Before the Covid–19 pandemic brought an end to gatherings in confined spaces, MultiChoice invited MyBroadband to take a tour of one of its outside broadcasting trucks during an international rugby game.
Seeing SuperSport’s flagship OB1 HD truck in action was impressive, especially during a fast-paced sport like rugby.
The truck is crewed by video, audio, and graphics mixers and editors who all have to work extremely quickly to produce a live broadcast, which is then supplied to sports channels worldwide.
Among the crew was Thato Monale, executive producer for rugby at SuperSport, who operates as the director on big match days.
He said that they had a standard Super Rugby setup that day with 12 manned cameras, 2 remote-controlled cameras, a slow-motion camera, and some static cameras, including one for an overhead “beauty shot”.
“When we do test matches, we’ll escalate that to about 24 cameras, including a helicopter, ultra motion [camera], and Steadicams,” said Monale.
Monale explained that the chain of production from the OB van to the final product worked as follows:
- Origination — Outside Broadcasting van.
- Connectivity — Asynchronous Transfer Mode fibre line connecting directly to MultiChoice’s offices in Randburg. Satellite truck on standby as a backup.
- International Control Room — where all the broadcast signals come into the MultiChoice building.
- Customisation — The SuperSport studio adds graphics and other elements it needs to the feed.
- Playout — Final stage, compressing the signal and placing it on the correct channel to be broadcast on DStv.
“By the time you see the signal from this OB van at your house, it has travelled about 55,000km,” Monale said.
“It takes about four seconds to get to your house.”
Monale said that for international sporting events like Super Rugby games, SuperSport’s mandate is to produce a signal that may be used around the world and meets everyone’s tastes.
In addition to the dedicated fibre line to Ellis Park, Monale said that MultiChoice also had fibre links to the stadiums in Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria.
In an impromptu interview during a tour of the truck, Monale said that directing live broadcasts during major rugby games is just one of the things that he does.
“I’m responsible for the overall rugby product in terms of how you experience it and see it on air,” he told MyBroadband.
Monday to Friday, his job is to ensure that everything is in place for match days.
“That includes scheduling commentators, presenters, deciding who’s in the studio, who’s the anchor, who are the guests, and how long [each segment will be],” he said.
Monale said that he has been at MultiChoice since 2000 when he started on a learnership.
“I’ve been through the whole thing,” he said.
“I used to be a vision mixer. As opportunities come to grow, I started producing inserts and then I got the opportunity to direct in 2005.”
He started directing during football games, and when MultiChoice secured the rights for the PSL, the world changed for them.
“I helped put together the first PSL channel. That’s my story,” said Monale.
From there, he switched to rugby and started doing Craven Week, the Vodacom Cup, Curry Cup, Super Rugby, and test matches.
Monale said that he is one of the many examples where MultiChoice’s learnership programmes gave opportunities to the young people that come through the ranks.
It allowed him to start as a vision mixer in the early 2000s, grow into the role of a director through gaining tacit knowledge, and ultimately become the executive producer of rugby.
More photos of SuperSport’s OB1 HD truck are shown below. All were taken before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.