When Nic Dugger, president and owner of Nashville, TN-based mobile production company TNDV, built his second HD-capable production truck “Aspiration” in 2010, he had high hopes that he could keep the truck on the road and recoup his investment in short order. The name suggested as much.
Some 25 months later, Dugger and his crew are celebrating the 100th event produced with the truck, which has more than lived up to its name. The milestone event was produced on-site in Louisville, KY, where the company handled outside broadcast and in-house feeds for the annual National Quartet Convention (NQC); a world-renowned six-day gospel music event.
The in-the-round event was captured for later broadcast on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), with veteran TV producer and director Russell Hall overseeing the 10-camera shoot on board Aspiration.
“In 25 months, Aspiration has done 100 unique shoots with unique load-in and load-out processes, often for multiday events,” said Dugger, adding that his company has since launched three additional trucks (for a total of five vehicles of varying size and capabilities), including its audio-only support truck, called “Vibration.” TNDV also brought Vibration to the NQC production to produce surround sound feeds (5.1 and 7.2) and multitrack recordings for the event.
The Aspiration truck, built and designed by Gerling and Associates, is a 40ft model, making it more affordable for a wider variety of live production clients looking for less cameras and crew than what you might find on a larger 53ft truck. It accommodates 17 crew positions and features 12 Hitachi Z-5000 multiformat HDTV cameras, a Harris Platinum router with an integrated Harris SX Hybrid multiviewer, a Ross Vision HD production switcher, a 72-track Soundcraft Vi4 digital audio console, AJA Video Systems Ki-Pro recorders, a Plura Broadcast FTM-043-3G field test monitor, Panasonic BT-LH2550 LCD monitors, Marshall Electronics V-R1042 in-monitor displays and an RTS Matrix intercom system.
Aspiration was the first mobile production truck in the southeastern United States to support live, multicamera 3-D productions and is specifically targeted toward video production services for broadcast TV, worship events and corporate video projects; as well as concerts, ceremonies and other live events.
“It’s small enough to fit in some unusual places, but has an expandable side to accommodate a larger crew,” Dugger said.
The NQC project was particularly challenging, according to Dugger, with lots of pre-planning and coordination involved.
“There was a crew member for each position — something not done very often today — which allowed TNDV engineers to truly service everyone involved instead of covering open positions,” he said. “It’s ultimately our jobs to make sure these portable facilities work just like their home studios, which allows everyone to work in complete comfort.”
Indeed, Aspiration has allowed TNDV to double the crew positions for big events, allowing it to employ additional tape operators, shaders and audio personnel among other staff. “This greatly enhances our production environment and allows us to better accommodate clients on board.”
Dugger said competing against the bigger established production companies, which have larger crews and many more trucks in their fleet, has not been as hard as one might expect. His rates are lower — his services are comparable with anyone’s, he said — and his staff is young and energetic, not “jaded.” They also make use of “non-traditional;” equipment, such as a Blackmagic graphics card and a laptop to produce on-air graphics, when appropriate. He also is worked hard to leverage integrated production systems from a variety of vendors that substitute for “thousands of dollars worth” of traditional gear.
“Regardless of the equipment we use, I let our work speak for itself,” Dugger said, adding that budgets continue to be limited and today’s most successful production companies clearly recognize that. His new aspiration: to produce another 100 events in the next year or two.
Other recent productions include the live concert productions at the NCAA Final Four, the 2013 Re/Max Long Drive Challenge on ESPN and the inaugural season of “Sing for Your Supper” on PBS.