NEW TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTIONISES PERSIAN PROGRAMMING

A cutting-edge virtual camera system installed at SAT-7 PARS’ Limassol studio in Cyprus is taking multiple Persian programs to new heights. It enables presenters and actors to move about in, and even interact with, a digitally-designed virtual environment that is bringing stories to life.

The virtual production technology was introduced last year and has become a foundational element of four SAT-7 PARS programs. Two social media programs are fully dependent on the technology – Church4 Kids and Sanctuary of the Heart – while popular satellite productions Golpand and Signal also use it regularly.

Sakari Heinonen, Broadcast Technician at SAT-7 PARS, believes the new technology will help take the channel’s content to the next level. “[It] brings a completely different feeling visually,” he says. “It opens up the door to a world of imagination and creativity and is revolutionising the way we do virtual production.”

The technology can be used to create mind-blowing effects but also to subtly improve the visuals of a program. When Ashraf Khalilpour presents Sanctuary of the Heart from a tranquil living room, or Church4Kids presenter Maryam Rassouli wanders through a beautiful garden, viewers may not even realise that the sets have been entirely digitally designed.

The RedSpy camera tracking package, fitted by Croatian company Stype, is having a major impact on how programs are made, saving time, space, and money in the process. Sakari explains, “Previously, we produced programs by first recording all our camera angles, and then removing the green background colour before editing the final product: a very time-consuming process that made camera movement virtually impossible. Now we are able to create new sets even though we don’t have more physical space to build them in.”

The production team can create beautiful virtual backgrounds ahead of time and film all their scenes in one go – including complex shots with moving cameras – so that hardly any further editing is needed. What is more, actors, directors and producers, are now able to watch a scene immediately after it is filmed, which was not previously possible. Tweaks and improvements can be made in the moment, changing the atmosphere on set and raising the quality of the final cut.

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

More dynamic possibilities are also being explored. The system allows presenters in various locations to appear on the same set at the same time and engage with one another, facilitating collaboration between people in different places as well as between SAT-7’s channels. The selection of presenters and guests will no longer be restricted by travel and visa issues, opening up a potentially much larger pool of talented Christian broadcasters: a particular challenge for SAT-7 PARS due to restrictions in Iran and Afghanistan. Everything from children’s games to guest appearances could undergo transformations in the years to come.

Despite the technology’s potential, however, Sakari is under no illusions as to what makes a program truly great. “Virtual production is a tool,” he said. “The key to a good program is still, and will continue to be, the story and the message we tell. But virtual production can help bring the story to life and enable us to make programmes we couldn’t otherwise make.”

As virtual production increases the quality of SAT-7’s content, it is hoped that the message of God’s Word – packaged in creative and attractive ways – will become more accessible to our viewers. Our prayer is that it will help increasing numbers of people in the Persian World to discover God’s love for them.

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