Below I will share about live broadcasting in Vietnam through my experiences working with Sky News – a news organization from UK for the 2019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit (hereinafter called ‘the Summit’).
The summit attracted more than 2,600 international journalists in town to cover, according to this article.
Though reporters received great support from Foreign Press Center, local governments as well as their own hotels, they still need help from local Vietnam fixers. Below are what we’ve done:
On Jan 2019, though the venue and time of the summit wasn’t announced officially, but when the news that the summit would happen had spread with Vietnam is the potential summit venue, many news organizations came to Vietnam to research, include my Client.
Here are factors need to be checked to set up live broadcasting:
1) A live broadcasting location:
– It need to have a nice and clear view, not being blocked too much. And it should help people recognize that it is Vietnam.
– It need to be available for the time of the summit.
– It need to be spacious enough for equipment to be placed, and at least 3-4 people onsite at the same time.
– It need to have infrastructure like electricity and internet (or being able to install high speed internet)
– It need to be not at a noisy location, so the voice recorded will be clearest.
– It need to be allowed to install more things if needed.
– It need to have great support from place’s owner/manager, since we would need different things from time to time.
– The cost of renting should be within a budget
– And it should have at least few rooms to be available for part of the crew to stay.
By the end, we visited 8 places. Some quoted insane prices, some weren’t available for the dates we need, and some didn’t have a good view.
We finally selected the terrace of the Red Bean restaurant on 7th floor at La Siesta Central Hotel (now renamed as La Siesta Premium Cau Go) as the live point.
2) Getting a private high-speed internet line:
At first, Sky News team planned to use the hotel’s internet. However, considering the risk of slow connection due to many users, the team decided that they need to have their own internet line.
The requirements for 5 days were:
1:1 contention Global Internet Access
1 x Public IP address
Several internet providers were in our considerations: Viettel, FPT and VNPT.
VNPT was selected due to their responsiveness and also a better price for the speed we needed. I’ve helped the Client to communicate with internet provider, sign the contract, make payment and follow up.
I also negotiated with the service provider to send people for installation of the internet on Sunday Feb 24, 2020. Normally they don’t work on Sundays. However, on Saturday, the technical executive at Sky News didn’t arrive yet, thus, he can’t be there to check if things okay and sign the “acceptance note”. I can be there when the installation happens, but I don’t know about technical set up, thus, I can’t sign the technical note.
I also need to inform Mr. Kevin (Le Van Tuan) – Manager at La Siesta hotel about the installation time so he could support.
3) Setting a stage/platform and umbrellas/cover:
The balcony of Red Bean restaurant looked great, however, it still had some problems from live broadcasting perspective.
The railing was around over 1meter high. That means when presenters standing there, their waist would be under the railing, which make it looks less nice.
Besides, what if it rains? We can’t just run and move the equipment inside quickly. And what if it rains while live broadcasting is happening? We can’t just stop the live broadcasting.
Thus, a decision was made to have a stage/platform and umbrellas/cover installed.
The shape of the balcony of Red Bean restaurant is odd, it’s not any standard size, and not easy to set up the stage, thus, I’ve contacted 10-15 different stage/umbrellas services but many of the refused or didn’t respond. There was only one accepted to set up for us with a reasonable price.
On Feb 14, a staff from the stage/umbrellas service came to measure the balcony. On Feb 25, they came to install it, and uninstalled on Feb 28.
4) Renting equipment:
Crew didn’t want to bring all equipment they need into Vietnam. Reasons were clear: the cost for air baggage was huge, and the cost of renting equipment in Vietnam is much cheaper, they also don’t have to bring heavy baggage in their travel. Thus, renting equipment in Vietnam is the best solution.
Lots of discussions were made but finally, these equipment was selected:
1.2k Watt HMI light (with stand)
2 HDMI monitors of 15 inches and 2 monitors of 21 inches (with a headphone socket) and crew will bring SDI-HDMI convertors
I went to the equipment rental service to take photos of the equipment to send to the Client, so I can make sure that the equipment are what they want.
5) Finding story:
Not only reporting about the summit alone, Sky News team also wanted to report about economy, history and culture of Vietnam. They selected 3 stories to report about:
+ an interview with Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Anh – chief economist at Depocen.
+ an interview and filming with an old propaganda shop owner
+ a filming of a water puppet show
Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Anh speaks English fluently, thus, the crew doesn’t have any problem communicating with him. But they needed my help for the old propaganda and water puppet show.
Old propaganda poster shop:
I’ve visited 5 propaganda poster shops I can find in Hanoi.
4 of them are refused to be filmed. Their reasons are:
+ They don’t want to be filmed.
+ They don’t need free advertising. They don’t really need to be known more.
+ They’re too busy.
When I asked them if they can suggest a fee.
They said: in business it’s hard to say. Sometimes they wait for hours, no Customer comes in. But sometimes people come in just for 15 minutes and buy a lot. So they don’t want to be filmed and just like the way it is right now.
There is only one of them said it’s possible to be filmed with a fee. It’s the price other filming crews paid him before. Since he was the only choice, the crew agreed with his fee.
Water puppet show:
The Thang Long water puppet theatre is more famous and get more attentions, but they were hard to work with, and expected high fees for filming the performance and didn’t want the crew to film the backstage.
I was able to contact Long Link water puppet show, at that time located at Museum of Ethnicity, who agreed for us to film for free, we just need to pay entrance fee.
II. Summit time:
9am: we filmed at old propaganda poster shop at Ta Hien street.
The crew filmed Tom Cheshire visiting the shop, and Mr. Tran Cong Mien – owner of the shop showed him around and answered his questions. I was at the back to translate the questions and the answers. The challenge was to get Mr. Mien to looks at Tom’s eyes instead of mine, while he was answering in Vietnamese. I told him from the beginning but he could often forget and I need to remind him again.
Mr. Mien explained the content of each old propaganda, for example:
– This is the photo about celebration of 10 years winning the B52 of America
– Winning strategic B52 airplane of America
– These are the most popular: Vietnam, country and people
– This is the drum and lotus – they are the icons of Vietnam
– Nixon has to return debt of blood
– Nixon bombed Bach Mai hospital. At that time lots of people died.
– The power of airforce of America on the North of Vietnam
– The hero Pham Tuan and the astronaut of Soviet Union
– Slogan “Go forward, the whole win will belong/come to us” was from a poet of Ho Chi Minh
– Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom.
Mr. Mien also described the life in Hanoi when it was bombarded as follow: No people on the streets in Hanoi. B52 continuously attacked Hanoi. Like Long Bien bridge was attacked. Everyone evacuated. When the planes came, all the guns exploded as rocket, as stars in the sky. B52 and all kinds of planes came. These drawings spoke about that time, which is no longer more, so people want to keep these memories so these drawings are very valuable.
1pm: interview with Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Anh at connect coffee, 87 Nguyen Thai Hoc street, Ba Dinh district
4pm: filming Long Link water puppet performance
In between we filmed a piece-to-camera in an iconic bustling street) and also gvs of:
– New skyscrapers: we filmed at the corner of Dao Tan street & Lieu Giai street, since there are Lotte building there, which is owned by South Korean, since film crew prefer to film South Korean owned building.
– American branded shops: we filmed at the streets surround Hoan Kiem lake, where there are: KFC, Mc Donals, donkin donuts …
– Lenin statue at 28A Điện Biên Phủ)
– General beauty shots
Feb 23, 24 and 25:
Crew started to arrive at different times. They stayed at La Siesta Premium and La Siesta Trendy since La Siesta Premium didn’t have enough rooms for the crew.
I remember on Monday Feb 25, when all crew members already arrived but some were still sleeping, the film officer requested me to get reference number from email from Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that the media request is approved. This reference number will help him to get press badge for the crew, which is necessary when they report about the summit. I could ask for reference number from people who were awake, but not those were sleeping. However, the situation was urgent, thus, I had to call to their hotel room to awake them and explained for them the situation.
Around 9pm of Feb 27, 2019, the internet suddenly became so slow. The crew informed me and I contacted the technical person of VNPT to check. Since the broadcasting happens each hour, and having the internet works is the key point to make it happen. Unfortunately, the internet cable under the sea was broken, thus, there wasn’t much they could do beside trying to re-route the connection. Luckily, afterwards it worked normally again.
The rest of my tasks were to help crew filming on the streets or at the live point.
Here is the post from Sky News about the summit.
In this project, I’ve worked with Michael Greenfield the most, and here is his testimonial to me:
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