Mansion Mobile HD Unit Hits High Notes

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Remote-production-facility provider Mansion Mobile is making the leap to HD this summer. The Branson, MO-based company will roll out ME-2HD, its first HD mobile-production unit. The 53-foot truck with expando offers comfortable working space, 3G routing, and much more. Most important, it isn’t under contract for events, giving sports networks a new HD option.

“We’ve been very successful with our SD truck, but last year, we lost a lot of work to HD units as ESPN or CBS Sports would request HD a couple of weeks before a shoot,” says VP of Engineering Dave Goodman. “Our owner said, what do we do to keep up with technology, so this was our proposal.” The company expects to add four more HD trucks in the future.

The core of the truck, designed by Diversified Systems, is an Evertz Quartz routing switcher that is 3G-capable and has 288×288 inputs and outputs. Providing the production power are a Grass Valley HD Kalypso production switcher with 4 M/E, 11 Grass Valley LDK8000 Elite WorldCams with Canon lenses, Chyron Hyper-X2 graphics, two six-channel EVS servers and a four-channel EVS Spotbox and IP Director, and an SSL C-100 HD digital audio board.

“We wanted to unit to be very user-friendly, and we accomplished that with the equipment we chose,” says Goodman. “The SSL console, for example, is very easy to use after 30 minutes, even if you aren’t an audio guy.”

A 136-source production monitor wall also reflects an ease-of-use philosophy. “The Evertz VIP X-Links [multiviewer] is simple to use, and technical directors can route signals [to different areas of the monitor wall] with a mouse,” explains VP of Operations Brad Palmer.

Of the 11 LDK 8000 Elite WorldCam cameras, seven will be used for fixed positions in a SuperXpander configuration with box-style lenses, while four will be set up in handheld configuration for roaming the various venues. The Kalypso HD switcher includes a 4 M/E panel and four auxiliary bus panels and is loaded with a variety of options.

“We chose the LDK 8000 Elite cameras and Kalypso HD switcher for their ability to capture and manage events in all of the major HD formats [720p and 1080i] as well as the cameras’ 24p mode [1080p24],” says Goodman.

The unit is also wired for a future upgrade to Grass Valley’s new Kayenne production switcher and can handle up to 14 VTR decks or five EVS units. “We held off on putting it in,” Palmer says, “because this is a brand-new product and we didn’t want to be too aggressive with our first HD venture.”

The key to the roomy interior is the perpendicular layout of the truck, including the tape room. “Most trucks turn the tape room sideways,” Goodman points out, “but ours is perpendicular, so we picked up two extra rack spaces and can include the tape area in the production area.”

Also helping was the use of a 57-in.-wide expando section instead of a 48-in. version. “It gives the production area a huge, open feeling,” says Palmer. “We took an approach that is similar aesthetically to a recording studio with colors and a feeling that makes people want to be in it.”

In terms of wiring, the truck is the densest that Diversified Systems has ever built. “It doesn’t need a B-unit,” says Goodman, “and the bulk of the gear and cabling is in the truck.”

For the past two years, Mansion Mobile has produced approximately 65 live sports events a year — including games for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, Big 12 college football, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association (D-League), and Big 12 basketball — with a standard-definition truck that features a Grass Valley Kalypso Duo switcher. The company also supported Telemundo at Super Bowl XLII.

Mansion Mobile is also now a member of Alliance Productions, a move it hopes will help keep the truck busy. “The unit is available right now,” says Goodman. “It will be shooting a TV pilot on June 22 and 23 in Branson, MO, and a Kansas City Chiefs pre-season football game on Aug. 14.”