Game Creek Begins New Dynasty, Featuring Evertz
Between the months of April and September, Game Creek Video’s Hudson, NH, headquarters is a busy place. From the end of hockey season until the first football game, the mobile-production has a precious window of time in which to service and repair its existing fleet, as well as construct additions to the GCV family. This summer has been a busy one, with Larkspur, a single-expando standalone tasked for ESPN, hitting the road in July. This week, Game Creek opens the garage door on Dynasty, a dual-unit expando that this fall will do everything from MLS to the World Series.
Inside an unassuming office space that was formerly a Wal-Mart distribution center, Game Creek’s latest mobile production unit has come to life in just 10 weeks. Once the trailer arrived from Gerling & Associates, the Game Creek team spent the first eight of those 10 weeks working with integrator Icon Broadcast to pull wire in, mount equipment, and fabricate the interior. The next two weeks were used for testing and configuration.
“We bring vendors in to test the core infrastructure first,” says Jason Taubman, VP of design and new technology for Game Creek Video. “Evertz was here first, Sony came in to play with the cameras, then Calrec, EVS, and Grass Valley. We test every wire from beginning to end, both individually as a wire and then on a conceptual level, point to point in terms of the system. By the time it hits the road, the truck has been operating internally for two weeks.”
That internal operation is based on a new routing system, provided by Evertz. In designing both Dynasty and Larkspur, GCV moved from Pesa to Evertz for both audio (EMR) and video (EQX) routing.
“This gives us more density,” Taubman explains. “Evertz provides a higher density in a smaller space. It also integrates tightly with the multiviewer system and does 3 Gig. One of the big reasons that pushed us over the edge towards Evertz was the mux/demux embedded capabilities. It offers 16 channels per video source and destination.”
Embedded, the Better To Hear With
When designing Dynasty, Taubman wiped out almost all of the AES audio in his original plan, replacing it with full embedded audio, one of the key features of the new truck.
“Embedded audio really snuck up on us,” he says. “At the 2010 Olympics, we noticed a lot of embedded audio happening, and the motivation for that is surround sound. I was up in Vancouver right about the time when we were planting the seed for this project, and I said we have to make a major change if we’re going to be ready for what’s coming in the next eight years. So we pulled the trigger, changed the router vendor, updated the design, and off we go.”
That new vendor for audio routing is Evertz, which provided an EMR audio router. A Calrec Alpha console with Bluefin anchors the audio room, which features “lots of MADI and Hydra,” according to Taubman.
“This is a big change for us, and I think for the industry, too,” he says of the embedded audio. “We’ve all been adding a little bit here and there, but this time, we’ve taken the whole truck and gone embedded.”
3G Means 3D
Dynasty is fully capable of 3-Gbps routing, which for Game Creek means that 3D is a possibility as well.
“One of the questions we get a lot lately is, what about 3D?” Taubman says. “Our answer is, to us, 3D means 3 Gig. We’re not specifically targeting 3D as a problem to solve, but 3 Gig is something we need to be capable of. We have clients that are looking towards next year to do 3 Gig productions, but we don’t yet have anyone who wants to do 3D. If we can do 3 Gig, we can do 3D down the road.”
On the Front Bench
Dynasty’s production room features an 18-in. expando that sets the monitors back from the front bench and enables the space to accommodate 10 racks, instead of the normal eight. An Evertz multiviewer allows the 37 monitors to be quad split or used as single screens, so that as many as 175 images can fit on the wall. A Grass Valley Kayenne switcher anchors the front bench.
“This truck will swallow up 17 EVS [servers], all of them with full 16-channel embedded audio,” Taubman says. “I’m not really expecting 17 EVS operators in here, but, if you go next door, we would outboard control of a bunch of these EVSs to the B unit.”
An Evolved B Unit
Dynasty’s B unit bears little resemblance to the original design of a truck’s B unit, which was essentially cargo space.
“The B-unit concept has really evolved over the last seven or eight years,” Taubman points out. “Dynasty’s is an expandable B unit with a whole area targeted for graphics use. It can also house extra EVS operators and a first-and-10 line for football. This truck has a little audio router and a bunch of fiber-optic tether. It does [have to be connected to] its associated A unit to do anything useful.”
However, the B unit no longer has to park directly alongside the A unit in order to be useful. With a fiber-optic tether, copper is no longer a limiting factor in the proximity of the two vehicles. In venues like college basketball arenas, where there is simply not enough space to park two production trucks side by side, Dynasty’s B unit is free to park wherever space is available and can connect to the A unit via fiber optics.
“There is no copper between them at all,” Taubman says. “Over a fiber-optic tether, we carry 64 SDI 3-gig signals to the B unit and have 36 coming back the other way. The 64 lines carry all the monitoring and the multiviewer, Internet, and data.”
Dynasty also features 20 CCUs and an expanded ability to convert sources. “We can do 40 full up/down/crossconversions from any format to any format and an additional 48 downconversions all the way down to analog,” Taubman explains.
The first event on the docket for Dynasty is an MLS matchup at Foxboro Field on Aug. 28.
“We try to do something relatively easy and small as our first show,” Taubman explains. “It’s a nice way to get your feet wet and see how it runs, especially this time because we’ve got such a major change in our core infrastructure with Evertz. We’re still trying to get our heads around that.”
After MLS, Dynasty has a steep learning curve, since the truck will produce its first Yankees game on Aug. 30. Dynasty was built primarily for use by the YES Network, so it will be assigned exclusively to YES for all Yankee home games and some road games, in addition to some New Jersey Nets games. Following baseball’s regular season, Dynasty will move over to Fox for postseason baseball and the World Series. After the Fall Classic wraps up, the truck will transition into NFL Network football.
Building the Next Dynasty
With Dynasty out the door, the Game Creek team will begin planning for next summer, when at least one more new truck will hit the road (tasked for ESPN). And the GCV team is already planning upgrades to five current trucks: Clipper, Eagle, Freedom, Intrepid, and Patriot.
“It never becomes old hat,” Taubman says. “I keep thinking it’s going to become easier, but it’s always hurry up and get it done, get it tested, find the bugs, button it up, and get it out.”
And then it’s on to the next truck, which will undoubtedly become a Dynasty of its own.