Setting up an Outside Broadcast (OB)

Alan Forbes

Recently we worked at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow.  It was a massive operation with the coverage being shown live all around Europe and beyond. The competition was held at the Emirates Arena in the East End of Glasgow, an amazing venue that was built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I counted at least 10 large OB trucks outside the arena with around a dozen portacabins accompanying them.  Inside, the arena is essentially split into two: one part is a velodrome and the other is an athletics area that can be used for other sports such as basketball, badminton and more.


Upon arrival, we were taken to the press pen which took up the whole velodrome – the largest press area I’ve ever seen.  They had amazing free empire biscuits – at least I think they were free.  Our job at the event wasn’t for broadcast TV but for a promotional video, however we were asked to film “infield” which meant we were down with the athletes.  This was both fun and scary – amazing to see the action up close but you had a constant fear of ruining broadcasters’ shots.

Although our role was minor, it did get us thinking about some of the many outside broadcasts (OBs) we have all previously worked on.  In the past when I was a producer on a national TV station, I was asked to set up many of these OBs, so I thought it might be useful to do a blog about things to bear in mind when setting up one.




·      Set – how much space does your set require, number of presenters, camera positions, what is your backdrop?  Set dressing – chairs etc.

·      Production Space – is there space for your production staff, eg. a spare room somewhere, or do you need to bring something on-site?

·      Internet – upload and download speed.  Access – wifi or hard wired. 

·      Power – are there sufficient power outlets for your set and production space?

·      Light/Sun – If your set is outdoors what time does the sun set and where?  How will these affect the cameras? (Taking a compass can be useful). 

·      Storage – where can you safely store gear when not in use?

·      Noise – is the location noisy?  Is there any construction work due to be happening at the time of filming?

·      People Traffic – is the location busy with people at the time of filming?

·      Weather – what are the weather conditions likely to be at the time of filming, e.g. August is the wettest month in Scotland.

·      Access – what time can you get access to the location?

·      Parking – for crew and talent. 

·      On-site contacts – who will be the site contact on the day of the OB?

·      Travel time – how long does it take to get to the site from your base? Consider both normal and rush-hour traffic.

Doing OBs can be extremely stressful and challenging but also really fun and you can form great friendships with people on location; just make sure you are prepared, oh – and always take empire biscuits with you.