NEP to Begin Construction on ‘Largest Mobile Production Unit in the U.S.’

PITTSBURGH—George Hoover, chief technology officer at NEP Communications, says that the Pittsburgh-based provider of mobile video production trucks will begin construction on a new television production truck codenamed “Project Madison” this month.

When complete, Project Madison will have “the ability to produce in 1080p, which is one of the client requirements” and “will be the largest mobile production unit in the United States,” Hoover says. The 53-foot double expando will be comprised of four tractor-trailers with the ability to support about 40 cameras.

“Most mobile units that are purpose-built have one or two trailers. Sometimes people will bring multiple two trailer units together for a big show like the Super Bowl, but this is the largest single-designed on,” Hoover says, adding that the client—whom he declined to identify—also specified that there should be “over 90 positions in the trailers for operators.”

Intended for sports coverage, Project Madison will deploy this summer, after over a year and a half of planning and construction. That’s considerably longer than the average timeline, Hoover says, explaining that they usually deliver a truck within 180-240 days of the initial client request.

“That was a deliberate, conscious decision on everybody’s part, to allow time to really do new product, new technology, new approach research,” he said. “We’re all sitting here in January going, you know, I really wish we had a couple more months.”’

Like the company, the truck will be based in Pittsburgh, but Hoover doesn’t think it will spend much time there. “Our client has made a major commitment to its schedule, but there are opportunities that it could do other projects throughout the year,” he says.

“It’s going to have a lot of new, innovative, cutting-edge technology, both in the video, audio and replay devices, along with this extremely large router with many, many channels of audio, in and out, in the multiples of 10s of thousands,” Hoover says.

The router Hoover is referring to is an Evertz EQX, which he said gives them “massive routing in the smallest footprint.”

According to Hoover, the truck will be unique in that it will employ Calrec audio consoles with a CTA central routing core. “It will allow the two consoles to operate seamlessly together with access to every input and output and control over all of them,” he explains, adding the routing device  enables Calrec consoles to fully share and control resources.

The truck will also utilize a large 9.5 M/E production switcher that will have multiple control panels operating off of it for different programs. The unit also has three separate control rooms for different content streams.

“You need to plan for a long life. You need to plan for quick setup and tear down, so it’s all inter-connected by a minimal amount of fiber optic cable, so that setup is fast and easy,” Hoover explains. “There’s a lot of hardware to deploy, so I don’t want to spend hours hooking up trucks.”

Given the truck’s size, Hoover says that part of the reason they took so much time and care in designing it was based on a desire to make a truck that was both future proof and innovative. “That was our goal—to make the most innovative and state–of-the-art television truck in the year 2013.”