Crosscreek's light heavyweight

The latest addition to Crosscreek Television Productions' fleet is Voyager VI, a 53-foot, 79,000-pound truck outfitted for 601 digital production. Commissioned in April by CBS Sports for coverage of its NFL Football and college basketball programming, the truck is a rolling television studio. Its complement includes more than 100 monitors on the front wall, an 80-input switcher with six internal DVEs, a 60-input audio console, a four-channel video server, 10 tape machines, 10 digital cameras (with inputs for a half-dozen more), 16 frame synchronizers, an abundance of signal routing capacity, and more than 100 pieces of modular gear for A/D and D/A conversion and 601 signal distribution. That equipment is connected by more than five miles of cable under the floor.

What is truly remarkable, however, is that Crosscreek fit all this gear into a weight-legal truck in just eight weeks. Harris Mueller, the company's director of engineering, credits good planning, a little luck and an exhaustive review of all components to keep the truck's weight down and its design on schedule.

The weight savings of Voyager VI literally start where the rubber meets the road. Crosscreek uses an ultra-light tractor to pull the truck. At a dry weight of 17,000 pounds, the tractor is approximately 3000 pounds lighter than conventional rigs. The truck uses aluminum tire rims that are 50 to 75 pounds lighter than those made of steel. With 18 wheels, this choice shaved 900 pounds off its weight.

"You can squeeze a lot of equipment into 900 pounds," said Mueller.

Reducing the load further are the truck's walls. Made of a plastic composite material with a honeycomb core and an aluminum skin to provide rigidity, they are approximately one-fourth the weight of conventional plywood sheathing. And where the walls have been cut to expand the truck's 36-foot street-side wall an extra five feet, pre-stressed beams provide the support necessary to ensure their structural integrity.

Internally, Crosscreek's choice of cabling saved a substantial amount of weight. Mueller chose Beldon's 1855 product because it was approximately 50 percent lighter than conventional 59 cable.

Space and weight savings also played a role in Crosscreek's choice of switcher and monitor gear. The 80-input switcher takes up 13RU with an additional 2RU for the power supply and weighs approximately 600 pounds. It's also a 110V system, which means Voyager VI doesn't have to compete for high-voltage power when it rolls onto a crowded production site. By using LCD displays instead of conventional monitors, Crosscreek trimmed another 500 pounds from the truck's overall weight.

Yet finding the right components was only half the battle. The other was getting them installed on time. Led by Mueller, Crosscreek drew up its own engineering layouts and performed its own system integration. In a stroke of luck, it found a lightweight truck already under construction that was available. Meanwhile, with the truck not yet on site, the company's technicians pre-cut cables, laid them out, and prayed they would all fit.

But perhaps the most unusual moment came when it was time to load the truck's 91-inch, 441-pound audio console. Instead of hoisting it themselves, Mueller's team struck a bargain with a couple of guys at an industrial company next door: in exchange for a few network hats, the console went up on a forklift and into the truck.

"It took all of about 10 minutes," said Darren Fordham, remote engineer at Crosscreek.

And helped the company's newest truck get rolling right on time.

The emergence of digital asset management solutions offers real benefits to the broadcasters. Specifically, the development of systems based on well-known industry standards that feature Web-based user interfaces means that these systems will be easier to implement, maintain and operate within a broadcast environment.

Still, the reason that engineers are reluctant to employ the technology is because it doesn't really solve a problem that's on their plate today. What it ensures, however, is scalability for the challenges of tomorrow.

Centralization of management functionality and resources is critical from an ownership perspective as is the efficient transmission of information, which ensures that everyone is working with the most current data set.

Whether your engineering department expresses immediate interest or not, there are three compelling arguments to adding a system: re-entering lost data, finding contents and moving them to where they should be, and sharing content in an organization.

Take for example a promo developed in the promotions department of a TV station. When it's created, that department knows where it was made, who worked on it, the start and end point of the message, etc. Most likely, that information is condensed to a tape label; something along the lines of "6 p.m. news promo." The rest of the information about its creation is lost.

Because no other details accompany the promo as it makes its way through the facility, vital information like in and out points are guessed at.

All of that promo's pertinent information was originally typed into paperwork for the order in the first place and was known by an editor or someone in production. With the right media management system in place, no extra effort on the front end of the spot's production would have meant a great deal less effort on the back end, as well as less margin for on-air error.

The replacement of videotape equipment with disk-based archives drives DAM. Video servers and archives require databases to index their content. It is optimally efficient to have computer-based systems that can track the material required from transmission and control the movement of material from the archives to digital video servers. Such a system provides for the efficient and effective transfer of content and its allied metadata, ensuring that your spot goes to air seamlessly, just as it should.