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Studio Technologies’ Live-Link Jr.

In the fast-paced, diverse world of outside broadcast, time is always a challenge when deploying complex systems to meet production and event schedules in the field. It is in especially short supply for the smaller OB van operations, with their typically compact systems and limited crew size. The variety of required cabling can add additional complexity to this issue. While the large broadcast production trucks can usually pull up close to a venue, and often take advantage of “house” cabling resources, the required video, audio and support cable runs between a camera location and the associated OB/ENG van can be quite long. And for the smaller satellite uplink/production van covering the same sports event or concert, the cable runs might be even longer as the available parking location may be even farther away from the venue.

Cabling needs include supporting a camera feed, return video for monitoring, mic- or line-level audio sources, IFB for talent cueing and party-line intercom belt pack connections. More involved applications may also involve connections for camera control using serial data and on-air tally signals. Clearly, running multiple cables to connect a truck-side unit to the camera location in the field is cumbersome at best, and extremely inefficient and costly in terms of crew hours, hauling weight and truck space. Finding a solution to the cable conundrum is certainly in order for the industry at large and for smaller OB vans in particular.

The cure

Studio Technologies developed the Live-Link Jr. remote camera interface system to solve the cable conundrum for operators needing to quickly and efficiently connect camera and return video, on-air and talent cueing audio, and party-line intercom between a camera location in the field and a small broadcast vehicle. The system offers an extensive set of features highlighted by excellent audio quality and a compact, rugged form factor. Its design was specifically optimized for live event, OB/ENG and uplink vehicle applications. Interconnected with just two single-mode optical fibers, Live-Link Jr. allows for the rapid deployment of all the resources required for a single-camera “live shot.”


Figure 1. Linked using just two single-mode optical fibers, the system’s portable camera-end unit and 1U rack-mounted truck unit deliver video and audio signals at distances of up to 6mi.

Linked using just two single-mode optical fibers, the system’s portable camera-end unit and 1U rack-mounted truck unit deliver excellent operational performance for all video and audio signals essentially regardless of the interconnect distance, whether hundreds of feet or miles apart. (See Figure 1) The camera-end unit allows for remote powering from the truck-end by using hybrid fiber/copper cable with distances of well over 1000ft possible. It can also operate locally from a 12VDC source or by a battery connected through an Anton/Bauer or V-Mount battery mount. The truck-end unit offers both AC and DC powering capabilities, with the DC source capable of serving as a hot standby. If a connected AC mains source fails, the unit will automatically continue operation from the DC source.

Picture-perfect video and audio

On the video side, the system transports one SMPTE-standard SDI signal in each direction. SD-, HD- and 3G-SDI data rates are supported as well as many different video standards. An integrated embed output is associated with each SDI input, providing a signal that follows the audio and auxiliary data embedding process within Live-Link Jr. This “post-embedder” signal can be valuable for confidence monitoring, transport of signals via coax or as an aid during testing/troubleshooting. At the truck-end, the SDI signal associated with the camera is provided as two independent buffered outputs for maximum flexibility.

On the audio side, all audio and related data signals are transported between the camera-end and truck-end units as embedded SDI data. The camera-end unit has two mic/line inputs that are compatible with microphone or line-level signals. Related features include adjustable input sensitivity, 48V phantom power and level metering. Each mic/line input can be independently set for compatibility with line-level (0dB gain) or mic signals (gain of 15dB, 30dB or 45dB). Two balanced line-level outputs are provided on the truck-end unit’s back panel and are associated with the camera-end unit’s mic/line inputs. Two additional balanced line-level outputs are also located on the truck-end unit’s back panel to provide de-embedded analog signals associated with group 1 — channels 1 and 2 of the transported SDI signal. These convenience outputs allow audio embedded, for example, by a camera connected to the camera-end unit to be accessible without the need for an external de-embedder unit at the truck-end.

Commanding comms

A major strength of Live-Link Jr. is its integrated 2-channel intercom system, which tames the typical hassles and limitations associated with field intercom system implementation. A 2-channel party-line intercom interface is provided on both the camera-end and truck-end units, allowing beltpacks to be directly connected and powered. A fully functional camera-end-to-truck-end “comms” system can be up and running in just minutes.

Additionally, two line-level audio signals can be transported from the truck-end to the camera-end. Two balanced line/IFB inputs are located on the back panel of the truck-end unit and allow the connection of a variety of analog audio signals, including those used for talent cueing (IFB). However, unlike traditional IFB systems, the excellent audio quality of the system allows transporting even on-air signals. For flexibility, both line-level and “wet” IFB (power and audio) outputs are provided on the camera-end unit.

Everybody in the spool

With budget stress, green concerns and staff cutbacks in the mix for all levels of the industry, finding ways to deploy a system in the field more efficiently has become a mandate. The Live-Link Jr. Remote Camera Interface

System allows video, on-air and IFB audio, comms and support, including RS-422 data and GPI/GPO, to be deployed quickly and easily, extending the resources of an OB vehicle to the camera location. Almost as quickly as a tactical fiber or hybrid fiber/copper assembly can be run, the entire broadcast production system can be in place and operational. With that efficiency and on-air “tool kit” at hand, the miles of copper cables usually transported from venue-to-venue can now be left in storage. Cable conundrum solved.

Gordon Kapes is president, Studio Technologies.