IP Production Forum: Truck Vendors Ride Through Learning Curve of IP Adoption

Vehicle and equipment suppliers share their experiences in advancing the evolution

The IP transition is under way on the road, with major remote-production providers investing in IP infrastructure in their newest trucks. At SVG’s IP Production Forum in Stamford, CT, last week, two such providers — NEP and Game Creek Video — took the stage with equipment manufacturers Grass Valley and TVU Networks to discuss the opportunities and obstacles of this evolution.

Up in New Hampshire, Game Creek Video is readying is newest IP-based truck, Yogi, for YES Network’s coverage of New York Yankees baseball. Yogi follows in the steps of Game Creek’s first IP-based mobile unit, Encore, which rolled out in 2015.

Game Creek’s Jason Taubman (far right) speaks as (from left) SVG’s Brandon Costa, Grass Valley’s Robert Erickson, TVU Networks’ Matt Keiler, and NEP’s Joe Signorino listen.

Game Creek’s Jason Taubman (far right) speaks as (from left) SVG’s Brandon Costa, Grass Valley’s Robert Erickson, TVU Networks’ Matt Keiler, and NEP’s Joe Signorino listen.

“It’s a big step forward for us,” said Jason Taubman, VP, design and new technology, Game Creek Video. “Encore was our first IP truck, and we’re now putting together our second, which is undergoing tests right now and rolling out the door in just a couple weeks. Our big challenge for Encore was capacity and everything that was applied there for NASCAR and U.S. Open golf and NFL. For the YES Network, [Yogi] is going to be servicing the network, obviously, and it’s going to be doing dual feed — home and away — for Fox regionals while it’s sitting at Yankee Stadium. So we found ourselves again faced with a capacity issue. [Given also] the possibility of doing 4K with that facility at World Series scale, we decided that it needed to be an IP facility.”

NEP currently has three IP-based trucks on the road. Beginning with SSCBS in 2015, the company has rolled out SS24 and a trio of units for WWE in 2016, each with an IP router and IP-based audio and communications systems.

Despite the trend toward IP architecture, however, NEP isn’t saying goodbye to baseband.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into making the decision [to go IP or SDI]; a major one is still what clients would like to get involved in and which direction they want to go in or are comfortable with at this point,” explained Joe Signorino, VP, systems integration, NEP U.S. Mobile Units. “We have three very successful IP mobile units on the road today; two of them are very large systems. We’re very happy with the way that’s turned out, but, on the same note, the last mobile unit and the last couple of flypack systems we did were based on SDI routing platforms. So SDI’s definitely not gone.”

In 2016, Arena Television, one of the UK’s leading OB providers, announced the rollout of three new 4K/UHD trucks, each with an all-IP infrastructure outfitted by Grass Valley. Robert Erickson, IP evangelist, Americas, Grass Valley, shed light on some of the lessons learned throughout the process.

“Arena approached us mid 2016 for an all-IP end-to-end UHD truck,” he explained. “They wanted to use COTS architecture, they wanted Cisco switches, they wanted as much open standards and as much open gear as [possible]. We worked with them to build it. We have since built a second truck, and we are currently building the third truck based off the same design.”

Gear on the trucks includes Grass Valley LDX 86 series native-4K cameras — which can push out 1080i, 1080p, and 720p as needed — as well as Kayenne K-Frame switcher, Convergent IP/SDI router-control and -configuration systems, and a variety of IP-capable equipment.

“To be honest, we learned a lot,” noted Erickson. “The first truck we did was a tough install. When we think of COTS switches, we think we can go and buy a good high-end Cisco switch or high-end Arista, throw it in there, and call it done. And, in all fairness, that wasn’t the truth. … Being the first truck to do UHD and the first truck to do the all-IP COTS environment, we had a learning curve. The second truck, we commissioned in two weeks.”

Matt Keiler, VP, corporate accounts, TVU Networks, described the benefits of IP-based production systems for smaller-scale productions, where budgets or space constraints don’t allow for a 53-ft. production truck. The company boasts a wide range of products that enable IP-based remote production and facilitate at-home workflows.

“From our perspective, it has really helped our client base that is trying to televise that high school sporting event or a college event,” Keiler said. “This gives them a little more flexibility when it comes to budgetary concerns to still do things from an IP standpoint, and, because everything is still connected within the TVU IP ecosystem, there’s also a great opportunity to be able to share the content from the field to multiple places throughout the country via IP through a multipoint or direct content-sharing solution.”

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