2014 NFL Preview: NEP, NBC Roll Out New Home for Sunday Night Football

This Sunday, NBC’s Sunday Night Football production team will have the opportunity to work for the second time in its new home on the road: NEP’s ND1, the next-generation mobile-production unit that is comprised of four trailers. “This is a great collaboration between ourselves and NEP and we believe this signifies how great our strong relationship has been for the past 20 years,” says Ken Goss, NBC Sports, SVP of Remote Operations and Production Planning.

A look at the front bench area in the new NEP ND1 production unit that will be home for NBC's Sunday Night Football.

A look at the front bench area in the new NEP ND1 production unit that will be home for NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

ND1 is comprised of four interconnected trailers with much of the production work itself centered around the Grass Valley Kayenne Elite 9 ME production switcher, Calrec Artemis and Apollo audio consoles, 32 Sony HDC-2500 cameras, Canon lenses, and more than 100 channels of EVS recording capability via 14 EVS XT3 replay stations within a single production trailer.

“[Having all the replay operators in one truck] is a new way for us to do remote TV production,” explains Goss.

Goss says the truck features a number of technical innovations like the ability to have almost any production task completed from any workspace and a 1080p-capable infrastructure, while also being designed within green initiative guidelines. And fiber connectivity allows the truck to be connected in less than 20 minutes.

Glen Levine, co-president of NEP Broadcasting, says new materials and design play a part in the innovation as well.

“We spent a lot of time in truck design and worked closely with the manufacturer to built a lightweight truck that is efficient and streamlined,” he says. “But it also currently has the largest interior space footprint of any of our trucks thanks to designing it with new aerospace software.”

The end result, thanks to the use of lightweight material for the bay doors and internal walls is a double-expando main production trailer that has approximately 1,100 sq. ft. of internal space (about 350 sq. ft. larger than the previous main production trailer) while also weighing 7,000 pounds less when it left the factory.

“The software is used to design things like the space shuttle so we took that kind of thinking into our broadcast world,” explains Levine. “Every pound counts.”

In terms of who works where, the A unit is where the front bench is located as well as the EIC and two engineering staffers and 11 graphics staffers who will use Chyron Mosaic graphics software (first used by NBC Olympics in Sochi so that, as well, is new this season).

The B unit is home to the audio mix and sub-mix areas as well as camera shading and all of the major components, including a massive Evertz Magnum routing switcher that connects all the trucks and devices and the EVS replay servers. From a design standpoint housing all of the electronics in one unit allows for greater energy efficiencies when it comes to heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. And from an audio perspective it allows noise-generating equipment to be isolated from the mixing rooms.

The C unit will include the 14 replay operators as well as ultra-slow-mo operations and room to haul equipment including cameras, microphones, and cables. Each operator, says Levine, will have their own volume and lighting controls and can also move to any other of the 14 positions to work via the Thinklogical KVM router.

The D unit is a straight-sided trailer that houses two Apple Final Cut Pro edit rooms, sports media, RF and transmission. There are 10 outbound and inbound paths (both satellite and fiber) as well as Gigabit Ethernet allowing for content to be transported as EVS files to and from NBC’s production facility in Stamford, as well as the NBC playout facility in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. In addition, each individual camera feed and associated microphones will be available to the production team in Stamford for use during pre- and post-game coverage.

“The timing was right for this unit and our projection is that we will use it for the next three Super Bowls,” adds Goss.

ND1 is only the beginning of the NBC/NEP relationship as ND3, the previous home of the Sunday Night Football Production team; it will now be a full-time golf truck. NEP’s N4 will also be used for next February’s Super Bowl broadcast and ND5 and ND6 will both be used for NHL hockey coverage with ND6 also now being home to Notre Dame college football coverage.

“The custom fit single unit for shows and productions is tailored so we put the right facility to fit the right sport,” adds Goss. “But we also have the versatility to use trucks for multiple sports.”