DD outdid itself with R-Day coverage

How did the national broadcaster manage such a brilliant show of the Republic Day parade? Sure it used a large number of special gadgets, but what was the special imperative behind this?

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Quite in keeping with the extravaganza on show at this year’s Republic Day parade, the national broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, and its television arm, Doordarshan, also presented us with a fine array of angles to enjoy the parade from home.

This is quite new and a bit surprising, knowing the general lethargy and lack of technical finesse within the national broadcaster. How did this happen? Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati had promised that this year’s coverage would stand out in terms of sheer magnitude. And he delivered.

What was engaged in the coverage were 11 more cameras than last year (a total of 59 cameras), a staff count of 160, and even a tie-up with the Indian Air Force for the flypast. This year’s flypast itself was massive, with several unique formations to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence as well as the 73rd Republic Day.

Cameras were deployed all along Rajpath, covering the entire parade route from Rashtrapati Bhawan to the National Stadium. Thirty-three cameras were installed at Rajpath and 16 cameras at the National War Memorial, India Gate and National Stadium and 10 cameras at Rashtrapati Bhawan. More importantly, DD also employed a 360-degree view camera atop India Gate. There was another 360-degree camera on Rajpath.

That was not the end of the technical finesse of DD. There were five Jimmy Jibs, combination of 100X and 86XTally lenses, more than 15 wide-angle lenses, Abacus lens, etc. As if this was not enough, there was also a camera on a 120-feet hydraulic crane in between National War Memorial and India Gate.

This enabled viewers to get a sort of eagle’s eye view of the parade. There were also special remote-controlled PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras installed in the Presidential Enclosure and on Rajpath.

What the national broadcaster ensured with all this was that all major spots related to the parade and with the dignitaries associated with the extravaganza received complete and full time coverage. There was a sense of urgency, but more palpable was the fear within the staff of missing out on some critical point.

One can assume the tremendous pressure that had been exerted on the staff and, especially, on the people mainly associated with the planning and the execution. That this is an election year, and that the state of Uttar Pradesh is up for grabs, did not go unnoticed.

All equipment was connected through dark fibre optical, satellite and backpack connectivity. DD also built a makeshift production control room (PCR) at Rajpath.

These technical activities ensured that the viewer could also hear the marching sounds of the contingents, as well as the commands shouted by the contingent commanders, including that of Lieutenant Commander Aanchal Sharma, who led the Navy contingent.

Then there were videos directly from cockpits of the flypast jets. That is a new one. How did DD manage this? Using its deal with the Indian Air Force, DD had installed GoPro cameras in the cockpits. These cameras captured the fly-past, plus the terrain from the air.

Following the parade, Union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur tweeted: “To make the live telecast of the grand celebrations of the 73rd Republic Day reach the masses, the team of @prasarbharati and @DDNewslive did many technical experiments which were quite successful. The live telecast of an aerial view of the fly-past including the pilot’s cockpit was breathtaking. Congratulations to the whole team.”

Lieutenant Commander Aanchal Sharma

The technical specialties were surely a good addition and enjoyable. So will DD be keeping to its own standard for all broadcasts hereafter? Hardly. If the inherent lethargy is not the reason, it will be the lack of immense political pressure that will make it go back to status quo.

Interestingly, the special effects team of the national broadcaster did not violate any Election Commission model code of conduct. The hyper nationalism on show across Rajpath was above the Election Commission’s mandate. This was a clever way of showcasing what had been achieved. With the refusal to showcase tableaux from states such as West Bengal, the message was also clear: Fall in line.