Hemini Mehta (EBU)

We often talk about sustainability and efficiency in abstract terms. RTBF’s Green Production Unit and BBC’s Bike Bureau and are tangible examples of putting goals in motion.

RTBF Green Production Unit

The public service media organization of the French-speaking community in Belgium, RTBF, has designed and tested its first fully autonomous green mobile production unit. It is a cargo box sitting on a trailer that can be towed by an electric bike. Three RTBF departments – Mobility, Production and Technology – have contributed to the success of the project.

The unit has been designed to support small to medium-sized productions. It has up to 10 hours of battery autonomy (2,000 W) and a 150 W solar panel. It supports the use of eight cameras and five microphones and has a wireless intercom with three independent audio returns. Installation takes just five minutes.

The initial aim was to create a compact unit with low energy consumption, that meets professional standards and is easy to move around (currently weighing 149 kg and measuring 89x185 cm). The team also wanted a unit that could be parked on set, to bring them closer to the crowd.

Being powered by electricity from a renewable source, the unit can be used in the middle of nowhere, with no need for an electricity connection or a diesel generator.

Recordings can be saved locally or transmitted live via 4G. The unit includes an HD recorder using SD cards, an audio and video workstation (Zoom L-12 and Skaarhoj’s Live Fly), and two configurable multi-viewers connected to a live production mixer (Blackmagic’s ATEM 2 M/E). Everything is prewired inside the cargo box, saving time and energy. Users just have to connect their video and audio equipment to the patch panel. Additional storage space is used for the two batteries.

The trailer can be attached to an e-bike (that supports up to 200 kg) or pulled by hand and can be parked pretty much everywhere (indoors and outdoors). The Green Production Unit rider is paired with an Urban Arrow rider, with cameras and lighting equipment stored in the front cargo box. The unit can withstand strong winds and pouring rain (it has most certainly been put to the test).

Currently in its pilot phase, the unit has been tested for a small production at the national book fair. The team is still working on making the best version possible and eager to share the project with the international audiovisual community.

BBC's Bike Bureau

BBC too has launched a bicycle- based sustainable production pilot project this year – the Bike Bureau. The brainchild of two of the organization’s journalists, Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy, it is a mobile broadcast studio on two wheels. They transformed an electric cargo bike, using off-the-shelf broadcast kit, into a vehicle that can offer solo- operated (and solar- and battery-powered) live contributions for television and radio, as well as carry out all manner of newsgathering tasks.

The development of the Bike Bureau started in 2020 when Anna and Kate worked on a documentary called Europe’s Cycling Revolution, examining the impact of COVID-19 on urban mobility. Inspired by what they saw, they wanted to make changes in their own lives, which is when the idea was born.

As a mostly solo-operating journalist, for Anna this hyper- mobile device has revolutionized how she works, providing the most transparent time-, cost- and energy-efficient way to gather and report the news.

Anna and Kate hope when others see the Bike Bureau, they might be inspired too.

This article first appeared in issue 57 of EBU tech-i magazine.

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