On The Road With Sony's MVP

The Sony Mobile Video Producer (MVP) had its maiden voyage at this year’s Big 12 Baseball Championship tournament in Oklahoma City, OK. The tournament, held in AT&T Bricktown Park, home of the AAA Oklahoma RedHawks, consisted of 13 games over four days this past May. The fact that the weather alternated between cold and rainy or hot and damp only made for a more thorough test of the unit.

According to Peter DiIorio, senior marketing manager, systems solutions, Sony Electronics, the trailer’s debut in Oklahoma City went very well. The biggest hurdle to overcome was something that could happen to any remote broadcasting crew.

“Our fiber cables were kind of torn up by one of the groundskeepers accidentally clipping into it, so we had to do typical field stuff--taking the cables out, putting new ones in, laying new cables in the dark,” said DiIorio.

The MVP, which made its debut at NAB2007, is a new breed of mobile production truck. Conceived for the purposes of mostly regional low-end sports production, this 24-foot long by 8-foot wide trailer can be towed by any vehicle with a standard class 3 hitch. This flexibility eliminates any need for a dedicated driver with a special license, creating cost savings.

Not meant to replace larger vehicles, but really to supplement them on a fleet, the inside of the trailer is a scaled-down version of a big truck. The MVP caters to customers looking for flexibility and affordability while maintaining high production quality. The main differences are not in the caliber of equipment, but rather in the quantity. Through good engineering, all that’s needed to produce an event is right there inside a compact package.

The MVP carried four cameras for this job (it can hold up to six). The lineup consisted of three Sony HDCX300K box HD cameras with Camplex fiber interfaces, plus one Sony XDCAM F350 HD camcorder, which doubled as a field production camera. Also on board was a Sony MFS-2000 multi-format switcher with 16 inputs and 2 M/E. A Sony PDW-F70 XDCAM HD disc recorder was used as the program recorder, and a pair of DSR-1000 hard disc recorders were used for playback. Finally, this configuration included ClearCom intercoms and two Mackie Onyx mixers.

Designed and built by Venue Service Group (VSG), the MVP will be offered in two models, HD or SD. Much like Sony’s configured-to-order switcher line, customers will be able to pick and choose which equipment they want to include, which of course affects the price. The unit used for the Big 12 tournament happened to be all-HD, but that too is customizable.

“The cost varies depending on what’s on it. We had basically low-cost HD version--that’s under a million dollars, about $997,000--with this particular unit,” said DiIorio. “There’s a lot of room in there to really tweak this thing to what the customer is looking for.”

Next stop for the Sony MVP was the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convention in Orlando, FL. The truck was driven down so collegiate directors, video coordinators, and broadcast college production companies could get a look at it. The thinking is that a university could have the MVP do double duty as a teaching tool and for covering campus events.

The MVP, although not designed for high-intensity long distance travel, provides a smooth ride out on the road. The trailer’s torsion bar suspension system made the ride so smooth that items that had been left on tables in the back stayed there throughout the entire drive from San Diego to Oklahoma City. This changed some plans for Sony.

“So originally we were thinking one of the options packages might be a heavier-duty suspension, but based on its performance so far, we decided that’s not really necessary. It handles very well,” said DiIorio. “I was told by the drivers that it pulls along very nicely and they had no problems with it.”