PrimeVision rethinks remote audio

Improvements in the functionality, reliability and quality of digital desks has led some OB truck operators to consider using a single console for all applications
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PrimeVision uses the Studer Vista 8 console to record live audio in its HD30 remote truck.

The audio area in a television remote broadcast truck has generally taken second place to the video control and graphics areas. It is usually the smallest section in a vehicle and houses an average-sized mixing console that, until recently, was most likely analog. Now, digital audio consoles are more common. These usually offer automation and recall functions that allow engineers to reset for different scenes more quickly.

The onboard mixing console has become acceptable for use with speech on broadcasts of sport and ceremonial events. However, it is still the convention to work with a special mobile recording studio for live or as-live music and entertainment programs. Improvements in the functionality, reliability and quality of digital audio consoles have led some remote truck operators to consider using a single console installed in a dedicated area for all applications.

This reappraisal of audio is partly explained by remote truck companies' migration to HD. Multichannel 5.1 sound is regarded as the best accompaniment to HD, and operators are installing suitably equipped audio consoles. Danish company PrimeVision entered the HD market in June with the HD30 truck. This 689sq ft vehicle accommodates up to 30 cameras, 154 HD monitors, an 80-input video mixer and a Studer Vista 8 digital audio mixer.

Selecting an audio console

PrimeVision engineers built a control room in the truck that would handle all audio, eliminating the need for a mobile studio for music projects. Building a complete package not only helps cut costs but also raises the quality of the facility. Unusually, a truck's audio section has expandable sides, which is the norm for the video areas in modern remote broadcast trucks. This makes it big enough for a mixing engineer and a score reader, plus a tape operator and any additional multitrack equipment.

The broadcaster selected the Studer Vista 8 in part because of its flexibility for use with both music and sports events. It works well for recording to multitrack or for live events. Also, high-quality sound makes it suitable for all kinds of music. For multitrack recording, the desk can be used merely as a means of monitoring the incoming signals. For live broadcasts, it has the headroom to deal with sometimes overpowering orchestral instruments.

The console ranges in width from 56.14- to 118.35in, depending on the total number of faders. The broadcaster configured the truck's system with more than 250 inputs and 150 outputs. It features three bays containing a total of 30 channel strips, with the Vistonics user interface. Twelve faders control up to 52 outputs/inputs or any combination.

Console in action

The control panel also features a Vistonics interface, but with 10 faders and surround sound monitoring. Additional faders are available on a 10-fader sidecar section that can be detached from the main desk and located in the video section, so the audio engineer can work alongside the director and control the main console remotely.

HD30 recorded performances of the ballet La Sylphide, held in July at the Paris National Opera, for NHK television and later DVD release. The music was recorded through 26 microphones in the auditorium onto a TASCAM DA-98. A live stereo mix was recorded on the audio tracks of a Sony M-2000HD VTR, with a backup on tracks three and four of the DA-98. The necessary components for a 5.1 mix were recorded on the remaining six tracks.

Among the permanent gear in the audio area is a TC Electronic System 6000 for reverb and processing. Classical music is the truck's primary focus, so there is no need for racks of equalizers and processors. Audio monitoring is accomplished on Genelec 1031 loudspeakers, supported by two Studer self-powered loudspeakers.

The use of the Vista 8 audio console in its audio section has enabled PrimeVision's HD30 to use one console for audio production of both sports and live music events.

Paul Lydon is a consultant based in the UK.