Raycom Sports Commissions First HD Mobile Unit

For the past three years, Raycom Sports has been producing HD shows with two SD trucks. This fall, that will change, as the sports production company has commissioned the building of a new high definition mobile production truck, set to hit the road in time for the 2011 college football season.

“We have the rights to the ACC football and basketball, so the new truck will be primarily used for our own shows,” explains Charles Moye, technical operations manager for Raycom Sports. “Outside of that we will work for ESPN Regional, FSN South, and we also do the Carolina Panthers preseason NFL games.”

Raycom Sports, which syndicates its programming to multiple cable outlets, currently owns two standard definition mobile production units, both of which were put on the road in the 1990s.

“At that time, we had the ACC and SEC contracts,” Moye explains. “We had a truck in each conference and they would cover a dozen football games, go right into college hoops, and cover as many as we could possibly fit in. It’s hard to believe that our shows have been HD for three years and we’re still running two standard def trucks, but it’s true. We’ve been trying to predict when that SD business would fall away, because you know it will, but we’ve been wrong.”

With the trucks now approaching 15 and 13 years of age, respectively, change has been a long time coming. Still, because Raycom delivers its content to stations, the slow crawl of cable affiliates to HD has enabled Raycom to take its time in commissioning a new HD truck. Many stations will still accept 4:3 or 16:9 SD feeds, so Raycom Sports has been in no rush to upgrade its trucks until the cable outlets it Raycom serves could accept the HD feed. The wait, in fact, has been a positive factor for Raycom.

“We’ve been trying to do this for five years, and HD prices have moderated in some areas, which is a good thing for us,” Moye says.

When parent company Raycom Media gave the green light for Raycom Sports to build its new truck, Moye and his team decided on a 53-foot expando unit, to be equipped with nine cameras. The new HD trailer will be built by Gerling and Associates, and Diversified Systems will serve as the integrator, but the other equipment choices are still pending.

“We’re looking at whether to go embedded [with audio] throughout, and we’re looking at other things,” Moye explains. “The monitoring will be a multiviewer, and there are some good choices out there to help you with the monitoring capacity that you need coupled with router design. Vendors are currently submitting prices to us and we’re looking at features.”

The new truck will be equipped with nine HD camera positions and will be used for the Raycom ACC Network telecasts of ACC football and basketball. It will also handle regional sports that Raycom is contracted to produce and will be available for rental usage.