Dome Productions’ Thunder HD Unit Hits the Streets

By Ken Kerschbaumer

A new HD-production truck is on the road via Dome Productions and the unit, known as Thunder, is the company’s fifth unit that will be committed to the Olympic Games and the first to offer clients the new Sony HDC-1500R cameras that are 3G-compatible. “It’s been a terrific launch and the acceptance and feedback has been very positive,” says Mike Johnson, director of engineering for Dome. Johnson adds that the effort involved integration company Azcar, an internal team, and Gerling and Associates working closely with vendors like Evertz, and it was one of Dome’s most successful collaborative efforts.

The challenge in building the unit was complying with Canadian regulations that prevent axels from being split. “When you can’t split, the truck is limited to 34,000 pounds instead of 40,000 pounds, and that is a significant difference,” says Johnson.

The weight limit is one reason why Thunder features an ADC jack field that weighs only four pounds and has more jack positions than comparable units that weigh 12 pounds. An Evertz EQS router, with 288×180 video and 128×128 audio inputs/outputs, is also on board with a built-in multiviewer and monitoring support. “It also has embedded audio and MADI support so it reduces the cable requirements from 32 down to one,” explains Johnson.

The unit is centered on a Grass Valley Kalypso HD production switcher with four mix effects, 90 inputs, and six transform engines. An Abekas MX Dual twin-channel HD DVE unit and a Chyron Duet HD/SD HyperX2 are also onboard.

“We’ve kept the gear complement the same for our five trucks that are committed to the Olympics,” says Johnson. The host broadcaster will use the five units to produce hockey, figure skating, and curling broadcasts.

EVS instant-replay capabilities include 2 EVS HD XT2 LSM six-channel servers; an HD XT2 LSM four-channel server; an EVS HD XT2 RO 4-channel Spot Box; an EVS X-File; and two XHUB 2s. Other recording and playback gear includes a Sony HDcamSR SRW-5500 VTR, a Sony HDW-M2000 HDCam/Multi P-Back, and three DVD recorder/players. The unit is wired for 10 VTRs, seven EVS units, and 16 cameras. A total of 10 Sony HD cameras are on the unit along with Canon lenses, including Canon XJ86x9.5 andXJ72x9.5 zoom lenses and HJ11x4.7 ENG lenses.

“The unit has three tiers of production-team seating that runs laterally across the width of the truck,” adds Johnson. “The layout is also very similar to previous units like Spirit and Horizon.”

Audio gear includes a Calrec Sigma desk with Bluefin technology and 64 faders and 44 microphones from Sennheiser, Sony, Audio-Technica, and Electrovoice. An RTS Adam 128×128 matrix intercom with 16 IFB channels handles communication needs.

The unit is future-proofed with the 3G capabilities, making it suitable for 1080p production. “We’ve had three conversations with entertainment shows to use the 3G capability, but the conversations usually don’t get very far when they begin thinking about what they will record the content on,” says Johnson.

Dome will build at least two more HD trucks to serve the growing HD market. The truck-production pipeline, however, is currently empty, and Johnson says the company is evaluating the form factor of future units. He adds that smaller trucks are intriguing, especially for smaller productions, but they introduce a new set of challenges.

“You can’t carry anything on those trucks, so you end up either shipping additional gear or tendering a second truck,” he says. “So then you are dealing with the cost of two drivers, two hotel rooms, and two fuel tanks of gas. And if you ship something, there are no guarantees as the airlines move to smaller planes.”

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