Mobile AV: Santa Cruz County Remote CTV, Part 1
Apr 26, 2011 12:00 PM,
with Bennett Liles
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It’s one thing to buy a nice new remote truck for your TV operation, but it’s a whole different ball game when you build it up from a shell and fit it out with your own hands. Craig Jutson of Community Television in Santa Cruz County, Calif. is here to tell us how he did that very thing. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Craig, it’s great to have you with me on the SVC podcast all the way from Santa Cruz County, Calif. where they apparently have a lot of community television fans. Tell me about CTV Santa Cruz. What sort of programming do you have there?
Well, CTV Community Television in Santa Cruz County is a non-profit peg group of television stations public, educational, and government access started in the early 90’s by the county. We won the bid to offer public, educational, and government services and we offer government meetings on the government channel and educational stuff, etc. and then on our public access channel you’d find what you’d expect—shows made by mom and pop, talk shows, tech shows, cooking shows, entertainment shows, and we mix that in with some satellite feeds like Free Speech TV and Classic Arts Network and stuff like that to fill the day. [Timestamp: 1:42]
And a perfect example of peg channels, public, education, and government and those are added to the dial, so to speak, by your local cable TV company in return for the clearance to use the county rights-of-way to run their cable to your home.
Yeah, that’s the package, that’s right. [Timestamp: 1:57]
So it seems to be a good deal for everybody bringing all sorts of local events to cable TV viewers. So what generated the idea of CTV operating their own remote van?
Community television isn’t the first thing everyone thinks of every day they get up, so what we wanted to do was try and become more familiar in the community and be more of a go-to for local news and sports and Comcast is the primary cable company. There is AT&T and Charter also here in our county but Comcast is the lion’s share of subscribers. They actually had their own truck for 20 years and they stopped in 2009 making the local Game of the Week and so there hasn’t been a local sports presence here…putting the kids on television for a couple of years now. [Timestamp: 2:45]
Yeah and there’s a huge demand out there for local sports too.
I’ve been involved in local sports since the late 80’s and so, yeah, I understand that need and how to fill it. So local sports as opposed to local news, we decided what we could do would be to add local sports since that’s one of the most clamored after things—there’s an event you go out and shoot it, it’s in the can and then you play it. Local news is a different kind of commitment and we didn’t feel that we had the staff to do that to the justice that it might deserve. And we do have a lot of people on our employment who have a lot of local sports experience and so we decided to fund a production truck and get started as soon as it was ready. The board of directors asked me for some different proposals that encompassed everything from used standard-definition equipment, of course, all the way right up through new high-def equipment and I had came up with five or six designs—basically ranges of equipment, not complete designs, utilizing different pieces and then proposed it to them and they voted a budget of about $250,000 to $275,000 to outfit a production van with four high-def cameras and a high-def switcher, etc and so that’s the genesis of our truck. That was in 2010 and I went to NAB and then made my decisions about what we were going to go with and we lined up the funding, ordered the equipment in July and August so it all arrived in September and October and I got the truck stripped out, wired up and ready to go by about Thanksgiving of 2010 and so we shot our first event in December of 2010. [Timestamp: 4:31]
Now what kind of truck body is your remote van built on?
I’ve built another truck before out of basically a step-van. I decided that that was too small of a format for the need that we had. I looked around at different kinds of production vans, trailers, a variety of formats and I decided because of the nature of staffing something like this is one or two people have all the knowledge on a production like ours and have to train and guide people within arm’s reach, so to speak, so I couldn’t have a engineering compartment where the engineer was operating solo and no one watching him, I couldn’t have an audio booth where the audio operator was there with no one watching replay, video wall etc.—had to put it all in one room. So what we decided to do was to put it in something like an RV platform, so I searched around California for a used platform like that and I happened upon a Barth mobile office. It was used as a sales vehicle for a big RV place that went out of business in northern California and it had very few miles on it—only 27,000 miles, a 1995 body so it’s a 33ft. Ford Motor Coach body with a Ford 460 in it and Dooley’s on the back and so 33 feet was plenty long enough for me to build everything that I needed to and still have extra room to use as a classroom/meeting space in the front of the primary room. [Timestamp: 6:12]
Well that sounds like you’ve got enough room in there to equip yourself to really do some things.
Because it was a mobile office, there was never any of the standard accoutrements of RV—plumbing, living room furniture, that kind of stuff. It was just an empty box with air conditioning and some IT cabling basically and of course it had desks and chairs and walls and plywood and stuff, and I ripped all that stuff out back down to the naked floor and walls and then put back in what we needed. And so in front of the rear wheels I have the control room and the primary rack, I have four racks Middle Atlantic 77 space racks I think they are the tallest you could get—they’re 83.5in., I have four of those ganged side-by-side right across…right on top of the back axle and then behind the axle I have storage for all my tubs and cameras and tripods and everything on the truck that I don’t fit into the belly base. [Timestamp: 7:1]
Mobile AV: Santa Cruz County Remote CTV, Part 1
Apr 26, 2011 12:00 PM,
with Bennett Liles
And you selected four Hitachi cameras to use on your remotes?
I’ve worked with a lot of cameras in the last 23 years and when we decided it didn’t make sense to invest a couple 100,000 dollars in making a standard def truck we had to figure out what high def options we had and so I looked at what industrial/affordable/low-cost high def camera systems were out there and Hitachi had the most appropriate design that met all of our needs. My experience with other manufacturers and their approach to cabling, CCU cabling, add remote control, and power. Hitachi’s approach, I thought, was the best by far the most robust and of course their price was perfect. Hitachi has made a point of packaging this camera so that it’s affordable so that it obviously get a market share and I think they made a good choice. There’s Z-HD5000 cameras their counters are capable of 1080i or 720p or if you want to go 4-3 SDI you can get 4-3 486 out of them as well and we chose the Hitachi one reason is because with the combination of CCU’s and hybrid Mohawk fiber that was available with them we could get camera distances of 300, 500, 700 or 1,000 ft. for pretty affordable and durable cable. [Timestamp: 8:42]
And tell me about your switcher, you’ve got a Broadcast Pix Granite 1000 in there?
Yeah, working with the switcher because we chose the Hitachi CU500 which is their lower price CCU, it has less outputs than their more expensive CCU. We are limited to 1080i, 4-486 SD out of the cameras. But the switcher, the Broadcast Pix Granite 1000 can take 1080i in and we can convert it to just about any output we want. I decided within my design to stay 1080i all the way through the truck, all the way through to conversion right before recording and distribution and that way everything was working with the same flavor without any cost converting or aspect ratio conversion anyplace except for right in front of the recorders and the distribution amplifiers. It seemed to make more sense to me to have one format and to work with it natively in its highest resolution the equipment is capable of and then to convert it where I needed to for the destinations rather than trying to up convert and cross convert within the work flow. It didn’t seem to make much sense so the Broadcast Pix is getting 1080i in from the Hitachi’s and my replay recorder, my player, etc. It’s all 1080i and so the Broadcast Pix Granite was our choice of switcher and the reason I chose it, I’d love to have the rock solid reliability of a Grass Valley style switcher but of course we’re looking at a small format truck. It’s only four racks wide in the entire truck, one operator, a TD of good experience but not broadcast level TV in terms of quality and pay. You need to be able to come in and operate it and so to some degree the designs that are more suited to a one man band make sense for our small truck application and Broadcast Pix, New Tech, FOR-A—lots of companies are making smaller format switchers that are very powerful compared to switchers of years ago. The Broadcast Pix made the most sense. I’ve had New Tech products, I still do. I’ve had FOR-A. I’ve worked with Sony. I have worked with Panasonic. I’ve worked with Echo Lab—a variety of switchers. The Broadcast Pix made the most sense. We bought the Quad Card with ours so we have four multi viewers out of the one unit and I’ve got three multi viewers installed right now. Some other manufacturers do have integrated multi viewers, there is a range of significantly more expensive switchers that were…just didn’t fit our price point and then there are some switchers that are more affordable that have a integrated multi viewer but it only had one multi viewer as opposed to four multi viewers in it. So instead of building a separate rack of multi viewers and then having to deal with the cabling to those Broadcast Pix answer it fit really well in our budget and it fits really well in a small format and it’s simple to use. [Timestamp: 11:52]
Tell me about the fluent clips store feature on the Broadcast Pix switcher. How do you use that on your shows?
We have several pretty simple roll ins, interstitials, commercials, etc. that we can have in the clips store as well as the music open to our sports package. They live in the clips store and we can call them up through pix pads and use them as roll in’s. We saw the switcher at NAB last year and ordered it in July and August and they’ve gradually released successive versions that have revealed more of the capabilities of the switcher. The last two versions we got into the beta program. The last version of beta that we had and the current public release are really some of the first two releases to have a full use of the clips store, animations, etc. that it’s capable of. So we’ve only just wrapped our teeth around it in the last couple of months. For the first couple of months we didn’t have the clip store and now we do, we’re pretty pleased with it. We’ve integrated the animations. Seeing as we didn’t have the clip store when we first got it we redesigned our open as an animation because we did have the animation stores. And actually that’s worked really well because it frees up the clip store for other roll in’s that we have. Fluent is a buzzword in their sales lexicon. It is rather fluid, it’s easy to move files around; it’s easy to design a show. A show is a designation for all of the settings, all of the files, all of the images, all of the lower thirds, and even the layout of the switcher—it’s all wrapped up into what you call a show file and so once you design your show and then load it when you get the location and it has all of the features. And of course we’re always editing it even up to the last minute, and so their design works really well. [Timestamp: 13:52]
Well when you have that much to cover and everybody has to be doing a lot of different jobs, efficiency is the name of the game and in the small remote vans making the most of the gear and the space that you have. Craig, it’s been great having you here to tell us about the new remote van. Craig Jutson from CTV Santa Cruz. In Part 2 we’ll get more into the audio and recording capabilities of the new van. Thanks for being here, Craig.