Game Creek Video Rolls Out Truck, With Two More on the Way

Game Creek Video’s latest production truck, Larkspur, hit the road this week, but the team in New Hampshire isn’t slowing down. At the end of August, a second new truck will roll out, headed for use by the YES Network and later, during the World Series, by Fox; in September, a B unit is slated to debut.

Game Creek Video President Pat Sullivan says that building two trucks at once meant cost savings. “When going to vendors we buy from, doing two-for-one deals allows for some pretty aggressive pricing. That was the motivation.”

Larkspur will spend much of its time handling ESPN marquee shows like College GameDay and Saturday-night primetime college football on ABC. Jason Taubman, VP of design and new technology for Game Creek Video, says the truck’s design roots can be found in the manufacturer’s Northstar and Legends units (meaning that it will be a short expando unit) and the signal-flow concepts are from the Liberty truck, introduced last year.

The new truck for the YES Network, name to be determined, is a double-expando unit. Both it and Larkspur are 53 ft. long.

The biggest technical changes in the two trucks is a move to Evertz routing and to embedded audio. The decision to go with Evertz was driven in part by the desire to use VIP multiviewer screens in the production area, providing maximum display flexibility. CRT monitor technology is now officially a thing of the past.

The move to embedded audio, says Taubman, was a result of his experience during the 2008 political conventions, when it became clear that news clients prefer everything to be embedded because they need to receive and output a large quantity of audio signals. And, at the Vancouver Olympics, Host Broadcast Services (HBS), the Canadian Olympic Consortium, and NBC Olympics used discrete 5.1 surround-sound channels.

“That means a minimum of eight channels of audio routing for each device, and you really need 16 channels,” he says. “So the only way to accomplish that is to have an embedded router so that it is smaller, lighter, and has 16-channel routing all around.”

Other key gear in the trucks includes Grass Valley Kayenne production switchers with five mix effects, Calrec Alpha audio consoles, EVS XT[2]+ replay servers, Sony HDC-1500R cameras, and Canon lenses.

Differences in the two trucks involve graphics gear (Larkspur will have no onboard graphics; the YES Network truck will most likely roll out with Chyron Duet graphics) and the fact that the latter will also have fiber connectivity between the A and B units.

It will also be future-proof, with a complete 3G infrastructure that, next year, will be able to support full 1080p/60 productions, thanks to the use of the Sony 1500R cameras and anticipated 3G upgrades to the Kayenne and EVS gear.

The 3G infrastructure also opens the door to 3D production. Sullivan and Taubman say that neither truck was built with 3D in mind because existing Game Creek Video units, such as the Yankee Clipper, have already demonstrated that they can be used on a 3D production quite easily despite having been built when 3D was not a factor.

“The Clipper was perfectly suited for 3D even though it was six years old,” Sullivan points out. “It also did the World Series every year without a lot of strain, showing the kind of forward thinking in the design. We’ve had a lot of conversations about 3D, but we aren’t letting it distract us.”

Adds Taubman, “We’re still waiting for the dust to settle on 3D. The dirty little secret is that 3D productions today are not in HD, and we’re supposing that, when it does take off, there will be  a need for 3D to be fully HD.”

The B unit that will roll out on Sept. 8 is expected to be used on ESPN College GameDay for basketball, since it will be able to be tied up to Larkspur or other similar Game Creek Video vehicles (and will also be used for C-level Fox NFL telecasts).

“The market for us is very healthy,” says Sullivan. “You can’t finance these things unless you have contracts with substantive clients, and, obviously, these are substantive clients. And the ability to produce trucks the way [VP of Engineering] Paul [Bonar] and Jason have makes it possible to put the trucks on the road either under or at budget, on time, and hitting the road working. Fortunately, they have the skills and leadership to get these things done.”