The complex technical operation behind Survivor / Expeditie Robinson

In the programme Survivor (Dutch name: Expeditie Robinson), candidates are tasked with surviving on a desert island in either Asia or the Caribbean. EMG provides the technical facilities during filming in these remote locations, which can be as long as five consecutive months. We spoke to Kees Knepper (Field Support Engineer) about the technical challenge, the use of Tektronix equipment, and the collaboration with CN Rood.


46 pallets of equipment

Kees Knepper, Field Support Engineer, is on site for the duration of the filming to ensure that everything is order, working with his team to manage the technical logistics of operating in a remote location and carry out repairs as needed. He explains: “For our last project in 2023, 46 pallets of equipment were stacked 1.6 metres high and sent to the production location. These included 27 UHD broadcast cameras, more than twice as many lenses, two image mixers and two routers. Because we film the episodes in hard-to-reach places it takes at least a week for any supplies or replacements to reach us.”

Stopping production for a week to wait for what the team need was not an option. Therefore, Kees Knepper opted to setup a local team to carry out any repairs and maintenance that would be required. For 27 cameras, two full-time technicians are needed with a very broad skillset. The technicians needed to be competent problem solvers across everything from power systems and generators to lenses, as well as ensuring there are enough spare parts for the duration of filming.

Kees Knepper highlights the challenge of planning for every eventuality: “Based on experience, we estimate the necessary parts in advance and take them with us. Of course, it may happen that we end up with defective parts that we did not bring replacements for. In that case, we will look for an alternative solution. In the past, we experienced the challenge of a defective input connector on a Tektronix WFM. The service station in Singapore could not help us within a reasonable timeframe, but we were able to get the requested parts via CN Rood. Since the input connector was the same as the AES input (which we don’t use on this particular production) we transferred that connector to the input as a temporary fix while we awaited a new connector, which arrived didn’t actually arrive for three weeks.”


Tektronix MSO for analysis synchronisation and frame interval pulses

Taking stock of equipment across 46 pallets has its challenges, and Kees Knepper pointed out that the Tektronix equipment had to be accounted for. “During the multicamera part of the production, we use two almost identical eight-camera directional installations. One is a semi-permanent installation built in a temporary audio/video direction, and that’s for the purpose of registering the Island Council, the other is a portable directional installation that is built in flight cases. The portable set-up is built for registering the various games that take place on the islands.”

For both circumstances, the team carry a Tektronix / Telestream WFMs (5200). In the remote location workshop, there is a WFM7120 and WFM2300 available and for repair work, there is also a Tektronix MS024 and TBS1202. To use the images from the different cameras interchangeably, accurate synchronisation of frame recording between cameras is essential. A camera makes around 25 frames per second, synchronisation is achieved via a complex video reference signal which ensures seamless transitions when switching between cameras. The Tektronix MSO24 is used to monitor and control these synchronisation signals.

Kees Knepper explains that the MSO24 was purchased for use on the most recent Survivor project: “The MSO24 is used to analyse vertical frame interval pulses and accurate synchronisation between cameras and equipment. What is incredibly convenient is that the Tektronix MSO24 is a compact solution with no vulnerable keyboard or mouse, a battery pack makes it mobile and usable anywhere.”


Very satisfied with CN Rood and Tektronix

“The cooperation between EMG and CN Rood goes back a long way.” Kees Knepper explained. “To ensure production continuity, we are always looking for reliable equipment. The Tektronix equipment has proven to be extremely robust and reliable in this subtropical climate. As an old school electronics engineer, I am very used to looking for things like delayed time base (DTB) in an instrument. With a new device like the MSO24, I have to search initially, but eventually the controls of this type of modern oscilloscope point the way. I know I can always turn to CN Rood if I have any questions or challenges. EMG and CN Rood have been in partnership for over 20 years, and we’ve never been disappointed!”


About EMG

EMG is an audiovisual partner for national and international (live) sports and music events, entertainment, reality, travel & expedition programmes and daily news and current affairs programmes.  EMG Netherlands has 500 employees and is part of the EMG Group, the European market leader in broadcast services. Besides the Netherlands, the company operates in France, Belgium, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, the US and Australia. This enables EMG to join forces with sister companies, exchange knowledge and experience and operate flexibly and effectively at a national and international level. Moreover, it gives its clients access to a wide range of potential facilities, services and solutions.