NEP Chief Technology Officer George Hoover says modern computer design techniques have helped the mobile TV production facilities provider roll out a new generation of “super trucks” that offer much greater efficiency in terms of production capability per pound, maintenance and workflow.
NEP: ‘Super Trucks’ Deliver Super Efficiencies
For at least the past decade, there’s been a near obsession in the television industry with efficiency, whether it’s more productive news production workflows, streamlined ingest and playout or even at the transmitter site where efficiency translates into fewer dollars spent on power bills.
Running down a parallel road on the journey to streamline processes and reduce expenses has been a new generation of multi-camera mobile television production trailers. Designed and built by NEP, the double-sided expandable production trailers
George Hoover, chief technology officer for NEP, laid out the advantages of this next-generation approach to mobile production trailer design during his “The Future of Live Sports Production” session April 8 at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
In 2004, NEP rolled out its first next-generation vehicle designed and built with the assistance of the most up-to-date computer tools available at that time. “This was the first time we used modern computer design stress tools to build stronger and stiffer mobile units,” Hoover said during his Broadcast Engineering Conference session.
That approach, he said, yielded a 30% reduction in weight, which in turn meant NEP could outfit these new rigs with much more production technology. That weight savings made it possible for NEP to equip the truck with more technology to give its clients increased production punch without exceeding legal weight requirements for over-the-road transportation.
Since then, NEP has built nine of the “super trucks,” as Hoover calls them, and two more are about to go into production, he said. So light is the aluminum construction that two NEP workers can lift the entire 50-plus foot roof during construction, he said.
“Prior [to that first next-gen mobile production studio] each one was handmade,” he said. “Today they are manufactured.”
By manufacturing the trailers with interchangeable parts, it is far easier and faster to replace damaged components, such as a trailer door that’s been penetrated by a forklift, said Hoover.
Today, ESPN uses NEP super trucks to produce Monday Night Football, as does NBC Sports for its Sunday Night Football telecast, he said.
For both network sports broadcasts it is not uncommon for three to four next-generation production trailers to be onsite to produce games. Together, they are typically equipped with 25 to 40 HD cameras, more than a dozen robotic cameras, a multi-suite production switcher, digital effects, a main announce mixer supplemented by a separate 5.1 surround sound mixer for game sound, a large routing switcher, 60 to 90 operating positions and an equipment rack room, dubbed “the Engine Room,” that looks like it belongs in a data center.
The super truck concept also helps NEP and the production crews staffing the trailers achieve more efficient workflow, Hoover said. Designed to be “plug and play,” the production trailers are designed to be easily connected via fiber optic cable and tethered to shore power quickly to reduce the amount of time production staff must wait to get into the trailers and begin working.
The design also makes it possible for any technical or creative tasks to be performed from any operating position in a trailer at any time, he added.