Wolf Coach Envisions ENG Future with TracPhone-Enabled SUV

By Carl Lindemann

Wonder what the future holds for ENG? Wolf Coach has brought its vision of this to life on the 2009 NAB Show floor with a TracPhone-enabled broadband satellite communications SUV.

“This is the final evolution of the ENG truck,” says Tom Jennings, director of broadcast sales, L3/Wolf Coach. “This IP-based technology will be retrofitted to all news vehicles within the next three years.”

The TracPhone technology adds a few bump-like domes on a standard SUV equipped with basic production gear in the back. The basic concept is to use increasingly available IP-based networks to move video from the field while traveling down the road. This has the distinct advantage over legacy microwave technology that requires stationary transmission.

According to Jennings, the trick is shifting from different IP connections depending on what’s available. For example, while traveling in and around major cities, it’s often possible to tap into a high-speed network. Farther out, 3G phone access and satellite connections come into play.

In time, newer means, like 4G access, will continue to speed uplinks to move video. For now, the challenge is existing services more suited for consumer use with speedier downloads than upstream data.

“The real bottleneck is that it’s typically 512k up and 2 megs down,” Jennings says. “When we can get services that flip that, this will take off immediately.”

He says the concept vehicle was created to provide the proof-of-concept to a major station group that will soon announce the adoption and rollout of the new ENG technology. He calls this the last stop in ENG-vehicle evolution because, he said, he sees what comes next as being fundamentally different. As high-speed IP connectivity becomes ubiquitous over time, there’s no need to capture/store video locally.

Shooters will transmit footage directly to station-based servers from the back of the camera — nothing saved out in the field that has to be hauled back to cut. Where does that leave his work of making mobile-production vehicles?

“Ultimately,” says Jennings, “I’m engineering myself out of a job.”

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