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Kuwait Television launches the Middle East's first HD-ready OB truck

The sound control area employs a Studer Vista 7 audio desk.

Kuwait Television (KTV) is one of the Middle East's most influential broadcasters and is well-regarded throughout the Arab world for its coverage of politics, news and current affairs. The state owns and controls Kuwait's radio and television stations; there are no privately owned terrestrial broadcasters. KTV operates three networks and one satellite channel — an important addition in a country where satellite dishes are widely used, enabling viewers to watch popular pan-Arab broadcasts.

Although it is not currently broadcasting in HD, it does recognize that in order to prepare for the future, it needs the capacity to create HD-ready content. The broadcaster recently became the first in the Middle East to take delivery of an OB vehicle that is capable of producing HD programming.

KTV's new OB truck is 14m long and 4m high. With one side capable of expanding 1.3m to give the truck an overall width of 3.8m, the truck's dimensions are impressive. Inside, it is filled to the bursting point with some of the most high-tech audio and video equipment on the market, all of which is connected using more that 30km of cable.

From consultation to delivery of the finished vehicle, the project took one year to complete. This included systems integration, which was handled by UK company Megahertz Broadcast Systems, and coachbuilding, which was contracted by Megahertz to A Smith Gt Bentley (ASGB), a company with more than 25 years experience of constructing and completing OB vehicles.

The systems integrator began work on the new truck at the end of 2004. It was at that point that the huge white truck rolled into its UK workshops in Cambridgeshire for the start of its transformation. Inside, it was little more than a shell. To look at it, one would have never guessed that this massive vehicle would soon become a mobile television studio, equipped to handle HD broadcasting and destined to see service all over the Middle East.

The station's decision to build a new OB truck was taken long before 2004; it was originally thought that a new vehicle could be ready in time for the Gulf Cooperation Council sports tournament in 2002. However, like so many good intentions, the project kept being delayed. With technological advances in broadcasting — and the fact that KTV needed to expand its OB fleet — the project got the green light.

For the vehicle, ASGB specified a flatbed, three-axle chassis. The coachwork was custom-built so that it precisely fit the client's specifications. This meant incorporating a hydraulically driven expanding side so that when the vehicle is in use, an entire sidewall can be extended to create additional room for the broadcast engineering staff.

The company also installed air conditioning, electrics and power supplies. Racks to house the equipment and furniture were specially built and installed, and the truck's roof was strengthened so that KTV staff can use it as a camera platform when the vehicle is out in the field.

Electrical installations were tailored to suit KTV's exact requirements and were designed and incorporated by ASGB. These included complex multi-supply power distribution systems to supply racks, power sockets, lighting, air conditioning and other equipment. The coachbuilder also ensured that the vehicle was equipped with the correct level of thermal and acoustic insulation.

Once the truck had been accepted, it was time for Megahertz to get involved. The systems integrator has wide experience in every aspect of systems activity, including the management of complete turnkey projects, as well as the design and construction of sophisticated OB vehicles.

The systems intergrator worked closely with its Kuwait-based partner, Enhanced Engineering and Multi-Technologies Company (EEMC), to help specify the equipment for the vehicle and ensure that the project was completed on time and within budget. Megahertz and EEMC were chosen to handle the systems integration because KTV had used the two companies before on several major projects, most notably the refurbishment of the station's master control center. That project involved the installation of serial digital video and digital audio central routing systems to serve production studios, continuity studios, edit areas and news centers. A monitoring and alarm system on all signal paths also was included.

Finalizing an equipment list for a truck as complex as the new KTV vehicle involved hours of consultation between the station and systems integrators. This truck is one of two planned by the station. For that reason, it had to think in future terms and acquire the latest technologies in outside broadcast.

The equipment list includes seven Sony HDC-950 high-definition cameras that work over fiber. Megahertz also supplied 64×64 SD and 64×64 HD Sony routers, a Sony MVS-8000A SD/HD production switcher and a Studer Vista 7 audio desk, along with television monitors and a full range of outboard equipment.

The truck was designed in such a way that the interconnecting cables would not be damaged when the expanding side was retracted. Because the truck was equipped for HD broadcasting, Megahertz specified cables, connectors and patchbay panels that were all capable of handling a higher bandwidth signal. It chose Belden 1694A cable with BES Electronics patch panels. The systems integrator selected BNC connectors to ensure that they are capable of minimum insertion loss and 75Ω impedance up to 3GHz.

Although KTV isn't currently broadcasting in HD, having an HD OB truck means that it can produce and record programming at HD and store it so that it is there and ready to use when needed. Traditionally, the infrastructure of an installation has been designed to cope with the maximum data rate of 270Mb/s for SD digital video signals. In the case of HDTV, the data rate is 1.5Gb/s, with a third harmonic at 2.25GHz. SMPTE 292E states a required bandwidth for the interconnections of 2.4GHz. Furthermore, insertion loss at HDTV frequencies is significantly greater, and care has to be taken to keep this below 20dB. Megahertz aims for headroom of 6dB, allowing a loss of only 14dB.

Finally, in the days of analog, characteristic impedance of the interconnections was virtually ignored, with integrators happily mixing 75Ω and 50Ω components. With the advent of SDV at 270Mb/s, care had to be taken to ensure all components were truly 75Ω.

The equipment integration process culminated with a period of thorough testing and checking to make sure every single piece of equipment worked as part of the overall system. Once that was completed, the truck's livery was added to give it KTV's own branding. The truck finally left for Kuwait in March 2005.

Design Team

Alice Ford is a consultant who reports on broadcast technology.

Salah Al-Siddiqi, KTV director of studios and outside broadcasting

Megahertz Broadcast Systems, systems integration

Frances Jarvis, managing director

Steve Burgess, technical director

A Smith Gt Bentley, coachbuilder

Simon Hare, managing director

Equipment List

Enhanced Engineering and Multi-Technologies Company, specification and support

Aston Motto HD character generator

EVS LSM production server

Genelec speakers

Snell & Wilcox IQ modular distribution and interface products

Shure UHF wireless radio microphones

Sony HDC-950 SD/HD cameras, using Fischer field-repairable fiber connectors

Sony MVS-8000A SD/HD production switcher

Studer Vista 7 audio console

Trilogy Commander talkback system