In April 2009, Game Creek Video was busy planning "Legends," a new 53-foot HD sports production trailer that was be assigned to the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Network. Its mission: To serve as MSG's new mobile production facility for New York Knicks NBA games and New York Rangers NHL games.
Game Creek Video's Legends 53-foot HD sports production trailer serves as the new mobile production facility for the Madison Square Garden Network. Things were going along fine for Game Creek until April 9, when disaster struck. At 3 a.m., the company's newest 53-foot HD production trailer named Liberty caught fire on an East Texas Freeway. Even today, no one knows why the fire—first noticed in a wheel well—occurred, but the results were catastrophic: Liberty was a total write-off. So how was Game Creek going to keep its commitment to ESPN, Liberty's primary user, to cover primetime football games starting in mid-August?
"Not having a truck in Liberty's place was out of the question," said Pat Sullivan Game Creek president. "So right then and there we decided to build an identical replacement unit also called Liberty. The tough part was getting it done in time. To meet our commitment with ESPN, we had to somehow cut months out of the production process—and still get Legends done as well."
Both Legends and Liberty are high-end HD mobile production units. As a result, they include the latest in HD equipment. Specifically, Legends is equipped with 12 Sony 1500R cameras with Canon lenses; GVG Kalypso HD production switcher; Calrec Alpha Bluefin audio console with 88 faders; PESA 288x576 HD video router and a PESA 704x576 audio router plus embedding and de-embedding internal to the video router.
After a truck fire destroyed the original Liberty truck, Game Creek built the new Liberty2 as a replacement. Meanwhile, the rebuilt Liberty—it expands on both sides while Legends only expands on the curb side—has 13 Sony 1500 cameras with Canon lenses; a GVG Kayenne HD production switcher; Calrec Alpha Bluefin audio console with 96 faders; PESA 384x720 HD video router and a PESA 1152x1152 audio router, also with embedding and de-embedding internal to the video router.
"The Kayenne is the only major change from the original Liberty, which had a Kalypso," said Ian Bowker, principal/owner of ICON Broadcast Integration, which was contracted to integrate both trucks at Game Creek's facilities. (Both trailer bodies were built by Gerling & Associates.)
Sullivan conferred with his staff the very day that Liberty caught fire. "We put our heads together, to try and figure out how we were going to juggle these two jobs. In particular, we had to figure out how we were going to get Liberty rebuilt and completed in time for mid-August."
There were two factors playing in Game Creek's favor. Since Liberty2 would be a clone of the first truck, a full set of plans and equipment specifications already existed. Second, Legends was actually a copy of the company's Northstar production trailer, built in 2007.
The rush schedule meant that two-thirds of Game Creek's truck bays had to be turned over to the projects, as did most of the company's manpower. "To cope with the schedule, we assigned separate teams to each project, and then broke these teams into smaller groups dealing with separate areas at the same time," Bowker says. "For instance, I took care of the cables, getting them precut to length and preshrunk offsite. This allowed us to speed up the process."
Liberty2's monitor wall Even with these efficiencies, meeting the goal posed real challenges. One of these was the never-ending fight against weight. To ensure that both trailers remained under their maximum weight ratings, close attention had to be paid to keeping cable runs as short as possible, and getting rid of anything that could be eliminated. "It's just a matter of getting 5 pounds into a 1-pound bag," Bowker quips. "It helps that neither truck uses heavier CRT monitors. LCDs do lighten the load."
A second issue was the also-constant problem of shoehorning full-sized production equipment into truck trailers. In particular, "Getting the big Calrec Alpha Bluefin board into the truck is always a challenge," said Bowker. "It is a huge piece of equipment and it is quite heavy. To get it into the MSG truck, we needed close to a dozen people to manhandle it into place." Fortunately, "Liberty was easier to work with, because of the expando. If needed, you can remove the floor and forklift the board into the truck from below."
Nineteen weeks passed from the day Game Creek received the devastating news until both Legends and the new Liberty were both on the road and working for clients. Those 19 weeks were a time of feverish multi-tasking, with different teams poring over both trailers like ants. But Game Creek's and ICON's joint strategy paid off: "We didn't do any overtime on the two truck builds," says Bowker. "In fact, we finished MSG four, five days early, giving us more resources to work on Liberty2."
As planned, Legends was ready to shoot its first show, a MLS game for the New England Revolution in Foxboro, Mass. on August 1. Meanwhile, Liberty was ready for its first scheduled shoot later that month, also for the New England Revolution MLS team.
"Thanks to hard work by everyone involved, we managed to get both trucks ready and on the road as promised," said Sullivan. "I am proud of the trucks we built, but I am more proud of the people that designed, engineered, integrated and logistically supported them."
James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.
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