Much like other broadcasting centers, tv production center zürich (tpc) has been working through the implications of migrating from SD to HD. In 2008, as part of our HD rollout, we began development on a new HD OB truck. But with the distance limitations of coaxial cable and the needs of often complex, live, OB applications, we needed a new solution. We needed a box that combines all the necessary signals (video, audio, RS-422, GPI and Ethernet) in a single multifiber cable feeding a remote box.
Having used Nevion Flashlink fiber transport and signal processing systems for the past eight years without any problems, we decided to contact AVC-Systems, its dealer in Switzerland, about the idea for a simple but robust application: a small water-resistant box with up to five cards for different signals with BNC and XLR connectors on the back plate. We took some drawings and blueprints to Nevion, and the company came back with fully executed drawings and design solutions. After making some refinements in a second meeting, the new solution was born. The process took less than four months, and in October 2009, we had our first two boxes in hand to test with our new OB truck.
FlashCase portable housing is designed to be used with up to five standard Flashlink fiber transport or signal processing modules, connecting camera sites to production trucks or other facilities through a lightweight optical fiber cable. Using optical fiber rather than triax cable substantially increases distance capabilities and eliminates ground current loops, while provisioning for multiple signals in the same cable simplifies cabling infrastructure and reduces setup time.
The box is designed for maximum portability. Fully loaded, it weighs about 11lb, and at 9.5in × 14in × 4in, it's small enough for easy storage and OB van deployment. Because it's populated with Flashlink modules, it's power-efficient, with no fans to clean or replace. It's also highly resistant to the elements, and it features rugged design and materials.
The Flashlink modules support a wide variety of system configurations, including embedding, signal processing, format conversion, synchronization, WDM/CWDM/DWDM optical multiplexing and TDM electrical multiplexing applications. Any audio, video, data or fiber connector can be used through optional customized back plates. It also offers full monitoring and control capabilities.
Flashlink is ideal for scalable system designs, allowing additional services to be added on-site. It enables optical multiplexing of several broadcast signals, including bidirectional HD-SDI video with audio embedding, intercom and remote camera control through standard RS communication, and GPI for use with multiple fibers or on a single fiber using CWDM optical multiplexing. A separate Ethernet connection can also be added.
The unit's portability and feature set make it highly versatile and suitable for a range of applications, such as fiber-optic extension or connection for production trucks; audio, video and data transport; video trunking or return video; or as a studio/event relay box or stage box.
Using fiber-optic cables allows us to transport a range of signals, from audio, RS-422, GPI and Ethernet in addition to video, all with a common fiber cable and over long distances. It's a multifunctional tool that we can use for day-to-day applications such as live HD productions, but we expect the functionality and versatility to grow according to our production needs.
Heinz Kohler is video engineer, outside broadcast, at tpc.