The evolving landscape of network television is being driven by harsh economic realities. The erosion of advertising revenue, as well as increased competition, have brought about radical changes in our business. Having the ability to do more with less is now the dominant paradigm. Mobile providers have responded by developing hybrid facilities, which combine satellite transmission capability with production facilities to provide increased cost efficiency. The norm has been to house these functions in separate mobile units. Satellite Digital Teleproductions (SDTV) worked with Corplex to design a new hybrid truck, ExpandoLink, to meet broadcasters' needs.
The separate audio room in SDTV’s ExpandoLink hybrid mobile unit includes an audio patchbay with 816 patch points, a 40-channel Allen & Heath Model ML4000, and an RTS SAP panel (conveniently located above the audio console). The viewing window to the production room keeps the audio on cue with video. Photos by Chip Moore, Sardis Media.
During truck design and equipment implementation, an important issue was to keep the satellite uplink and production package in an efficient configuration for ease of transport. The primary obstacle was how to incorporate the production value of a tractor-trailer into a footprint of 40 feet. The integration team had experience with building mobile expando facilities, and was in a good position to handle the challenges involved in fitting the greatest amount of equipment into the least amount of space possible. A main space-saving feature in the mobile unit is the floor-to-ceiling video/audio patch panel. The stand-alone patchbay is housed in a triangular cubicle that borders the audio room and video engineering, and provides easy access to both jack fields by the truck EIC. The original design submitted had fewer than 260 video patch points; the patch panel now in the truck has more than 806 patch points, making it more capable and flexible than the patchbays in most 53-foot trailers.
The production room’s expansive video wall is all patchable with a full 3.5M/E Sony 7350 switcher and two-channel Sony DME 3000 DVE.
The truck uses eight Sony BVP-570 triax cameras and a full-scale Sony 7350 36-input, 3.5M/E, component digital switcher, with a DMK 7000 downstream keyer and a two-channel DME 3000 for effects. Router control is by a Sony laptop computer on a pullout drawer. By using all Sony equipment, we gained complete compatibility from camera to router through the switcher onto tape machines. No special translation boxes are needed to convert Sony protocol for use with other systems.
A sideways video production monitor wall, usually only found in 48- to 53-foot production trailers, gives the engineers the feeling of being in a larger truck. The wall utilizes 42 LCD monitors and 40 black-and-white monitors. Preview is handled on 19-inch high-resolution Sony BVM series monitors, which offer excellent off-access viewing and use tallies from Carter Electronics.
A stand-alone Chyron iNFiNit! graphics workstation offers a simple interface for integrating computer graphics. It has Transform II, three extended frame buffers, version 12 software, 060 processor, TV store, 230 Bernoulli disk drive and 2Gb Jazz 250Mb Zip drives.
Router control in the production room is handled from a Sony laptop computer on a pullout drawer. The truck’s complement is all Sony equipment, eliminating the need for special translation boxes to convert Sony protocol for use with other systems.
An Allen & Heath ML4000 console was selected for audio because it includes all the necessary features for live television without the complexity involved with a digital audio board. The mobile unit features a separate audio suite — typically unheard of on a satellite truck — complete with a cart machine, CD player, compressors, intercom source assign panel and telephone line patchbay.
The truck provides multiple analog and digital uplink paths. MITEQ upconverters, Scientific-Atlanta modulators, MCL HPAs and Tiernan digital encoders are used for transmission. All units are fully redundant and dual-feed operation is available.
Lightening the load
Honeycomb composite flooring and fiberglass composite wall structures were used to save weight, rather than eliminating metal framing (steel or aluminum). The use of Belden 1855A 3GHz miniature precision video cable and the incorporation of LCD monitors also reduced the truck's weight. The team's choice of materials saved weight, heat and power in the vehicle. The finished truck with its complete equipment complement weighs in at just under 54,000 pounds.
SDTV’s ExpandoLink was designed to provide production and transmission capabilities — including eight cameras, 40 channels of audio, and analog and digital satellite uplink — in a 40-foot layout.
With this new product, extensive services are provided within an efficient package that covers any market at a fraction of the cost. The vehicle can be used in its non-expanded mode for “breaking news” projects, or expanded on site to provide an additional 45 square feet for added comfort during production. Extra-rigid material was used for the slide-out, to enable it to open even when the truck is parked on uneven ground.
By using the ExpandoLink over a similar two-truck package, a conservative daily savings estimate can be between 15 percent and 20 percent. This can add up quickly to a budget value of a $1000 per day.
Jennifer Soule is director of sales and marketing at SDTV.
Technology at work
7350 production switcher
DVS 64×64 serial component digital video router
Digital BVW D75 VTRs
DVW-500 Digital Betacam VTR
DNW A45 Beta SX studio editing deck
BVP-570 triax cameras
Betacam SP ENG camera package
ECM-77 lavalier mics
MDS-B5 Mini Disc
DMK 7000 and two-channel DME 3000
Accom Abekas still store system
Pixel Instruments VS5200 frame syncs
Leitch DPS-575 frame sync conversion
PESA Cougar 32×32 stereo analog audio router
ESE master clock/time code generator
Wohler audio monitors
Tektronix 1710B and 1750 waveform/vectorscope
Canon 18×1 lens with internal focus
Cartoni Delta two-stage tripods
Chyron iNFiNiT! CG/Transform II
Allen & Heath ML4000 40-input audio console
Stanton S-500 professional dual CD player
DK Audio stereo phase scope and analyzer
Genelec nearfield powered bi-amp'd speakers
E 845 stick mics
RTS intercom and IFB system