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  • September 25, 2013

Adrenalin-Pumping Reality Show Highlights Surveillance Technologies

Surveillance technologies get showcased in “Off the Grid: Million Dollar Manhunt,” a one-hour special for The HISTORY Channel airing December 8 at 10:00 p.m. All the chase scenes, zooming cameras, and surveillance that could be dismissed as “stuff of movies” are brought from the movies into real life in this reality television show.

The show is described as an action adventure competition show centered in Los Angeles featuring two everyday individuals (Dan, an environmental consultant, and his friend, Scott, a beer truck driver)racing against the clock to evade a highly trained team of urban trackers led by host and master tracker, Kevin Reeve, whose company, onPoint Tactical, LLC, offers a scouting, tracking and wilderness survival skills course that has been taken by elite military units from all major branches of the U.S. military (SEALs, Rangers, Force Recon, SERE, etc.), as well as major federal and state law enforcement units (FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, etc.). That’s some hard-core tracking the two contestants are up against, especially since they are armed withnothing but their wits, a cell phone (I’d completely ditch that first), and a credit card (I’d ditch that a nano second later).

On the other side, the expert trackers use their years of military training as well as cutting-edge surveillance technologies sure to impress the audience as they tap into security camera networks and access cell phone, banking, and satellite information. At stake is one of the largest prizes in cable television history — a million dollars.

The show highlights surveillance at its sharpest, and it features network camerasand equipment from Axis Communications Inc., Chelmsford, Mass. The show also focuses on the pervasiveness of surveillance, which may be more than the average American would think.

“America has 30 million cameras recording 4 billion hours of footage each week. Everyone is being watched,” the show claims. It is a statistic that spotlights the growing contradiction between privacy and security, an issue the show purposefully dances around, leaving conclusions to the viewer.

The Company (“THE Company” for short) co-founder Justin Hochberg told SDM that Axis was chosen for the project because, “Who we partner with is as important to success as any other part of the production. Axis was an obvious choice. When you think network video surveillance, image quality and best-in-class technology, you think Axis.”

The production company’s co-founders Hochberg and Charlie Ebersol have already done some high-profile reality shows including, “The Apprentice,” “The Contender, and NBC’s terrorist-tracking reality news show, “The Wanted.” THE Company says many of the undercover filmmaking techniques utilized in “Off the Grid” were made possible by employing techniques perfected on that NBC production.

The producers spent time researching surveillance camera manufacturers looking to find innovative technologies that they could showcase as part of the show.

“After learning a bit about Axis Communications, they connected with us through our local California team. Since they sought to showcase the cutting-edge technologies that law enforcement and government agencies use today, this meant that IP-based, intelligent, high-definition (HD) cameras were a must. However they also needed products that were easy to install to fit in with the compact production schedule [the show was filmed over six hours leaving zero room for error] as well as surveillance cameras that delivered broadcast-quality images so that they could actually use video from the cameras in the show,” describes Domenic Locapo,public relations specialist, Axis.

Domenic pointed out that the show is great opportunity for the whole industry to be showcased.

“After hearing about the concept, I thought the show sounded intriguing — not only for Axis but also for our industry as a whole — and from there we worked with the producers to select Axis network cameras,” Locapo said.

Axis provided a mix of network cameras to the “Off the Grid” team, which was made up of its own production members and off-duty LAPD officers. The mix was selected so the team could set up a grid throughout the city and monitor the cameras from a central station. When selecting which cameras to provide, Locapo says Axis looked at its HDTV-quality portfolio so that footage from the network cameras themselves could be used in the show. As a bonus, since HDTV is such a major driver for IP video surveillance, he adds that it is a good opportunity to show security and law enforcement professionals that they could have the same video quality on the job that they see on their flatscreen HDTVs at home.

To ensure that the three-day setup and one-day shoot went off without a hitch, Axis enlisted the help of David Drew, one of Axis’ field sales engineers based in California. He worked with the crew to make sure the Axis products were properly integrated.

The cameras, network video recorders and software that Axis provided are listed below. For more information about the products, you can click the links.

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