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Mobile TV Group Rolls Out First-Ever 4K/6X-Slo-Mo/HD Mobile Unit

April 12th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Jason Dachman

Debuting at the NAB Show this week, Mobile TV Group’s first-of-its-kind 38FLEX mobile unit is capable of producing live events in 4K, 6X slo-mo, 1080p, or 720p/1080i on any given day. MTVG had announced plans for a 4K truck in December but expanded its vision for the “truck of the future,” adding the ability to support up to eight 6X-slow-motion camera systems that can also function as live game cameras.

MTVG-NAB“Our trucks, going forward, will have the ability to do multiple 6X super-slo-mo or 4K cameras with the exact same camera doing both slo-mo and 4K,” says Philip Garvin, president/founder, Mobile TV Group. “We call it FLEX because it can shift that easily from HD to 1080p to 6X and then to 4K on a day-to-day [basis].”

38FLEX represents the first in MTVG’s new series of FLEX and SUPER FLEX mobile units. FLEX features a 53-ft. single-expando (14 ft.-wide) A unit and requires a B unit only for visitor feeds in side-by-side duals; the SUPER FLEX will feature a 53-ft. double-expando (17-ft.- wide) A unit, with a B unit required for engineering, video shading, and additional graphics and equipment.

FLEX Cameras for a FLEX Truck
At NAB 2015, the 38FLEX will be on display at Booth OE601 with five of Grass Valley’s new LDX 86 Universe cameras, which are being unveiled at the show and are capable of functioning in 4K, 6X slow motion, or HD. The cameras will be outfitted with Canon (27x) and Fujinon (80x) 4K lenses.

38FLEX will roll with six LDX 86 Universal cameras and five standard HD cameras. However, Garvin stresses that the FLEX unit will accommodate any camera capable of shifting between 4K, 6X slo-mo, and HD.

“The ability to go between 6X and 4K is absolutely key; no one would want to build a truck like this that doesn’t have both,” says Garvin. “Obviously, we can’t do this without a camera capable [of switching between 4K, 6X slo-mo, and HD], but I’m not saying it has to be Grass Valley; it can be any camera with that capability.”

The 4K-Replay Challenge
In addition, the truck will be demonstrating integration with three replay systems: Grass Valley K2 Dyno, EVS XT3, and Evertz DreamCatcher. The real test will be when the truck is in 4K mode, cutting the number of replay channels to one-fourth of those available in an HD configuration.

“Replay is the big question because the bandwidth required is huge and nobody has really done this yet in 4K,” says Garvin. “In 4K, a 4-in/2-out is equal to a 16-in/8-out. You multiply by four. So you need a server that can do 16-in from one controller, and then you need to be able to network four or five of those together. And that is just for a modest 4K show. This is an enormous challenge for the replay people.”

Build Infrastructure, and the Rest Will Come
Besides the cameras and replay servers, other key ingredients in the FLEX truck model include a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame Switcher, a massive Grass Valley Nvision router, Grass Valley Kaleido multiviewers, Vizrt 4K graphics, and Calrec Artemis audio console. Gerling & Associates built the trailer body, and Garvin’s Colorado Studios completed the system integration and interior design.

“The message with a truck like this is just [that] you’re building out the infrastructure for whatever comes [in the future],” says Garvin. “There is so much more weight on the infrastructure in terms of just ins and outs and replay channels. You have to just build out the infrastructure, and then everything else will work out in terms of cameras and replay. The key ingredients for that are a powerful switcher and a huge router, because 6X takes three times the router size as a regular camera.

“It’s not just how we built the infrastructure for 4K,” he continues. “I know other companies have also done that with a large router. The key is, all of the cabling — for example, between the CCUs of the cameras, into the router and into the switcher — is completely different in a 4K environment, and this truck is prepared for that.”

Looking Ahead
Garvin declines to disclose whether the truck has already been booked to produce any live events or will serve a specific market, as all other MTVG units do, but he does acknowledge that the company has received “significant” interest from clients for 4K shows. The 6X-slo-mo shows, however, are where Garvin sees an immediate interest.

“The demand for 6X is simply incredible. In our view, the only way to do sports going forward is that every or most action cameras should have 6X super-slo-mo,” says Garvin, who recently purchased his 30th Grass Valley LDX XS 6X super-slo-mo camera. “Right now, we’ve got two [LDX XS cameras] on many of our trucks, and I think we’re the only trucks that have super-slo-mo [as] standard. Trucks sometimes will rent and have three or four [super-slo-mo cameras], but we believe the right number of super-slo-mo cameras is six to eight for a game.”

Hi-Def Déjà Vu
Garvin sees this transition as a replay of 2003, when MTVG became the first remote-production–facilities provider to roll out an HD truck. He estimates that 80% of the shows that truck worked in year 1 and 60% in year 2 were SD shows, but the goal was to get ahead of the technological curve before SD became irrelevant.

“This is a complete repeat of what we did in 2003, when we started building HD trucks,” he says. “The trucks had to be priced for standard-def and for hi-def. We lost money when we did standard-def, but it’s a sacrifice we had to make. It is the same thing now: we have to build trucks that can do all these different things. These trucks will not be profitable for probably two or three years, but, in three years, the trucks that weren’t built this way won’t have any work at all.”

Mobile TV Group’s new 38FLEX mobile unit is on display at Booth OE601.