Building Season at Game Creek Video Yields Three New Trucks

For Game Creek Video, the month of June is about more than baseball and summer barbecues: it’s truck-building time. Between the end of the NHL and NBA seasons and the beginning of college football, Game Creek is in full build mode, and, by the end of August, three new GCV units will hit the road. Victory, a version of 2010’s Dynasty, will roll out the second week of July; Justice, a version of the 2010 Larkspur, is set to hit the road the second week of August. GCVB2, a standalone B unit, will also be completed this summer.

Victory and Justice will go to work for ESPN, and, though twins of last summer’s builds, they have some important new features.

More Faders, More MADI, More 5.1
Victory, the larger of the two, is a double expando with an expanding B unit and is designed to handle the largest shows on the Game Creek docket. Justice, a single expando standalone, is designed to be able to run without a B unit.

“Ninety percent of the trucks are the same from last year, but the significant change is in the audio board,” explains Jason Taubman, VP of new technology and design for Game Creek Video. “Calrec Alpha Bluefin is last year’s news; the new hotness is Calrec Apollo with the Hydra 2 network. Everything is touchscreen on the control surface, and it has double the number of faders, which we think is going to be a big win for the audio guys. They’ve been clamoring for more faders forever.”

The Calrec Apollo moves away from the layering faders available in its recent digital audio boards and returns to the original concept of dual faders, which were available in Calrec’s original sports-audio board. To the Apollo, Game Creek has added a great deal more MADI, both in the audio board itself and in the Evertz audio router.

“MADI continues to evolve as the signal of choice to move audio around in bulk between two trucks,” Taubman explains. “We took advantage of Evertz’s 16×16 MADI cards so we have 16 MADI streams available in each direction. A lot of it is surplus, so, whenever we roll up to a MADI truck, we can share signals with a single cable.”

Dynasty and Larkspur were designed to create discrete 5.1 audio throughout the production, and Victory and Justice follow that trend. Both are capable of creating end-to-end 5.1 with all embedded audio.

“Apollo is about more, more, more,” Taubman says. “More inputs, more outputs, more faders, more capability, which is really important as most of our clients are starting now to really think about doing discrete 5.1 throughout the whole production, instead of just at the end.”

New-Look Monitors
On the visual side, monitors inside Victory and Justice have moved away from the consumer-grade monitoring that Game Creek had previously used in its mobile units. Instead of chasing models of consumer monitors after they were unavailable off-the-shelf or attempting to integrate different manufacturers’ monitors inside a single truck, Game Creek contracted Boland to manufacture monitors for Victory and Justice. Presumably, the model will be more readily available to the company for future buildouts.

3-Gig (Almost) Everywhere
Both Victory and Justice are wired for 24 Sony HDC1500 cameras, both carry an Evertz EQX router, and both are 3-Gbps-capable — “everywhere we can be,” Taubman says.

“One of our big focuses is 3-Gig signal routing so we can achieve 1080/60p when that becomes commonly requested,” Taubman explains. “There are still a couple of bits where we’re waiting for manufacturers to catch up [to 3 Gbps]. I think the last piece of the puzzle is going to be the Grass Valley switcher, when it becomes available.”

Big Trucks, Bigger Power
The biggest difference between the two trucks is the real estate available for humans and EVS servers.

“Victory is capable of 17 EVSs, just like Dynasty,” Taubman says. “For the moment, we have put XT[2]+ in there, but we will ultimately upgrade to the XT3s when those become available. Victory is all about getting more people in there to operate more EVSs and more graphics to do the top-shelf shows. Justice is designed to do the big shows but be a little easier and quicker to set up.”

Both trucks pack a great deal of firepower, far more than was available several years ago.

“There’s a lot of capability built into these trucks,” Taubman says. “Even Larkspur and Justice, the two that are theoretically aimed at smaller shows, relative to a truck we built five years ago, they are just insanely powerful. They’ll do just about everything.”

Small Changes, Big Headaches
While tweaking just 10% of the design for these two trucks might seem easier than creating an entirely new mobile unit, making minute changes can be more difficult than crafting a whole new design.

“Little changes are really tough to make sometimes,” Taubman explains, “because you have to make sure you’ve accounted for the changes in the whole design, mechanically making sure space is allocated and, from the systems-design point of view, making sure you’ve accounted for every wire, pulled everything out, and accounted for all the new stuff when you put everything back in. That’s a challenge. It actually takes a lot longer to do that than to do it from scratch.”

The Third Addition
Besides the big trucks, Game Creek is building a companion to GCVB1, a standalone B unit built last year. The 2011 version, GCVB2, will also be able to roll to any event and complement any Game Creek truck.

“As a practical matter, GCVB1 lurks nearby Larkspur,” Taubman says. “GCVB2, which we are building this summer, will primarily shadow Justice around.”