Spacious, roomy and warm are not terms used to describe the working environment onboard a typical HD mobile production truck, but virtually everyone that has been through the new Univision HD truck, built by The Systems Group (TSG) of Hoboken, NJ, has said the same thing: They all marvel at the “great sense of space.”
Designed to handle entertainment projects almost exclusively, the new 53ft double-expando (60in on curbside and 24in street side for the production area monitor wall) rig was built for Univision/Telefuturo and hit the road in February, having recently completed its third HD telecast. The truck is mainly used for long-form series and various reality shows on the Spanish-language network, whereby the truck usually parks next to Univision's remote studio spaces in Miami and serves as a virtual extension of Univision's all-HD facility.
Under the leadership of Paul Rogalinski, director of project integration, TSG was tasked with completing the project under a tight 11-week build-out window that began last December. That's when Gerling & Associates delivered the finished chassis from its Specter series. TSG staff then integrated the technology at its facilities in New Jersey and delivered the show-ready trailer to Univision on Feb. 18. Gerling designed the truck's interior, with lots of input from Univision and TSG.
Single EIC control
For Univision, owning and operating its own truck is not a new strategy. To ensure success with this substantial upgrade, the network had a number of requirements that had to be incorporated in order to accommodate its in-house crew. One criterion was that a single engineer-in-charge (EIC) had to be able to control the entire equipment complement from a central location. The latest version of Evertz's Magnum Unified Control software, as well as Evertz VistaLINK and SNMP monitoring and control, make that happen.
Looking to future-proof the truck, its core infrastructure is entirely 3Gb/s compatible, including all of the video cabling, the Evertz EQX router (192 × 160 matrix, with a capacity of 256 × 256), modular terminal and processing gear, and the patch bays. This makes it suitable for all types of HD and even 3-D projects. The only things not 3-D ready at this point are the 11 Ikegami HL-79E cameras and the Grass Valley Kayenne HD production switcher and video monitoring. The truck is wired for 16 cameras, but it could easily accommodate 32 cameras with a bit of extra cabling.
One of the challenges was implementing new and existing equipment into a cohesive whole. The Calrec Sigma console onboard, for example, was taken from the previous SD truck Univision had been using and has now been upgraded and set up to mix 5.1 surround-sound telecasts.
IT-centric live production
The truck features a substantial IT equipment complement, complete with more than 190 Ethernet ports. There are three fully populated Extreme Network 4840 broadcast LANs and an additional 48-port Cisco switch for the enterprise LAN — which connects back to Univision, either over a 1Gb/s or 10Gb/s fiber hop — for the VoIP phone system. There is a 10Gb/s network backbone in each of the rooms onboard. This data network also accommodates IP connectivity for intercom functions, making the system seem like it is functioning inside of the Univision building.
The truck can also distribute a production when required, using four unique fiber transmission paths, each with its own proc amp and encoder. It can send signals as SD-SDI, HD-SDI, and 3G over dedicated fiber.
The interior features four main areas. From the front there's the engineering and video control area, videotape and editorial, production control room (with two rows), and audio mixing (Calrec Sigma console) in the rear. There's also a green room outside of the audio area.
The engineering area includes six core equipment racks, the EIC workstation and the video shading console, complete with two Ikegami CRT monitors. Otherwise, the truck features all HD LCD panels.
The tape and editorial area features a variety of tape machines as well as an Apple Final Cut Pro system, where some live show segments are sometimes cut on the spot.
Production room with a multiview
The production control area features a large virtual monitor wall, made up of 15 46in NEC LCD flat panels mounted on Parker Profile Extrusions. The wall is powered by Evertz VIP series multiviewers (VIP-X and VIP-A modules), which are driven by the EQX router. Additional VIP-A multiviewer boards provide monitoring at the audio control position.
The production area features two separate rows for the crew: a five-position front bench and a four-position left-rear bench for graphics, and a two-position, right-rear bench for prompter and clip replay operators. The benches are shorter than usual, but allow for six RU turrets for LCD monitors on the benches. Instead of using typical “doghouse” enclosures, they used extruded aluminum frames, Parker profile extrusions and TBC Consoles arms to mount LCD and VGA monitors. Due to the 60in expandable curbside wall, there's more than enough room for the crew to work.
HD graphics are created with a dual-channel Chyron HyperX3 and dual-channel Vizrt platforms. There are also four dual channels of HD replay (via Grass Valley K2 Summit servers), driven by a Kayenne HD production switcher. And there are four channels of Chyron XClyps. A full complement of EVS live production technology, in the form of two six-channel XT2 servers — along with an EVS XFile and an IPDirector — are used primarily for editorial, record and transmission to master control.
The audio mixing area is also steeped in Multichannel Audio Digital Interface (MADI) networking equipment. The audio router is an Evertz EMR, which mates to the EQX video router via a large TDM matrix. Also, to conserve weight and space, MADI is used as the link between the audio console and the audio router. There are 256 channels of MADI going from the audio console to the audio router and 256 channels of MADI between the EQX video router and the Calrec console.
Of course, lots of room is one thing, but as anyone in the truck business knows, overall weight is a major concern when transporting production vehicles over state highways. Mitch Simchowitz, senior consulting engineer at TSG, said meeting Department of Transportation (DOT) standards for weight was a key concern and was taken into account for all parts of the truck design. In fact, they went to great lengths to carefully select equipment and related technology that would not exceed the legal limits.
Simchowitz said he's most proud of the fact that the truck, with a full 100 gallons of fuel, comes in at 74,600lbs, or 5600lbs under the legal limit. He called that “extremely light,” due to the voluminous amount of equipment and extensive use of Belden 1855A cabling inside the truck (as long as the distances met the 3Gb/s spec) and 1694A cable for every video cable that hit the curbside I/O. They also moved the audio router and audio terminal gear to the back of the truck, which saved roughly 400lbs.
In the end, Rogalinski said this was a challenging project to complete, not only due to the short time frame, but also the complex logistics of having to coordinate the reuse of legacy equipment and the installation of equipment ordered directly by the client, as well as additional new gear to complete the final design. It necessitated a lot of project management and client coordination. To help, TSG used a Web-based project management tool called AXIS, which allowed the company to share design documentation and project status remotely with the client as well as quickly getting approvals, saving a lot of time and effort during the project for both parties.
Getting back to the roomy feeling onboard, the truck's internal space is really an illusion made possible by the creative use of space, making it feel larger. It's not any bigger than any of the other recent HD trucks that have hit the road in the past year. That use of space is so well articulated that TSG is now readjusting the front bench to allow it to slide up and back 6in-8in to give the director, TD and producer a better view of the entire wall. This moveable front bench is unique among most production trucks.
Michael Grotticelli regularly reports on the professional video and broadcast technology industries.
Bert Delgado, VP of production
Don Lamy, director of engineering
Nick Tejero, production technical manager
Simon Garcia, production technical supervisor
The Systems Group:
Paul L. Rogalinski, director project integration
Mitch Simchowitz, senior consulting engineer
Craig Tabler, integration manager
Rachel Pomerantz, project engineer
Jeff Rivera, project engineer
Technology at work
Avocent KVM switching system
Belden coax, network and fiber-optic cabling
Calrec Sigma audio mixing console
Canon HD lenses
HyperX3 graphics system
XClyps clip server
EMR audio router
EQX HD video router
Magnum Unified Control software
VIP multiviewer software
VistaLINK and SNMP monitoring and control
XFile file storage system
XT2 HD servers
K2 Summit HD servers
Kayenne HD production switcher
CRT and LCD monitors
HL-79E HD cameras
NEC 46in LCD flat panels
Parker Profile Extrusions
Vizrt graphics platform
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