Tony Orme from Orme Solutions and a regular contributor to The Broadcast Bridge reminisces about his best day ever in television – towards the end of the 1990’s…
Tony began his engineering career at the BBC, London, where he trained as a broadcast engineer and successfully completed the network’s intensive three-year training program.
While the BBC gave Tony a fantastic grounding in engineering, moving to independent television and satellite broadcasters, including Sky and ITV, gave him a deep insight into media production and workflows. With the added experience of working in network News operations, he witnessed firsthand the demands live television places on systems and people.
Dedicated to making things happen, Tony has a passion for improving systems, making them more efficient and getting them to work better.
Throughout his career, Tony designed and built interface and processing solutions to address unique problems, ones that others were unable to resolve, especially as digital television moved to MPEG compression. He gained skills in low-level embedded RTOS C/C++ programming and FPGA-VHDL, using those tools to create high-speed video and audio real-time processing solutions for broadcasters.
Based on the knowledge gained during his Research and Development years, Tony now applies these skills to help others successfully migrate their facilities from SDI-based to IP-focused media centers.
As well as simplifying technology and creating solutions through his consultancy business, “Orme Solutions,” Tony is a SMPTE member, a prolific writer for The Broadcast Bridge, a lecturer at The University of Surrey, and currently chair of the Thames Valley Branch of the Royal Television Society.
What did you study?
When did you start working and where?
BBC Television News and Current Affairs, Television Centre, White City, London. September 1987
Which knowledge gaps did you experience back then?
I joined the BBC as a trainee engineering and knew very little about broadcast. The BBC taught me about broadcast engineering.
How did you fill the gaps you experienced?
Mainly from the BBC’s three-year training course, but also did a lot of self-study and research.
Talk about your first technical challenge
At the beginning of my BBC career, I had a three-month secondment to Operations leading to me learn how to use all of the broadcast equipment within a live television news environment. Within a few weeks, I’d vision and sound mixed the BBC’s flagship television news programmes such as the one-o-clock and six-o-clock news. From there I moved to maintenance and had to fix the equipment I’d learn to operate.
This was probably the best training I ever had as it gave me first-hand experience of the stress involved and challenges of making a live television news program – pre 24hour news.
Any other tech anecdote?
Before digital satellite links were affordable we used analogue radio links to transmit live pictures back to the studio for transmission. On one occasion, we were due to do a live inject for a film premiere in London’s Leicester Square. The equipment was proving particularly problematic that day and I had to rig the transmitter and antenna on the roof of the cinema, whilst dropping a fifty-meter cable to the footpath below so the cameraman could send back pictures and sound from the celebrity interviews. With just two minutes to air the video started to break up and I could see the cable to the back of the transmitter had broken, not having enough time to rerun the cable I had to cut it and twist the core of the cable together, making the connection just as the director cut to us. For what seemed like an age, but was probably only thirty seconds, I had to hold the cable together with my fingertips as cramp developed through my hands and arms. To this day I don’t know how we made the transmission work.
Tell us a story
My best day ever in television – towards the end of the 1990’s I was a Technical Studio Manager at MTV, London, at the time when they still recorded live bands.
Studio A was hosting Iron Maiden and on the day of recording they turned up with a Marshall PA system that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fifty thousand seat stadium. As the first chord resonated throughout the muted suburbs of London, residents of Highgate Cemetery contorted in their previously undisturbed, quiet and sombre sanctuary. And the best of Marshall roared to disperse one hundred thousand tons of Heavy Metal assonance, necessitating the drummer to break through his kit and make a valiant attempt to be reacquainted with his tympanic membrane.
In contrast, Studio B was hosting Jools Holland and his Rhythm ‘n Blues Orchestra, after rehearsals Jools announced “we’re going to record this three times; once for sound, once for camera’s and once for us. Make sure you get it right because we will”.
Share your passion for technology
It’s forever changing and every day there’s always something new to learn. That’s what makes life worth living.
Share your vision about any tech enhancement, future revolution.
The future is software. Hardware design is becoming more complex and the specialism required to operate the development tools will drive this discipline to an ever decreasing pool of specialist engineers. Development cycles are prohibitive unless you have enough finance to support you through the extensive design phase.
Software is agile and quick to develop, with entrepreneurs developing products in just a few months or even weeks.
Software is agile and quick to develop, with entrepreneurs developing products in just a few months or even weeks. Click To Tweet
Nobody else is going to write your life story.