New Game Truck gives Fox a dose of Fiber

By Ken Kerschbaumer
Fox Football brings its NFL pre-game show on the road beginning this Sunday with the official start of the 2006 NFL season. Helping out in the efforts will be two remote units, a new three-trailer unit from Game Creek and All-Mobile Video’s Resolution. The former will handle game duty and the latter will handle the pre-game show.

Fox A-B-C (plus D-E) pushes the envelope for high-end HD production, providing plenty of room for equipment and staff. But its a reliance on fiber, cutting the number of cables between the trucks from hundreds to less than 10, that has Fox excited. Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports VP of field operations, says the use of fiber gives tremendous flexibility to the truck and, more importantly, the crew.

“It shrinks the timeline,” he says. “You have this huge “A” game truck and if we needed to we could do a one day setup. Everything from the router to the intercom is programmable and savable.”

Gear includes a full-blown Dolby Surround Sound audio room with a Calrec Alpha mixing board, a production area with a Grass Valley Kalypso switcher, a full complement of Sony HDC 1500 multiformat HD cameras with Canon glass, Chyron Duet HD HyperX graphics, Evertz VIP multiviewers, and an even dozen six-channel EVS units.

The real trick, according to Jason Taubman, Game Creek’s VP of Design and New Technology, is the interconnect technology to closely integrate the separate trailers into a single, unified infrastructure.

“Our true innovation is that we’ve used all fiber,” he says. “There isn’t a piece of copper anywhere. People can’t believe that monitoring, audio and video data, Ethernet and intercom are all going through this one, small snake. It carries everything, and in some ways that’s frightening. So we’ve set it up as a redundant pair because you can count on one getting severed sometime.”

The fiber joins a Pesa DRS routing system that is split between the A and B trailers.

“We believe this is an industry first, and it is the first design Pesa has built that splits the router into two discreet locations,” says Taubman. “The split allows for audio transport over fiber, the audio router is the conduit.”

Aside from allowing this new level of scalability, the router-centric design saves setup time. “The goal,” adds Taubman, “is to be able to reconfigure from show to show without having a throw a single patch.”

Steinberg says the truck is a collaborative effort with input from the crew. “This truck was put together with a 40-week schedule that will handle all of our football and NASCAR coverage,” he says. Everyone from the TD to the director, producer and audio mixer had input because they’re going to live in it,” he says. “Calrec, for example, did a lot of customization on the audio console and the TD had the monitors put where he wants them.”

It also includes LCD screens with Evertz splitters and Steinberg says that after using it for two pre-season games there have been no complaints about latency.

All Mobile’s Resolution truck includes Sony monitors with a Sony MVX-8000 HD switcher and DME. It also has a full complement of Sony HD cameras with Fujinon lenses and an RTS intercom panel.

“It’s just a big set up,” Steinberg says of the additional pre-game challenge. “We’ve done it on a selected basis over the years for games like the NFC championship so it’s not totally new. But on a weekly basis it makes set-up that much more challenging.”