Token Creek gets first HD unit ready to roll

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Token Creek Productions will roll out its first HD expando unit in August once integration of the vehicle (it takes delivery of the truck on June 25) is complete. “We’re excited about being able to offer an HD truck directly or through the Alliance,” says John Salzwedel, Token Creek president. “The timing is right to bring on this new HD vehicle.”

The new 53-foot HD truck, named “Varsity,” will satisfy the growing need for HD sports programming among Token Creek’s college football and professional baseball, basketball, and hockey clients including ABC Sports, ESPN, and Fox SportsNet.

The heart of the unit is a Grass Valley Kalypso HD video production switcher (Token Creek now has three Grass Valley switchers in place) that will control Chyron HyperX graphics and camera feeds from up to 12 LDK 8000 multiformat HD cameras. “Because the bulk of the work will be for ESPN we let them drive the boat when it comes to what equipment they want us to put in,” adds Salzwedel. “The switcher will have every bell and whistle.”

As for the cameras, Salzwedel says he likes the 1080p60 native output. “It enables us to extract a true 1080i or 720p signal out of the same camera,” he says. “Plus, the LDK 8000 provides us with future protection when and if we decide to produce shows in full 1080p HDTV. With these cameras, we’ll be ready.”

In terms of monitoring there won’t be a single CRT in the whole truck as Marshall and LG Electronics flat-screen LCD panels will be installed along with an Evertz multiviewer system. “We almost installed a couple of big plasma screens but we had a few of losing half of our monitoring capabilities if one of them went down,” explains Salzwedel. “As for the LCD monitors we had to spend good money to get away from the latency issues but it’s good to get away from glass monitors.”

Routing is handled by a 288×288 Qustream HD/SDI video router with a Calrec Sigma Bluefin console handling the AES audio signals. “This won’t have a b-unit,” says Salzwedel. “It will primarily handle regional sports and some boxing and other events for ESPN.”

Making the move to HD (Token Creek currently has standard definition trucks) required overcoming a few obstacles. “This was also our first expando unit and the design and layout was completely different than our other units,” says Salzwedel. “This is also the first truck we’ve done with AES encoded audio.”

The biggest challenge, however, was building an HD truck for a world that is still multiformat. “If the world was strictly HD it would be easier to put together an HD truck,” adds Salzwedel. “But we need to add up, down and cross-conversion equipment and there are additional panels on the side of the truck and ancillary equipment.”

Getting all that gear in place also required some extra negotiations with vendors. “We’ve been going back and beating on the vendor prices,” says Salzwedel. “We’re getting squeezed by the broadcasters to provide more capabilities without a big increase in revenues and the only way to make that attractive is to tell suppliers they need to do better. And some vendors are sitting up and taking notice.”

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Token Creek Mobile Television produces live multi-camera sporting events, in both standard-definition and HD (with full multichannel 5.1 audio mixing), throughout the upper Midwest.

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