s Pension & Health Plan. They answered questions from our members about some of the new Covid-19 member benefits added to the Plans, including the three-month waiver of monthly premiums (for those who pay them), access to Tele-medicine, without the usual $5.00 co-pay, a new extension of hours now available to those who qualify, and the new IAP Hardship Withdrawals that give members access to up to twenty percent or twenty thousand dollars from their IAP if applied online before 12/31/2020. Complete information can be found at www.mpiphp.org
The second presentation was from MPTF‘s Naomi Rodda and was called “Coping in Chaotic Times,” looking at some of the emotional issues many of us have been experiencing over these last few months. Naomi offered specific and practical coping strategies and encouraged members to take advantage of resources that are available to help members in this difficult time, including MPTF’s Intake Line at (323) 634-3888, Optum’s COVID-19 24/7 Emotional Support Hotline at (866) 342-6892, Kaiser’s COVID-19 24/7 Emotional Support Hotline at (800) 900-3277.
Many of our usual activities were canceled due to the pandemic, however, it is notable that 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the LA Pride Parade! Although we had to sit this year out, we’re looking forward to the Pride Parade returning in 2021. Pride month was still observed, social distance style; we honor our LGBTQ members.
Members In Action
Many members of Local 695 showed their community spirit and pride as they participated in the recent peaceful protests happening around Los Angeles.
The protests brought sisters and brothers of 695 together over the weeks following the killing of George Floyd. Our members peacefully marched, voicing their concerns in this time of great unrest. Many of the marches included participants taking a knee and holding it for eight minutes, forty-six seconds, to show solidarity for racial justice.
Tim Song Jones, recently retired Boom Operator, arrived at a peaceful protest in Glendale with his wife. He says, “My wife really felt compelled to participate, however, I didn’t want her to go alone. When we arrived, I was pleased at how the demonstration was very peaceful. The crowd took a knee for eight minutes and forty-six seconds to commemorate the memory of George Floyd.”
Cheyenne Wood, VTR Operator, participated in two demonstrations. She went first to City Hall and joined the protest against DA Jackie Lacey over alleged inequality. Protestors again took a knee and sang together in solidarity. Later in the week, Cheyenne joined the march through Hollywood. She wanted to be involved in creating real change from the streets up. When asked if she felt at risk to COVID-19, she said, “I didn’t really feel fearful of catching the virus, we were practicing social distancing as best we could, and most everyone was wearing masks.”
Mixer Chris Polczinski arrived, sign in hand, at one of the largest protests on Hollywood Boulevard. He and his wife joined the enormous group that marched through the streets of Hollywood. There were so many people there, that, he says, “Even as we left to walk to our car, we could still see and hear the crowds from many blocks away.”
Boom Operator Ben Greaves and Mixer Amanda Beggs went a step further in their volunteer efforts and actually worked with the protest organizers, providing their equipment and on-set skills to help with audio reinforcement at many of the events. To help support these events, Ben has been working hand-in-hand with a diverse group of filmmakers and says, “This is an inflection point in our society. COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter are shining a bright and uncomfortable light on our society. As members of Local 695, it’s important to remember who we are, what we are, and who we represent. Setting up speakers is the easy bit. What we do once the news cameras have disappeared and attention is directed elsewhere is going to be the real challenge.”
Notable were the Local 695 members who hit the streets with sponges, brooms, mops, and paint brushes to help clean up after the unruly night of violence and looting in their neighborhoods. Mixer Shawn Holden, 695 Trustee, and her partner, cleaned up in their neighborhood near the Fairfax District. They helped remove graffiti by painting fences and tending to buildings that had been hit hard by vandals. She was compelled to help clean up, and to see what was needed. Shawn wound up at their local post office, feeling it was a small gesture to help her community.
Shawn says, “We went to help because we live here! We were right in the middle of things as they were getting bad. One block to the north and another to the south, there were flash bombs and tear gas canisters going off. We had to close the windows because the smoke was getting into the house. The next morning, it seemed like the whole neighborhood was out to help clean up. We got out around 9 a.m. and lots of things were already taken care of. A great show of community support.”
Mixer Devendra Cleary, 695 Executive Board member, participated in the Santa Monica neighborhood cleanup the morning after the worst of the demonstrations. He and his girlfriend decided to help any way they could. They witnessed the devastation when they went to the hardest hit area at 4th & Santa Monica Boulevard. They were surprised to see that their community had already finished cleaning and boarding up the damaged storefronts. They joined the community-wide effort and united in the 1000 Broom Brigade to support their local businesses hit so hard during this time. Later that day, they went to their neighborhood Vons and helped the store team clean up broken glass and grocery aisles, restoring order inside and out. Devendra says, “I feel great pride in being a resident of Santa Monica, a city that welcomes all, cleaning up the damage seemed the least we could do.”
695 Equity, Diversity & Outreach Committee
On June 28, 2020, President Mark Ulano AMPS named Steve Nelson, Board of Directors, chair of the newly formed Committee for Equity, Diversity & Outreach. Steve has since been joined by Jamie Gambell, Production Sound Mixer, as co-chair.
The co-chairs will oversee a committee of Local 695 members working toward three concrete objectives: a platform for essential dialogue, an entry-level training program, and academic outreach.
The committee will also address the Local’s broader integration agenda, working with established community organizations to ensure equity and diversity are incorporated in a smart, thoughtful way as we move into the future.
About the Committee for Equity, Diversity & Outreach
Recognizing the value in a diverse and inclusive community, the Committee for Equity, Diversity & Outreach works to create an environment where members of all genders, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds can thrive in the workplace, and focusing on improving access to mentorship, giving our new members a chance to forge a career path for themselves.
On August 1, 2020, the ED&O Committee hosted its first public event, “Diversity in 695: A Conversation.” The two-hour webinar featured some of our most accomplished members of color in conversation with Professor (emeritus) Anna Everett.
Dr. Everett is Professor of film and media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her many publications include the books Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949; Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media, for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media, Youth and Learning Program; her award-winning book Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace, and the edited volume Pretty People, among others. She is also a two-time recipient of the Fulbright Senior Scholar Award.
Our panelists included Willie D. Burton, Veronica Kahn, Susan Moore-Chong, Chauncy Godwin, Anthony Ortiz, Douglas Shamburger, and Yohannes Skoda. Thanks to all who participated and attended!
IATSE Food Drives
The West Coast IATSE held three food drives for members and their families to drive through and pick up boxes of food supplies. Very important service during this difficult time.