Remote Sports Production Engineering Report: Awaiting the 4K Revolution, Part 2

The men and women behind remote sports production — specifically those who run the companies responsible for rolling out the 53-ft. production trailers that are the heart and soul of the industry — always keep the technology horizon in view when building a new truck. Technology evolves. Clients have new needs. Equipment manufacturers create new workflows. Keeping up with all three is the nature of the business.

The Need for Speed
The biggest production trend from the client side continues to be the desire for more and more high-speed cameras that can be used to create ultra-slow-motion replays. And specialty cameras, such as robotic systems or small POV cameras, are increasingly integral to productions.

“There is always going to be a niche market for something that is not a normal camera system, like the Inertia Unlimited Dirt Cam,” says NEP Corplex Engineering Manager Dave Greany. “And networks are trying to make their broadcasts different than someone else’s as it is an added benefit to advertisers.”

Increased reliance on those systems, however, does not mean that remote-production-services providers will purchase them and offer them as standard kit.

“Long term,” says Greany, “it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to invest in those systems.”

Continual Evolution
The improved connectivity between venues and broadcast facilities is driving interest in sending fewer people on the road and keeping more people, such as those working on graphics or editing, at the main broadcast center. With the use of fiber pipes, multiple camera and replay signals can be transported thousands of miles to a broadcast-control room, which, ultimately, does much of the work that is traditionally done in the production trailer.

Greany notes that the move to a long-distance remote production is nothing groundbreaking. News coverage of events like the royal wedding and presidential inaugurations and conventions has relied on that model for some time.

“It makes sense for something like centralized graphics,” he says, adding, “but there is an impact on the studio as well [because] utilization is often already high. But, for mid-level events, it only makes sense to find some way of doing that. Then the big thing is transmission costs, as you have to pay for five transmission paths [and] mux equipment, and then the cost savings evaporate.”

If keeping more people at home isn’t a possibility, there is also the opportunity for both the home and away team to work out of the same truck.

Phil Garvin, president/founder/co-owner, Mobile Television Group, opines that 34HDX, which hit the road in November, is the next incarnation of the dual-feed truck.

“The home show has a full single-feed truck that is very large and spacious,” he explains. “The visiting show is in a separate trailer that basically just has operator surfaces, and that trailer is a very large straight truck that it is organized horizontally. The visitor has a huge workspace, but there is nothing in the trailer besides operator interfaces for the switcher control board, EVS operators, and so on. Then the home truck has all the electronics and the home show.”

And triple feeds?

“We are perfectly capable of doing triple feeds on 33HDX,” says Garvin. “That continues to be available if and when the clients want it. We did a bunch of triple feeds this summer, but there is a little less demand for triple feeds in basketball and hockey.”

Garvin says that triple feeds are usually English, Spanish, and visitor feed.

“But, instead of Spanish, we can also do a pre and post show,” he adds. “All those are options to our home and away clients. There are three positions available, and we’re always happy to see all three filled, but we don’t expect to see as much of that for NHL and NBA.”

The evolution of workflows and technical capabilities continues to prove how far not only the vendors but also the manufacturers have come. The maturation of HD, tapeless workflows, IP, and IT-based infrastructure all have played major parts in getting the industry to where it is today.

“We’re getting a lot of good solutions for traditional production methodologies,” says Johnson, “and they’ve never been better.”