Mobile TV Group Demonstrates That Triple Feed Works
Building off the success of its dual-feed mobile units, Mobile TV Group announced in January the construction of the 33HDX, the industry’s first triple-feed mobile-production unit. Less than a year after making headlines, GM Philip Garvin is calling the endeavor a success.
“I think there’s no doubt that we’ve shown that the triple feed can work,” he says. “We’ve done a few [productions], and it’s worked well in general terms. It tends to be a lot of equipment, which can create a little bit more noise than we would like to have, and so we’re going to have to work on the noise level of the equipment. In a technology sense, being able to feed three production rooms has worked extremely well. … It takes two trailers, but it’s technologically very feasible.”
The triple-feed system consists of three production areas, three integrated audio rooms, and two networked replay areas housed in two trailers: the 53-ft. expando 33HDX and straight truck VMU33. The intention behind the innovative project was to provide a cost-effective way to produce three distinct shows from one mobile unit: for example, a home and away broadcast and a Spanish feed. Thus far, 33HDX has covered all three shows for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels.
“The value of the triple feed isn’t just reduced cost,” notes Garvin. “It also provides the producers and directors of each feed with instant access to the combined capability of two trucks, along with more space and greater versatility. While the dual feed was created in 2003 to contain costs and rapidly deploy high definition, the triple feed is designed to provide superior facilities while maintaining the same price points as dual feeds. We also wanted to accommodate the increasing demand for Spanish feeds and pre-/post-game shows.”
For Garvin, the key to the triple-feed system lies in the switcher. In a dual-feed truck, the visiting broadcast might have to take an M/E from the home broadcast’s 4M/E shared switcher.
“With the [Grass Valley Kayenne switcher with] K-Frame, you can have up to 9M/E. You can leave 4M/E on the home show, so the home show has given up absolutely nothing,” he says. “Then, you can put an M/E or two for the Spanish feed — or the smallest feed — and you can give the visitor 3M/E. … That’s what really is at the heart of making the triple feed work.”
The triple-feed system features an 8M/E Kayenne switcher with K-Frame, with 4M/E dedicated to the home show, 2M/E-3M/E for the visitor show, and 1M/E-2M/E for the third show. The unit also features a Calrec Artemis audio console, two Chyron HyperX graphics servers, and 13 Grass Valley cameras. Audio will be distributed to three 5.1-surround digital mixers, with MADI playing an important role.
“You have a principal mixer for the home show, and then you have two other mixers, and they can all be fed off with MADI,” says Garvin. “You can carry 32 or 64 lines on one cable, and the router can patch around MADI between all the mixers.”
After installing the Evertz DreamCatcher slow-motion replay system and using it throughout the recent baseball season, Mobile TV Group has asked the manufacturer to make improvements to the system offline. Although 33HDX will use EVS replay for the NHL and NBA seasons, Garvin hopes to reinstall Dreamcatcher before the 2014 baseball season.
33HDX returned to Mobile TV Group’s Denver headquarters at the end of the 2013 baseball season for additional soundproofing, before hitting the road to cover Los Angeles Clippers games. Although demand for a triple-feed production isn’t as great in the NBA or NHL, Garvin notes the alternative uses of the third feed.
“We are still perfectly capable of doing triple feeds on 33HDX,” he points out. “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.
“When you do a triple feed, it’s usually an English, Spanish, and visitor feed,” he continues. “But, instead of Spanish, we can also do a pre and post show. 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.”
In November, Mobile TV Group added to its dual-feed fleet with 34HDX. The 53-ft. expando unit comprises a large single-feed truck for home shows and separate trailer for the visitor feed.
“It is the next incarnation of the dual-feed truck,” says Garvin. “We do some of this on [33HDX] in L.A., but [34HDX] is really cool. The home show has a full single-feed truck — very large and spacious. The visitor is in a separate trailer that basically just has operator surfaces. … We believe it is going to be the ultimate dual-feed experience.”
Mobile TV Group installed a 7M/E Kayenne switcher with K-Frame. “The home show gets four, and the visitor gets three,” he says. “A lot of visitor shows still only have 1M/E. The visitor show has two EVS [servers], but there is room for a third.”
The unit features a Calrec Artemis audio console, two Chyron HyperX graphics servers, five EVS replay servers, and 12 cameras. Full router, multiviewer control, production wall, and eight-channel embedded audio is available for both home and away broadcasts. 34HDX will cover the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers, and Miami Marlins.
As for the future, Mobile TV Group plans to advance regional sports production by investing tens of millions of dollars to take its facilities to the next level.
“I think we’re going to be pushing the envelope of innovation for the benefit of regional sports,” says Garvin. “There’s always been a lot of innovation at the national-network level; we’re going to be pushing it for regional sports. And we have some pretty cool stuff up our sleeves.”