Hudson, NH In the process of designing a new mobile truck, one of the most critical and often under-appreciated systems is the intercom system. We can have the latest video and audio gear in the truck, but without solid communication to tie the infrastructure together, a crew cannot work effectively as a production team.
Jason Taubman, VP of Design & New Technology for Game Creek Video, knows what critical communication means in a broadcast environment:
“Prior to launching Game Creek Videos’ latest and largest mobile unit for Fox Sports in the fall for NFL and NASCAR, we had many new design challenges in communication that were met with some of the latest capabilities of the ADAM intercom system; dual buss expansion, intercom over Ethernet with RVON, as well as time-tested traditional two-wire party line intercom. The ‘Fox Trucks’ as they are collectively known, initially rolled out the door as a three-truck system for NFL, and has grown to five trucks for NASCAR broadcasts.” explains Jason
Utilizing a patented Time Division Multiplex (TDM) technique, the ADAM grows linearly as users are added; the system comes standard with redundant power supplies, and redundant controllers, allowing for automatic changeover in the event of failure.
ADAM is available with a wide variety of interface cards in the industry, which includes the AIO-8, AIO-16, AES-3, and RVONVoIP interfaces. It also has a wide variety of cabling options, including RJ-11, DB-9, jack fields, and many others.
“At the centre of the five-truck system are two trucks: the A unit, which houses the core engineering infrastructure, and the B unit where the majority of the production staff is located. To satisfy the intercom requirements for these trucks we equipped both trucks with ADAM frames, and linked them together with RTS dual-buss expander cards. These trucks are typically located side-by-side, but we had to allow for the possibility that some distance would separate them, so we used dual buss expander cards with single mode fibre to bridge the gap. This allowed us to place the trucks just about anywhere within a venue compound without fear of cable distance limitations. Additionally, the architecture of the dual buss expander provides for complete redundancy in case a fibre gets cut.“
RTS has been the system of choice for mobile broadcast for years. The combination of rock-solid reliability, use of cutting-edge technologies, and seamless integration of legacy components makes RTS an ideal investment for a mobile environment.
“In previous intercom designs, we were starting to bump up against the size limitation of 136 intercom ports in a single ADAM frame populated with AIO-8 cards. RTS solved this problem for us with the introduction of the AIO-16, which doubles the port capacity of a single slot from 8 ports to 16. Combining RVON cards (see below) with the AIO-16 cards, we created an intercom system with 192 ports in the A unit, and 40 ports in the B unit for a combined matrix size of 232 ports. The AIO-16 card also came with a surprise additional benefit: intercom keypanels connected to an AIO-16 card no longer need to be pre-programmed with a keypanel address; a process which has always been a bit of a thorn.”
“Once we had the A and B units taken care of, we had to figure out how to extend intercom keypanels to three additional trucks and two remote locations around the track for NASCAR events without the expense and complexity of using full ADAM frames. For these locations we used RVON, RTS’ VoIP intercom solution. An RVON-8 card installed in an ADAM frame provides 8 RVONVoIP codecs, which use Ethernet for transport. Combined with an RVON-I/O, we are able to send intercom channels in groups of 8 to remote locations over single mode fibre.”
Coupled with the same VoIP technology used with the RVON-8, the RVON-I/O takes analog audio and converts it to digital VoIP audio. By being able, to convert analog audio systems to digital VoIP audio the RVON-I/O expands the boundaries of digital audio to include analog.
“In some locations, we used an RVON-I/O to extend 8 keypanels, and in other locations, a mix of two-wire PLs created with RTS SSA-424s (two- to four-wire converts) and keypanels. We are also making use of single KP-32 keypanels equipped with RVON cards in various locations throughout the compound where a single keypanel drop is required.“
The RTS model KP-32 keypanel fits in a standard 19” rack and is two rack spaces high. It has 32 lever keys: 30 keys are for intercom talk/listen assignment; one key is for call waiting response; and one key is for headset/microphone/program selection and volume setup. The KP-32 combines all of the programmable features of the KP-9x series keypanels and the KP-12 keypanel. It adds significant new features such as digital signal processing and binaural headset operation with left/right assignment of audio signals. The KP-32 also introduces large, super-bright, long-life fluorescent displays with adjustable brightness control, making it suitable for all types of ambient lighting from direct sunlight to darkness.
“The ability of new intercom technology to interface with old ‘legacy’ intercom components remains important, and RTS continues to offer a line of two-wire PL and IFB products that work with the ADAM intercom system just like they always have. In this installation, we continue to support 12 channels of ‘wet’ PL and 16 ‘wet’ IFB channels, with their associated external hardware provided by RTS.”
For more information, visit the RTS Intercom website: www.rtsintercoms.com
Photos & commentary courtesy of Jason Taubman for Game Creek Video