Dome Productions: Two Expandos Roll Out; ‘Sidecar’ Market Grows

2012 was a busy year north of the border for Toronto-based Dome Productions. Two new 53-ft. expando trucks hit the road, and the company set its eyes on the second-screen and small-event markets.

“Content is king out there, and I always look at it as someone has to facilitate that,” says SVP/GM Mary Ellen Carlyle. “As there’s more non-broadcasters producing content, it’s an opportunity for the mobile industry.”

Intended to capitalize on a boom in content in both Canada and the U.S., Dome’s two newest trucks — Atlantic and Pacific — are 53-ft. mobile-production trucks that advance the company’s new commitment to 3G and 1080p signal-flow technology.

“These are what we would consider our A-level trucks, covering most of our primetime programming,” says Director of Engineering Mike Johnson.

The trucks are very similar to each other in terms of layout and gear, which are similar to those of other models in the Dome fleet. Atlantic and Pacific feature the latest gear provided by some traditional Dome partners, including EVS and Chyron.

EVS’s XT3 servers play a key role in making the truck fully 3G, enabling higher-speed file transfers.

The 3G capabilities of the XT3 help Dome connect stereo 3D cameras using a single link. Its loop recording technology and networking capabilities give operators complete media control from ingest to playout, including live editing, slow-motion replays, multichannel playback, and transfer to third-party systems, such as craft editors, automation, archiving, or storage. The XT3 also offers additional camera recording, superior live sports graphics, and the advanced edit-while-recording feature during special sports events.

The only portion of the trucks that does not support 3G/1080p is the production switcher, a Grass Valley 4M/E Kayenne.

Atlantic and Pacific offer new-model cameras from Sony. The HDC-2400 series camera has the same features and capabilities as its predecessor, the HDC-1500, but allows native 1080p image origination, a 2X frame-rate output at 1080i for enhanced motion replay, and a no-“lunchbox”- required triax or fiber cable connection.

Also available on board each truck are 11 FUJINON lenses, a Calrec Artemis Beam audio console, and a Chyron HyperX3 and Lyric Pro for graphics.

A feature on Dome’s latest line of trucks is an uplink for the tractor portion of the rig and a small satellite cabin positioned on the back of the tractor.

“Now, with the main production unit, you can do satellite uplinking as a backup service for the main production and fiber delivery,” says Johnson. “It’s a nice feature to have. We can do that because the facilities and the technology allow us to do that. To service that kind of signal and uplink is a lot lighter and more compact than ever.”

A Small-Format Trailer, Too
Dome is also excited about another of its newest projects, CompanionTV. Referred to as a “sidecar” facility, it takes aim at both second-screen–supported shows and smaller events that don’t require a major truck.

CompanionTV is a small-format production trailer that can be towed with a van or a truck. The sidecars are based on the NewTek TriCaster TCXD850 Extreme and include a Digital Rapids StreamZHD encoder unit, a small Mackie audio board, and three Sony PMW-EX3 cameras.

“It’s a lot more nimble production package that we can create audio/video production for publishing in some fashion,” Johnson notes, “whether it’s Web streaming or live delivery.” CompanionTV’s StreamZHD encoder handles multiple delivery formats. Used in conjunction with Dome’s content-delivery network, it is able to deliver content in custom-tailored formats for iPhones, Blackberrys, and Android devices as well as personal computers.

Despite its initial design to serve as a support vehicle, says Carlyle, CompanionTV has been getting much attention as a primary production vehicle.

“We haven’t really dived into the supplement side of it yet, as the major broadcasters are just starting to play with that,” she says. “It can go independently or adjacent to a mobile, but it’s a totally different rate card and still comes with EX3 cameras versus a Sony 1500 or 2500 camera.”

Dome plans to forge on with this business, rolling out more sidecars. With all these new facilities, business is clearly booming in the great white north.

“The market is good,” Carlyle points out. “With this whole industry and the way that it’s changing, the one thing you can count on is live sports. I also think, whether it’s a broadcaster or a Webcaster or a BDU [cable company], they still need content. The only thing that’s really driving live audiences is live sports.

“Down in the States,” she continues, “you guys are seeing tremendous growth at the colleges, and now, with more high school content, that allows us to jump into that smaller market with our smaller trucks. In Canada, there’s little growth. In the U.S., things have grown quite a bit.”

Atlantic hit the road in October, making its debut during a TSN Canadian Football League telecast right in Dome’s backyard: the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Pacific, which debuted in September, was only four days old when it assisted CAMERON PACE Group on Sky Sports’ 3D broadcast of the Ryder Cup.

CompanionTV has also been very active, working smaller events such as boxing, film festivals, and even coverage of a budget meeting at the Ontario government’s Ministry of Finance. Its marquee event thus far was powering Sportsnet Connected’s coverage of the 2012 World Series in Detroit.

The Toronto Blue Jays took advantage of Dome’s second-screen capabilities — hosting a Website with viewer-selected alternative camera angles, accessible on any computer or portable device, instant replays (viewable within 30 seconds of the action) — during the team’s home opener in April.