League Technology Summit: IT, IP Infrastructures Change How Mobile Production Units Are Built
The mobile-production industry has a long-standing tradition with the 53-ft., baseband truck. However, as the industry focuses on 2013, it is clear that the mobile unit is changing in both size and infrastructure.
“There’s significantly more IT/IP infrastructure in [our trucks],” said Dave Greany, VP/partner at Corplex, during last week’s SVG League Technology Summit. “Fiber infrastructures have gone up; that’s something that we have looked at in our older trucks and increased there. There’s definitely been a need [for it], and, looking forward, you will definitely see more glass internal to a truck, as well as external.”
There has even been a buzz that some companies have already built their last baseband truck. Some industry engineering vets, though, say, not so fast.
“Certainly, with baseband, what is happening in terms of IP is a lot of file-based transfer. I think that’s going to happen first,” says Jason Taubman, VP, design and new technology, at Game Creek Video. “This other thing would be packet-switched back on the truck instead of service-switched, and I think that’s ultimately going to be the way forward for 4K or whatever is next. But I can’t [purchase] that, so, no, I don’t think we’ve built our last [baseband truck]. I think we’ve got a few more revs of baseband to go before we can buy some of the early-stage packet-based distribution equipment, and, even then, it’s going to be a long time developing that into something that you’re going to want to do on a big show.”
These advanced IT and IP infrastructures open the door for increased bandwidth going back to the proverbial mothership — be that the truck or a broadcast center at home.
“Trucks are becoming more and more like mega data centers, and it’s all IP- and IT-based,” said Hamish Greig, technical director at UK-based CTV OB. “It’s one network after another network, depending on whichever workflow that you’re in, whether it’s program content or broadband or IPTV, and it will be just a series of networks within the truck.”
IT and IP infrastructures streamline workflows but are also leading to changes in the design processes of future trucks.
“I think it impacts how you look at a lot of the physical layout of what we’re seeing,” said Greany. “Traditionally, in trucks, you sat in and around your equipment. Now you’re completely segregated, and the operating area of the truck becomes more of a flex space and becomes user-defined. You effectively have control areas that can be EVS or some new technology or graphics, and that can really be defined by the client because it’s really just a user station with your routing and things like that. It makes for a really flexible mobile unit that can do whatever the client wants. That’s where I see a lot of benefit in the fiber infrastructure.”
As demonstrated by NBC’s use of its Highlights Factory during the Olympics, IT advances make it possible for technical personnel to stay home instead of being on-site, which helps mitigate broadcasters’ travel costs. However, many engineers noted that broadcasters haven’t been in a hurry to decrease on-site staffs.
“They still want to be on-site, they want their announcers there. They want that feel of a home show,” said Ed Whitehouse, director of operations, at MTVG. “That flavor of being there, I think that’s part of the piece of live TV that makes it desirable.”
Greany concurred: “I’m not sure that culture is going to be as easy to change as maybe the CFOs would like it to be. Will it happen on an island? Sure, I think you may have someone who has control over the content, control over dark fiber, and they have all of these pieces in play. Look at Comcast [SportsNet] Philadelphia: they’re supposed to do a lot of things out of their own facilities. So, with more and more IT-based infrastructure, you’re going to see that on an island with someone who has a lot of control, but, in the general OB market, it’s going to be a while before people abandon the [on-site] truck.”