The YES Network is expanding its HD footprint, thanks to a production truck with satellite uplink—and a strategy to structure the cost.
"The big issue was getting to a price point that would make it affordable for us to go forward with this," said Ed Delaney, vice president of operations for the New York-area regional cable sports channel.
L-3 Wolf Coach in Canton, Mass. is building a 40-foot straight box (vs. tractor trailer type) truck with a satellite dish at an estimated cost of "somewhere between $3 million and $5 million," according to Delaney.
Metrovision, a New York City-based media services provider, agreed to finance the truck. It's also capitalizing HD equipment for the "Mike'd Up: Francesa on the Fan" studio, which provides nearly 40 hours per week of programming (more during the NFL season) uplinked to the YES hub in Stamford, Conn.
An outline of YES Network's new Metrovision truck
Previously, HD simulcasts of Mike Francesa's show aired only when YES was not televising a Yankees or Nets game. All his shows are now in HD, thanks to a Snell Kahuna HD switcher, six AJA FS-1 frame syncs, a six-channel HD EVS XT system, two mounted Sony HD cameras, a Chyron HyperX3 graphics system, Sony HDCAM tape decks and other Metrovision-supplied equipment.
The new truck will also enable HD and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound broadcasts of all Francesa remotes, YES Network coverage of college football and basketball telecasts, and other special events. Metrovision will rent out the truck when YES is not using it.
"There are no incremental costs," said Delaney, in explaining his network's bookkeeping. "This [production cost] was in the budget of our year-to-year projects."
Metrovision contracted HD-2 in late July, with delivery expected in January.
"This is a new generation production truck," said Tom Jennings, L-3 Wolf Coach's director of broadcast sales. His company was building a twin version for Wisconsin Public Television.
The truck features a full length 60-inch expandable section (vs. the usual 40-45 inches) with "flat floor all the way through," according to Jennings. Unlike most hybrid trucks, the satellite dish is mounted in front.
"It's [an] all-aluminum, high-strength precision design that allows us to place the antenna on the front of the box, recessing just the feed assembly into the roof, and allowing the reflector to sit flat on the roof," Jennings added. "It allows the overall height not to exceed 13 feet 6 inches, and the overall length not to exceed 40 feet [without] losing a stitch of headroom inside the vehicle."
Jennings attributes this feat to creative engineering in accommodating Metrovision's request to have the air conditioning in the back (the satellite has to be at the opposite end).
"We re-routed the air conditioning to create a void in the roof to allow the satellite dish to be set in without using any headroom in the truck," he said.
Space utilization was also key to comfortably seat 18 techs (YES Network's Delaney said 16 techs were generally used to cover a college football game). Moreover, said Jennings, they can walk from one end of the truck to the other inside the truck—they don't have to exit the truck to go into the different production compartments. And there's plenty of room for gear.
"The air conditioning duct is designed in such a way that the racks can go anywhere in the truck," said Jennings. L-3 Wolf Coach came up with a Web design for the racks to optimize their size and placement. "It doesn't use a lot of big welded tubes, so we were able to compress the racks together."
The truck also accommodates considerably more wiring than most, a feat facilitated by Belden.
"Belden has introduced some new, very high efficiency, thin coax and audio cables," said Jennings.
YES sideline reporter Dan Fleschner interviews Bulldogs forward Ross Morin after Yale beat the Princeton Tigers in February.
The truck's wiring scheme also optimizes communication among the EVS units. Metrovision president Jim McGillion said the truck will have three EVS XT-2 6-channel servers, plus an X-file unit used for storage and archiving. All units will be connected through a central X-Hub in a high bandwidth, media-sharing network, he said.
Metrovision specified the inclusion of an RF Transmitting System built around Sat-Lite Technologies' Peloris 1.8 meter KU Antenna, according to McGillion. Two MCL MT3400 400 watt travelling-wave tube amplifiers on the roof maximize the gain of the antenna, enabling the use of a smaller dish to transmit the HD signals.
McGillion also pointed out that the truck will be MPEG-4 capable. "It's the newest encoding scheme, which allows more information on smaller bandwidth, providing cost savings for the satellite user," he said.
Metrovision has ordered NTT Electronics' HV9100 series encoder/decoders and HVD6100 integrated receiver decoders which will be upgraded to MPEG-4. All units will have BISS encryption and Dolby Digital (AC3) audio, and will be able to boot up in only 15 seconds, thanks to an ASIC solution developed in house.
Metrovision chose 16 X50 single-channel processors, a Platinum video router with integrated Centrio multiviewer, and a Platinum audio router with TDM architecture from Harris. The system "takes advantage of the cross points of the routers," said McGillion. As such, it conserves space and weight, boosts efficiency, and enables easier expandability.
To better accommodate higher bandwidth needs, more fiber (plus Cat6 and Cat7 cable) has been incorporated into the truck infrastructure, according to McGillion. Fiber will reach from the bay stations to the camera heads, and a fiber system will be used for kits at the announcer booths. "It speeds up set up time," he said. "It's also taking advantage of the new infrastructure in the stadiums; some of the stadiums have fiber in their bulkhead systems, so we don't have to run DT12 cable or big triax cable. You can send 10-20 signals on one fiber cable [versus] single strands of cable running from truck to truck to truck or [into] the stadium."