Sports and Entertainment Collaborate on Truck of the Future

“Sports trucks can do entertainment shows, but entertainment shows can’t do sports.”

Speaking to an audience comprising sports and entertainment clients and truck vendors that cater to both, Moderator Andrea Berry, SVP, broadcast operations, for Fox Sports, noted that this “old-school concept” no longer defines the sports-vs.-entertainment-truck debate.

At last week’s Sports Entertainment Production Summit in Los Angeles, mobile-production providers agreed that sports and entertainment productions have different needs but that, when a new truck is built, the needs of each should be taken into consideration, especially since the two increasingly share procedures and gear.

A Lesson From Sports
According to Mary Ellen Carlyle, SVP/GM of Dome Productions, the biggest difference between a sports and entertainment truck is acquisition format.

(L-R) Tim Kubit, Andrea Berry, Mary Ellen Carlyle, Chad Snyder, and Peter Kimball

“The only thing we have to do [when shifting from sports to entertainment] is put in a ton of tape machines,” she said. “Usually, our sports trucks are pretty much cookie-cutter, but, with entertainment, [we install] 14 tape machines.”

Although the EVS server used to be the mark of the sports truck, Toronto-based Dome Productions has been using the EVS replay technology to produce Canadian Idol.

Peter Kimball, director of program development/production, Trio Video, includes EVS when producing his company’s slate of music festivals but does not adhere to the traditional tape-based format.

“In the last few years, especially the last year for all the music festivals we do, we’re [moving toward] a completely tapeless workflow,” he said. “Not only do we record the shows in high resolution, but we’re simultaneously feeding that content to various channels. We’ve found [that] not only does the client prefer [a hard-drive system] because it’s less expensive, but there’s more time to develop content, it’s more accessible, [and] it’s easier to handle.”

The devastating tsunami in Japan last year forced production houses and broadcasters to switch to file-based formats because tape wasn’t available. After nearly a year, many are opting to stick with their new tapeless workflows, rather than return to tape.

“Now that tape is available [again], I really thought more clients would stay with the HD CAM SR, but they’re not: they’re spending money for the higher resolution,” said Tim Kubit, engineer in charge, NEP Denali. “As the technology matures, as compression algorithms get better and better, and as codecs get better and better, I think that we will see a full transition [to] the highest resolution [and] the highest bandwidth available, on whatever format that is.”

Sharing the Truck, Not Just the Compound
With sports and entertainment mobile units increasingly overlapping, the panelists agreed that it is important to consider the needs of both when building any new mobile unit. For example, both sports and entertainment rely heavily on social media.

“Every show we do has some sort of social content,” said Kubit. “It seems to be voracious: as much content as you can develop, you’ll find an outlet for it.”

According to Carlyle, Canada does not host enough entertainment events to sustain a dedicated entertainment truck. The truck of the future, she predicted, will have a social-media component and Web interaction, and be used for both sports and entertainment events.

“The mobile unit is becoming, how many different ways can we feed this to the world?” said Chad Snyder, senior account manager, Lyon Video. “I wonder if the truck of the future isn’t IP-based? An IP connection from the camera to the switcher that actually goes out through the connection port, so you get that video [from] camera 1 and it can go several different places, rather than routing manually.”

However, as sports and entertainment mobile units converge, one vital difference remains.

“Sports is cookie-cutter,” said Carlyle. “You’ve got your cameras in set positions [as determined] by the arenas; you use the same mics at the same distance. It’s sort of formula. With entertainment, it’s a blank slate. You’re going into a venue that [maybe] isn’t a hockey venue, you may not have cables, you may have to deal with set designers. It [requires] more planning and really understanding the client.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Entertainment Production Summit!