Mobile AV: Santa Cruz County Remote CTV, Part 2
May 10, 2011 7:00 AM, with Bennett Liles
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Community Television of Santa Cruz County, Calif. is using their new remote van to cover local sports and viewers can't get enough. Craig Jutson is back to tell us about the audio and recording systems on the new truck, all of which he designed and installed personally. That's coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Craig, thanks for being back with me for Part 2 from Community Television of Santa Cruz County, Calif. and the new remote truck that you've got out there doing local sports and other things. We were talking in Part 1 about the video switcher and the cameras, but a central part of this is going to be how you record these events, so what kind of gear did you go with on the recording system?
Well, we wanted to go with a file-based workflow and not have to go to tape, and the only tape in the truck is duct tape and gaffers' tape. We have an MPEG-2 server in our master control so I wanted to think of…at the end of the day the last out in the baseball game, the point of it is to turn it around and get it to master control and ready to play and the fewest man hours possible so it's getting with a file-based workflow on something that maintained quality yet didn't take nine hours to render. So I chose two recorders for file-based and then I have a backup DVD recorder, an old Pioneer PVR-LX-1 makes great DVDs and it's simple to use and it's very dependable. For our MPEG-2 portion of our show we chose a Datavideo HDR-50; the rack-mount recorder has one input and it has removable 250GB drives so I bought a couple of spare drives. I haven't had any failures, of course, yet and we're recording to an M2T file and it's FAT-32-formatted so it works still has VTR controls on the face of it—stop, start, play, etc. It works very simply; it's very dependable. We haven't had any failures in all of our tests or any of games since December, with it, and when we're done we just unplug that drive and then mount it on a laptop. Datavideo supplies a simple Windows file concatenater so we just open that drive with the file concatenater and then save it and it concatenates in about 1/7th of real time so an hour-long game…in less than ten minutes or so, you've concatenated all of those files and of course some games are two and three hours long—extrapolate there. So in only a few minutes we're able to concatenate all those files together and we have our pre-game, the body of the game, and our post-game, typically. So I'm working with three files and then I put them into a TMPG MPEG encoder3, it's a simple editing and conversion trimming software, if I have anything extra like some interstitials that I'm not using that's roll ins in the show I just take all those files and put them in the timeline in the TMPG software which costs like I don't know what it was...like a hundred bucks or whatever and in about 1/5th of real time we can completely re-encode the game and raise the audio if we need to, trim out any extra black that we left when we rolled that, and it spits out one assembled and concatenated MPEG-2 file in 16x9 standard def and then we just put it on a thumb drive and then bicycle that to the TV station. And so, while the crew tearing down the shoot the editor, usually me, or the graphics operator can concatenate the file, trim up off the black, use TMPG to slap it all together and in 45 minutes to an hour after the last basket or after the last whistle of the game the show is done and it takes that long and a little bit longer to finish packing up all of the cables and cameras and stuff. So while the crew is wrapping, the tech for the truck is finishing the show so we drive off…we have an MPEG ready to copy into the server. [Timestamp: 4:34]
You were talking before about how if you're going to be putting that amount of resources into a production truck to go ahead and equip it for HD. So how are you handling HD with respect to say, routing and conversion and getting the signal to those recorders?
Well the second half of the recorder is we're doing the exact same show in high def and I'm just not down converting it. We're going straight to a Convergent Design nanoFlash which we have mounted right by the other recorders in the truck. We're recording to Compact Flash card. We have several SanDisk 64GB cards and we can record an entire game on two 64GB cards and we do the same basic thing with that. We use a concatenater,add the files together, and we come back with a high-def MOV. Of course it takes a little longer to render, so we're typically taking that back to the station, rendering it, and then we're using that to create our MP4, because we're on iTunes with our games the next day, and then of course we upload them to our website so they can be webcast on demand on our site by usually the next day. You can watch a high-def version even before it's made broadcast, because sometimes our broadcast delay is several days depending upon what day of the week the game is played, within a day or two of the podcast and the webcasts are available as well. So what we're doing inside the truck is…I wanted to stay 1080i all the way through so the output of our Broadcast Pix 1000 is 1080i we're taking the Mackie 32-channel audio mixer's output and using anEnsemble Designs BrightEye. It's kind of like a cigarette case-size unit. We have three or four of those doing different jobs in the truck. Anyway the Ensemble Designs BrightEye 71 is an embedder or disembedder. In this case we're using it to embed the analog audio channels 1 and 2 into the HD SDi video and then we're DA'ing that through a BrightEyes 41,and so I've got five or six HD SDi-embedded inputs. We're also throwing a little bit of delay on the audio as it comes in to compensate for the processing on the Broadcast Pix. So we've got synced audio, we're DA'ing it with the Ensemble Designs units, and I'm sending that to engineering, I'm sending that to HD record, I'm sending that to our high-def replay recorder, and I'm also sending that to the bulkhead where I can have a couple distribution points. We're taking the HD SDi program with embedded audio and right in front of our standard-def recorders and our standard-def distribution amps we're down converting with the Ensemble Designs BrightEye in 9D-A cross converter, down converter with audio out so I can take the HD SDi in and then it gives me a variety of flavors all out HDMI which I am sending into a balen. So out of our 9D-A cross converter I'm taking a program video and I'm throwing it into a component balen and I'm taking the HDMi out and sending that into a balen which is throwing it to Cat-5 and so I can throw my monitor up to 500ft. away from the truck and all I have to do is run a Cat-5 line out to the talent or any other place I wanted to run an extra monitor and I have a couple balens for that. [Timestamp: 8:11]
How are you doing audio in the van? I noticed you have a Mackie Onyx 32-4 mixer.
I had furniture custom-designed for the van to my spec, and one of the audio booths has a Mackie 32-4 Onyx. I chose that because I was really familiar with the Mackie. I had several before. The Onyx series has built-in compression that's assignable so we're running the audio in groups. Anything that's a nat sound or the commentators, we're running through a couple of groups and then we can assign compression to that but not to any of the other inputs into the Mackie. So the Mackie is output at…everything is patched through a series of patch phase. You can reroute it to what degree you need to and we have a MP3 audio player and SD card audio player. It can play wavs or MP3s and then we have a CD player that can play MP3s or CDs. So I've got several sources of audio where we have our music open all on a SD card and the operators play that and then all the cameras have two audio inputs, a microphone, and a line in, and we're running ambient sound off all the cameras and then I have four shotguns are running ambient sound and I have for basketball a couple of net mics: ambient, wireless mics—lavaliers we put on the backboard and then we usually have a couple other lavs. To me, sound in the sports broadcast is really important. It's one of the things I learned when I was covering Sanford basketball is if you spend time to make the audio portion of the program really rich, then it pays back on how enjoyable it is. And so we spend a good deal of time making sure we have a lot of nat sound to play. It makes the audio operator's job pretty interesting but that contributes a lot to this show so the Mackie and all of its…the devices and sources are routed into the embedder where we're combining it with the video from the Broadcast Pix and that's the audio portion of our show there. [Timestamp: 10:06]
Mobile AV: Santa Cruz County Remote CTV, Part 2
May 10, 2011 7:00 AM, with Bennett Liles
You're doing a lot of sports with the truck, how are you handling instant replay?
We used to have BUF Tech Sport slo-mo replay—a single-channel unit in a couple of trucks that I worked in, or we had one or two of those…I went to the last show and I saw Tightrope ZEPLAY four-channel system was like 50 grand and I thought up several other server-based systems that Elvis's were using and they were upwards of $75- and $85,000 for a four- or a six- or an eight-channel replay system. First off, we have four cameras even though my operators are very good—they are somewhat skilled, not excellently skilled, so we decided to go with a NewTek 3Play. It's been very stable. It has a excellent interface, and I put a Matrix Switch Corporation 8x4 HD SDi router in front of replay so I'm sending all the sources in the truck: program, clean feed, width graphics, plus the cameras all to the eight-input router so the replay operator has anything in the truck at their fingertips and can route whatever mix they need to, to any of their three inputs on the 3play and then they can choose the play they want, they can change angles on it, they can change a in and out time, they can very easily make a highlight reel and make notations to it. It's a very good interface and it's proved really stable for us and I'm pleased. It was about 25 grand compared to 45 grand—65 grand—85 grand. They just weren't into…it wasn't in the picture for us to have something that complicated or expensive. [Timestamp: 11:43]
And in the recording system, how much multi-track recording capability do you have?
Because our truck is not just a sports box, we wanted it to have a greater flexibility, and so for sports I probably only needed maybe a 24-channel mixer or smaller. I went with a 32-channel mixer and all of the ins and outs and all of the aux ends and the groups are all patchable and on the patch bay I also have a Zoom, a R16 multi-track SD card recorder. It's called 16 track but it's really—it has eight inputs and so to me that's eight—I'm not an audio pro because we're not doing post production with it, it's primarily to record music concerts, and so we have a custom-made Whirlwind 500ft. snake and 24-channel mult box with four returns so one of 24 channels come into 24 inputs through the patch bay on our first 24 inputs on our Mackie. You can do a pretty good job either getting a feed on a straight patch across at a music venue, or you could actually mic the show yourself and then create a somewhat broadcast-quality concert mix right there in the truck. We've yet to do a music show other than some tests with it, but I'm looking forward to that first opportunity. We've only had the truck for not even four months yet. [Timestamp: 13:08]
I'm sure that'll expand your audience too. I mean, local sports stuff really gets people in there. The viewers for that are really into it, but it's great that you already have the versatility built into the truck to widen your audience maybe with music productions. So how long did the whole project of outfitting this van take?
I bought the Coach in February of 2010 and it basically sat parked for two months, until about May when I knew we were going to get our funding in May and so from July and August I gutted it and then I sent it across the state to get a skin. I checked on a paint job for it. It didn't really need a paint job, but we wanted something nice looking. So I checked into the cost of paint jobs and they were all upwards of $10-20,000 and I was able to get a vinyl wrap for about $7,500, so we designed a custom vinyl wrap for it. At our website at CommunityTV.org you can see what it looks like. It's got a big wave, like you're surfing a wave in Santa Cruz coming in…and so we sent it away to get that wrap, I got it back, and I finished gutting it and then by about Thanksgiving, I started receiving the equipment and actually doing the wiring and the racking and the furniture in there in September. I did it myself, I had several very good specialist technicians come in and do other stuff with me, and a couple of helpers who just volunteered here and there, but it took me about three months, all-told, time there in the warehouse to gut it, have it wrapped, and then get the rack, furniture in, redo some of the walls, we custom-made a bulkhead in one of the baggage galley bays, got all of the I/O installed through there, pulled all the cables, redid IT system in there, and had it ready to go by about Thanksgiving and did a few weeks of tests with it, and then we rolled it out December 18th for its first show. [Timestamp: 15:05]
So what's the response been from the viewers on the high school sports events?
Very good, I'd love to say the phone never stops ringing and checks from sponsors keep pouring in, but that's not the case. But Comcast had a game here for over 20 years and then when it went away people didn't know why it went away. They just realized over time, "Wait a second, there's no more game of the week anymore," and so it's going to take some time to get back on people's radar. Everyone is really excited about it, who we come in contact with…schools, teams, coaches, administrators, the leagues, parents. They're all really enthused. We have high def, podcasts, and we're shooting the game in 16:9, 1080i and that resolution—the graphics in the Broadcast Pix are great. It just looks so exciting. It's fun to be part of something like this again. [Timestamp: 15:56]
Well it sure sounds like it and it sure makes it worth the effort when you can have a lot of fun doing it and work in a truck that you put together with your own hands. I really congratulate you on a great job and it's been great having you on here, Craig. It's Craig Jutson from Community Television from Santa Cruz County, Calif. and maybe we can get back with you when you start doing music shows and see how that's going.