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Barjonas LLC is a small company specializing in custom solutions for unusual TV/event production challenges. Many productions can run with a standard set of technologies and the traditional set of technical skills to support it. Some productions have unusual elements that cannot be solved by hiring equipment or hacking existing processes.

In the early days of TV, specialty engineers, scenic and prop designers would design and build custom solutions to make producers' visions possible. Over the years, custom hardware has become less and less necessary. Today it's more common to use a combination of commodity hardware and custom software.

Big software companies struggle to find the best Software Developers specializing in particular web technologies, databases, financial and sales systems. Finding a developer who can comfortably fit into a TV or live event production is much harder. Top developers are used to detailed specifications, structured projects and formalized testing and release schedules. The fluid and creative TV production world is not a natural fit.

There are very few people with extensive experience at the intersection of software development and show production. A small fraction are based in the US. After relocating to the US I encountered a strong local demand and a great network of professionals in adjacent disciplines. I started Barjonas LLC to focus on the under-served American market.

- Hamish Barjonas

 

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Background

Working as a Broadcast Engineer, I wrote my first production software in 2002 to let radio listeners across the UK see the name of the current song on their brand new DAB Digital Radio. I wrote my first software for national live television in 2004. It was the first show to allow viewers to text in photographs to be shown on-air. The first iPhone was still 3 years away!

Since then I've worked on systems for dozens of high-profile game show formats, election results shows and sports. One system I designed to make it easier to use Skype on TV lead to a spell working for Microsoft, a product called Skype TX, relocation to the US, two patents and an Emmy.

Game shows

My biggest specialty is TV game shows and similar studio-based entertainment formats. There are many unique elements to a game show which make it very challenging without the benefit of extensive experience. A reliable, automated system system is essential when the business model is based on a high volume complex shows each day in studio.

Recently I've delivered complete software systems for some of America's biggest game shows including Family Feud, Match Game, Beat the Clock and The Noise. Well-known formats I've supplied in the past include Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, The Chase, Only Connect, Divided, Money Drop and Deal or No Deal. Just as challenging, I've built systems for dozens of formats going through the development, pitching or testing processes.

Sport

Over the years I've produced systems for TV/streaming coverage of many sports including baseball (for Fox), basketball (NextVR), American football (NextVR), soccer (Fox/NextVR), darts (ESPN), snooker (Eurosport) and lawn bowls (BBC).

I recently built some groundbreaking graphics packages for NextVR to integrate with their live, stereoscopic, immersive sports coverage. This is the first time live graphics have been integrated into VR sports broadcasts.

Skype TX

The Emmy-winning Microsoft product Skype TX started life with a call from a producer to ask for a way to run a one hour live primetime show consisting almost entirely of Skype calls with viewers. The usual hacks were not an option so I set about creating a way to remote control any number of Skype systems from a single operator interface. A couple of years later, the system was acquired by Microsoft and I was helping turn it into Skype TX. Today it's used in hundreds of TV productions around the world every day.

Elections

The British electoral system gives the opportunity for a single marathon show to deliver every result from the first exit poll to the announcement of the new government. While working in the UK I was heavily involved in election-night systems behind simultaneous shows for BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Wales in English and S4C in Welsh! That brought with it many unique challenges which I would love to tackle again someday.

Digital Signage

Apart from TV, I've built public information screen systems, including for the ATP World Tour finals, Wimbledon and Queens tennis championships.

Audio playback

I recently designed a system called Melodex to meets the particular needs for background music which are not well-served by more general-purpose solutions. It supports playback of up to 32 independent music feeds from a single Windows 10 PC. It's currently in providing background music across a major casino property.

Over the years I have built several custom audio playback systems for sound effects, buzzer sounds and music cues.

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Services

I love providing a wide range of services to help your production shine. Depending on the scope and deadline, I can deliver these single-handedly or coordinate a network of specialists to ensure your project meets your requirements.

Show Control

The beauty of show control is that a single operator can drive the system through every twist and turn of a show with maximum consistency and minimum opportunity for error. Systems like graphics, lighting boards, buzzers, producer buttons, information displays, sound boards, video switchers and routers are pushed along automatically as the control system cues through the show. Most show control systems consist of a list of cues which are advanced manually of by timecode. That's sufficient for shows which are the same every time, like a stage show. But what about a game show, with contestant interaction, complex rules, producer judgements, varying questions and repeated sections? That requires a much more intelligent system, especially when you need to be able to go backwards to pickup at an earlier point and still have the scores and other states be correct.

There are no off-the-peg Show Control systems which can offer this advanced functionality. By building each system on top of a well-established framework, full customization can be achieved while keeping development time, experimentation and bugs to minimum.

Realtime graphics

You might already be working with a designer to achieve the look that you want for titles, backgrounds and logos, but how are you going to achieve these dynamic parts? If your requirement is very simple or you're OK doing everything in post, you might be able to play simple movies using equipment the production already has. For everything else, you need realtime graphics.

Working is leading graphics system Ventuz, I can turn your designs into a realtime system which can adapt to whatever content comes up in whatever order it's required. There is no limit to the number of feeds. Key and fill? Feed for pixel-mapping onto the set? 5x HD feeds for a team name? Stereoscopic, 180°? You've got it. The low cost of scaling up can really pay dividends by generating more of the show live and simplifying post-production.

Traditional broadcast graphics is just one small part of what Ventuz is designed to do. It's more commonly used for high-end presentations and product launches. Its also perfect for interactive graphics, whether it's a touch screen on a stand at a trade show or a huge video wall in a TV studio which responds to the hosts' movements.

System integration

A well-implemented show, studio, control room or post-production system is more than just the pile of boxes plugged in to each other. The hard part is integrating everything together so that it does exactly what you need to reliably and consistently. For that, you can't beat custom software, specifically designed to streamline your processes.

For example, I've provided systems which allow video switching, routing, graphics, Skype and audio mixing to be controlled by a single operator from a touchscreen user interface. Nothing was exposed to the operator which was not needed for the specific type of production and many actions were automated.

In a show system, it's pretty common to want to integrate with external button presses, sometimes with extreme accuracy. It's less common to need to integrate with noise measurement software or RFID tags in bundles of cash, but it was fun to do! I have a lot of experience with working out ways to pull disparate systems together and it's one of my favorite things to do. I have integrated with switchers, routers, lighting systems, LED mappers, social networks, phone networks, audio equipment, cameras (video and SLR) and many strange and poorly-documented devices.

Pre-production systems

Many productions require a lot of content to be organized before getting to stage. If there's a lot of content which will eventually be making its way into graphics systems, it's worth thinking about a custom preproduction system. Maybe you simply need a documented process to generate text files, organize them into folders and synchronize them with Dropbox. Maybe it's worth considering a full cloud-based custom web application with redundancy, backups, synchronization, reconciliation and audit trails.

The right workflow will ensure that all the important research and checking work happens in the office rather than during precious studio time.

Format development

I would love to talk to you about your format before it is even commissioned. I've provided consultation and technology for many formats from the earliest game testing to office run-throughs, commissioning, production and on to multiple successful seasons and international rollout. I can help you calculate payout rates, pick up format wrinkles and test out variations. An experienced game show producer might have produced 1-2 new shows each year or less. Working at the early stages has allowed me to dig deep into a lot of formats since 2004.

You might want software to make your testing more realistic or you might need a presentation system that does not rely on a network exec' imagining how it might look on-screen. Powerpoint and Keynote might work for a show that follows the same narrative every time. For a game show with multiple possibilities, your options would be to script the whole performance or make frantic, error prone changes to your presentation as the game progresses. To show a game show format in the best light, it's always best to have real contestants playing a real game and no distractions from the technology.

Hardware consultancy

All systems need some hardware in the end. I can design your system or work with hardware specialists to buy or rent a system to cover your requirements.

International rollout

If you have a format that you are rolling out internationally, I could be a great partner. I have experience adapting existing systems for other markets, handing systems over to local teams and getting up-to-speed on unfamiliar system. Maybe you want a US-based partner for an existing system to avoid all the usual problems of time-zones, remote support, customs, visas and invoicing. Let's talk!

Special projects

Some of the most exciting projects don't really fit into any of the normal boxes. When it's never been done before, a huge breadth of experience and relationships with a diverse range of specialists really helps. From the first email, you've got a valuable ally to drive your idea to completion.

 

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Technology specialties

So, what kind of technologies do I use to build these custom solutions? If you’re a fellow geek, this may be the section you were looking for. Otherwise this may not be the most exciting section for you.

Almost all of my custom software development is in C# using Visual Studio. User interfaces are WPF. Source control is VSTS GIT. I keep looking at UWP apps, but they don't seem to be the best fit for the requirements of most of my projects just yet. Before that I used VB.Net and before that VB 6.0, which is occasionally useful when some code archeology is required!

Wherever cross-platform is a requirement, Unity is a great option, which I hope to use more in the future.

For the last 10 years, Ventuz has fulfilled almost all of my graphic requirements. Although it's mainly targeted at the presentation market, its flexibility and performance are a great fit with TV and live event production. I have built up a set of libraries and practices to tightly integrate Ventuz projects into show control systems.

Audio is a recurring theme, having started my career in radio and recently written a background music system, Melodex. I have experience with Dante, especially getting a lot of it out of a PC.

I have some experience with Azure-based IoT systems. I built the NoiseTrak system for STS Audio Consulting, which allows users to see live audio levels from multiple devices plotted on a map.

At home, I'm a fan of Arduino and RaspberryPi devices and I'm playing with Windows 10 IoT. I'm just waiting for a reason to use them in a show!

Spaces or tabs?

If you have to ask, then I should introduce you to EditorConfig.

 

Blog

Occasional posts about entertainment technology as a hobby and a profession.

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Contact

 

Barjonas HQ is in the software hub of Bellevue, Washington, in the shadow of Microsoft and just across the bridge from Seattle. When it's show time, the office is wherever the show is; studios around the country.

Connect on LinkedIn or send a message using the form below. Let's talk about your big ideas!

 
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