NEP Takes Evolutionary – Not Revolutionary – Approach With New ND6, Entourage Trucks

NEP Chief Technology Officer George Hoover can see a great leap forward in the way that mobile production trucks are constructed taking place right around the corner. But not just yet. While a prodigious shift toward IP-centric routing and distribution infrastructures is just beyond the horizon, NEP’s latest trucks to hit the road – ND6 and Entourage – represent what may be the final generation of traditional baseband-video trucks for the company.

“We are going to see some revolutionary changes in the way trucks are built in the near future, says Hoover. “But right now, we’re all standing in that waiting zone knowing it’s going happen, but that it’s not here just yet. So we are utilizing the most reliable proven technology on the market right now [for ND6 and Entourage], all while full well knowing that things will be changing soon.”

Both ND6 and Entourage are standalone 53-foot trailers without a B unit. Supershooters’ ND6 will be focused on NBC Sports Group’s mid-size productions, while Sweetwater’s Entourage was designed specifically for long-form studio and live entertainment shows.

It Takes Two: ND6 Boasts Interoperability
Essentially a carbon copy of ND5, which debuted in February, ND6 features a large, three-tier control room and a back-to-back layout in tape that has already deployed across five additional trucks in the fleet. In addition, the virtual monitor wall configuration is compatible with ND5, SS16, SS18, and SS20, allowing production teams to move more easily between trucks when necessary.

“One of our reasons for making two nearly identical trucks was that the infrastructure and setup configurations can port back and forth between trucks,” says Hoover. “So an EIC who is doing a show on ND6 that did a show last week on ND5 can simply log on, plug-in that monitor wall configuration and have the truck pre-loaded when he walks in.”

In addition to convenience this interchangeable configuration allows clients like NBC to significantly cut down on manpower costs.

“We’re all being driven by the need to contain costs and the biggest costs facing our clients after rights fees is on-site manpower – hotels, per diem, airfares, and so on,” says Hoover. “So anything we can do to make that more efficient is a huge upside, particularly if you have a client working in a family of trucks and moving back and forth.”

ND6 is equipped with a Grass Valley Kalypso 3.5 M/E switcher (90 inputs), five EVS XT3 replay systems, a Chyron HyperX3 graphics system, a Pesa HD router (192×160) and Pesa audio router, and a virtual monitor wall with a Harris multiviewer. The truck is wired for 16 CCUs and features Sony cameras (HDC-1000’s and HC-15000’s) with Canon lenses and Vinten heads/tripods.

In terms of audio, the truck supports multi-channel embedded audio and is built around a Calrec Artemis Beam console with Bluefin 2 high-density signal processing, which allows for 340 channels of audio (170 Stereo and 56 5.1 Surround). The truck is also equipped with Sennheiser and Sony microphones.

“We took more of an evolutionary approach with this trucks,” says Hoover. “We’re trying to improve the layout, monitor wall designs, and things that people have really liked when we’ve done them in the past. We’re just taking that to the next level. It is not a radical departure though.”

ND6 debuted for NBC at the Belmont Stakes earlier this month and is booked to work various Comcast and NBC Sports Group shows throughout the rest of the year.

Entourage Fits the Entertainment Bill
Focused squarely at Sweetwater’s entertainment market, Entourage features the an similar footprint to the company’s Silver and Cobalt units, including an oversized audio room that is integral to many live music shows.

As for gear, the Entourage is equipped with a Sony MVS 8000A Switcher (80 Inputs), a Studer Vista 5 audio console, a Harris HD/SD router, a discrete production monitor wall, Shure and Sennheiser microphones, a Deko3000 HD/SD character generator (upon request), and Sony cameras with Fujinon lenses.

“Entourage also offers clients of the Denali model who are interested in a different set of technologies depending on what they would like to use and are familiar with,” says Hoover. “It [features] a Sony switcher and Studer audio console with Sony cameras but can be adapted to the client’s needs.”

Entourage will make its debut later this summer for production of FOX’s The X Factor in New Jersey.

Looking Toward the Future
Both trucks will have plenty of tread on the tires by this time next year when the big question will be “When will the truck of the future become the truck of the present?”

“The next generation of trucks will really change the way that routing and distribution is done,” says Hoover. “We will move to more IP-centric infrastructures, which are not quite out there just yet, but they are right around the corner. Some of the technical standards that will allow that evolution to happen are getting ready to be certified by the various standard organizations like IEEE, SMPTE, and AES. There are some radical advances just are around the corner next year.”

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