Mobile TV Group Set To Roll Nation’s First 4K Truck in 2015

Mobile TV Group will usher in the 4K UHD mobile-production era for the North American market next year: a new 53-ft. expando truck is expected to hit the road with a full complement of 4K-capable equipment, including up to 14 cameras, replay servers, graphics, and a production switcher. The truck will be on display as a work in progress at the NAB convention in Las Vegas next April.

“We’re doing this for two reasons,” says MTVG co-owner Philip Garvin. “One is for the business opportunity I hope will be there, but we also want to invest in the future, not the past.”

This isn’t the first time MTVG has taken a bold step. In 2003, it rolled out its first HD unit, and the goal, then as now, was to make sure a new truck was not obsolete within three or four years.

“The time has come for a true 4K mobile unit, and the technology we need to build it is now available, or will be by mid 2015,” says Garvin. “Walk into any electronics retailer and you’ll see 4K sets everywhere, and at least one of the major [MVPDs] has announced that it will be offering 4K to its subscribers next year.  Our new truck will help to fill those screens with stunning images.”

A key technical piece that has fallen into place are cameras from Grass Valley that can capture 4K images with ⅔-in. sensors, solving the depth-of-field and lensing issues that make 4K sports production so difficult.

“The industry standard has been capturing images with three chips or tubes,” says Garvin, “and that is what Grass Valley is doing. Mobile TV Group did extensive testing and found no significant issues, especially when using a long zoom lens. Also, the shaders can sit down and shade, and the 4K images also require less detail edge enhancement so there is a smoother look and more resolution.”

MTVG tested the new Grass Valley camera extensively last month, including a side-by-side comparison of live 4K vs. regular HD images on large consumer TVs in a retail store. The consensus of the observers was that the difference was striking on UHD TV sets larger than 65 in., including improved resolution and a generally more pleasing and life-like picture.

In development since May, the first 4K mobile unit will be ready for its first production in mid to late 2015, and MTVG is accepting bookings now. Potential users will be able to tour the unit at the Gerling booth of the NAB  2015 outdoor exhibits.

In addition to the cameras, other equipment on the mobile unit will include a Grass Valley K-Frame/Kayenne 4K switcher, a Calrec Artemis mixer, and Miranda Kaleido multiviewers. A network-configured Grass Valley Dyno/K2 4K replay system will be demonstrated on the truck at NAB 2015. The trailer chassis was built by Gerling & Associates and finished and integrated by Colorado Studios.

Garvin says there are still plenty of equipment decisions to be made, including large lenses, graphics, replay, and HD-to-4K up/downconverters.

“An HD-to-4K up converter is important for specialty cameras and signals from other trucks,” adds Garvin.

The truck will also be able to do HD and dual-HD feed productions, in keeping with the rest of the fleet.

The biggest limiting factor in terms of the size of 4K productions that can be done is that the Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher can only handle 48 inputs due to the need for 4K signals to be moved via 4 HD signals. But it still has plenty of capability to produce everything from professional and college basketball and hockey games and even smaller college football shows or in a side-by-side mode with larger events.