Multiviewers: A Natural for Trucks

NASHVILLE, TENN.—The mobile production units of Tennessee Digital Video—"TNDV" for short—have some major TV shows on their resumes, including "The Grand Ole Opry Live!," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and "The Madden Challenge at Super Bowl XLVI," among many others.

TNDV's "Aspiration" HD/SD expando flagship production unit is equipped with Harris HView SX Hybrid series of multiviewers, which are integrated into Aspiration's Harris Platinum series routers. The HViews allow Aspiration's operators to display multiple video windows on each of the unit's large HDTV flat panel monitors. (TNDV has also installed HViews in its "Inspiration" mobile unit.)

The HView system also allows TNDV to create specific templates for each of their clients with each template specifying the video window setup for a given production. Restoring the monitor wall to those settings is as simple as clicking on a saved "Preset" button.


Compared to a hard-wired wall of dedicated video monitors, a multiviewer is much faster to set up and change from show to show. This is an important factor, according to TNDV President Nic Dugger.

"In a truck environment, many of the crew change daily," he said. "The A1, the Shader, even the TDs and Tape Ops all have different preferences for not only what they see, but where and how large. With the multiviewers, I can save all of these presets and reconfigure the entire truck with just a few clicks of the mouse per event or per crew.

"Additionally, creating efficient confidence environments for my clients is much faster with a multiviewer," Dugger added. "I can build looks that brands the event or the production company on the fly while allowing all levels of crew to monitor and critique all cameras, recording, and switching—and folks love this."

Dugger sums up the multiviewer advantage in one word: Flexibility. It comes from a multiviewer's ability to select and switch multiple inputs to video windows within a monitor screen. That's a flexibility hardwired dedicated monitors cannot match.

TND V's "Aspiration" HD /SD expando flagship production unit is equipped with Harris HView SX Hybrid series of multiviewers, which are integrated into Aspiration's Harris Platinum series routers.
If this was the only advantage offered by multiviewers, it would likely be enough. But this technology has other pluses.

For instance, a Miranda Kaleido-Modular 8-input, 2-output multiviewer "only consumes 12 Watts per quad split [four images per monitor]," said Louis Caron, Miranda's senior product manager. "You can put up to 20 quad-splits into a 3RU frame and still only consume 240 Watts of power."

Because they require far less cabling than dedicated monitors, multiviewers don't add as much weight to the production unit, said Thomas Tang, president of Apantac in Portland, Ore. "Our Tahoma multiviewers also take up less space, generate far less heat and are extremely quiet," he told TV Technology. "The savings are reflected in the truck using less fuel on the road, and less energy to drive equipment and air conditioning."

Another advantage of multiviewers is the ease in which they can be adapted to new units, according to Don Bird, Wohler's chief marketing officer for Wohler in San Francisco.

"The best part is that these multiviewer advantages can be extended to older mobile units through retrofits," he said. "For instance, our RMV16 family of multiviewers is very popular for refits in South America, where news organizations are preparing to cover the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil."


For his part, Dugger is sold on multiviewers, however, he admits that some TNDV customers have required convincing.

"Confidence in resolution has been the only pushback I have received from clients," he said, "especially those who work in color correction or post production. They still often require a full screen, in some cases CRT, displaying the program feed for confidence." That said, once the dedicated and multiviewer video feeds are seen side-by-side, "There have been many remarks about how accurate the representation via the multiviewers has been," he observed.

As for installing a multiviewer in a mobile production unit? "The configuration is not for the casual user," Dugger replied. "But to date all of my staff engineers have found the software to be very user friendly and easy to navigate."

Once the HViews were installed, using them has proven to be a pleasure even under pressure. "In one case, at the Super Bowl Gospel music event, the director changed the layout of the entire wall just moments before we went live," said Dugger. "The EIC was able to change the PIP configuration, update the UMDs, and re-route the tally lights with moments to spare."

Bottom line, multiviewers deliver flexibility, performance and cost savings in mobile production units. This is why multiviewers are the trend in mobile trucks. Dedicated monitors—CRTs or flat panels—are rapidly becoming a relic of the past.

James Careless

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.