Diversified Systems Delivers Big Power in Small Trucks for MSG Varsity
When it comes to production value, high school sports have become the new college, with schools increasingly producing their own content and networks sprouting up to cover events at the high school level. MSG Varsity, a cable channel dedicated to high school sports throughout New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley, has made a serious commitment to increasing its production values by purchasing two fully HD 40-foot Bobtail mobile-production trucks integrated by Diversified Systems.
“These are regional sports trucks built specifically to cover high school events, and they’re the biggest little trucks you’ll ever walk into,” says Duane Yoslov, SVP of sales and operations for Diversified Systems. “Often, you’re lucky to get a guy with a camcorder covering high school, and MSG Varsity now has two full-blown HD trucks that could do most B-level events for the NFL. If you put one of these trucks in production for a Tuesday-night regional baseball game against any of the big HD trucks in the market, you wouldn’t be able to see the difference in terms of quality in the output of the product.”
“When designing the two HD Production trucks for MSG Varsity our priorities were simple,” explains Michael Lardner, SVP and EP, MSG Varsity. “Produce high quality HD Programming for our customers and the flexibility to grow in the future. We wanted the same high quality but not in a tractor trailer due to the variety of spaces we have to navigate to do high school games.”
Because most high school venues cannot accommodate a 53-ft. trailer, MSG Varsity was looking for a truck with a smaller footprint. Diversified Systems chose a Bobtail configuration, built by Gerling and Associates on a Freightliner chassis, 40 ft. long bumper-to-bumper, including the cab, which leaves the box itself at 31 ft. long.
“We maximize that space by having a 29-ft. expanding side that comes out 60 in.,” Yoslov explains. “This is the first time that I’ve done an expando on a Bobtail truck of this size, though I know it has been done before. Because it’s a truck and not a trailer, the drive train runs right down the middle of what would be your belly bay space, so it has a companion 14-ft. box truck that runs cable and other assets out to the job site. But it is a big system on a relatively small platform.”
Because most of MSG Varsity’s events take place in the New York Metro area, he says, having a support vehicle run alongside the trucks was not as big an issue as it would be if the trucks were traveling coast to coast.
The other big hurdle Diversified had to clear with the two trucks was power requirements.
“When you go into a high school venue, sometimes you’re going to have a 30-amp outlet,” Yoslov says. “This [unit] is three bays with a 200-amp power system, so, along with the truck, they bring their own generator to each of the sites to ensure that they have good, clean power and enough to power the truck.”
“MSG Varsity produces over 400 events a year, in a variety of varsity boys’ and girls’ high school sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, softball and baseball,” Lardner says. “On average we do 12 games a week, so the trucks had to be very durable.”
The two identical units, built on a two-week stagger, each hit the road with six Hitachi HD1000 cameras (although the truck is wired for 12), a Grass Valley Kayenne 3 M/E switcher, a Calrec Omega audio console, an Evertz Xenon router, Evertz EMR router, Evertz processing gear, and EVS XTnano for replay. Sony 47-in. monitors make up the production-monitor wall, along with TVLogic monitors for program and preview, and a TVGraphics bug box and Chyron HyperX3 graphics system are also on board.
“This truck really is a lot of what the big networks have been asking for, in terms of what to build for a regional sports network,” Yoslov says. “It’s a smaller, cheaper unit that can produce a high-quality event at incrementally less pricing than pulling in a big 53-footer. This market has the desire for more run-and-gun HD trucks, and everyone who has looked at it has been really impressed with just how powerful these two little trucks are.”
Although the trucks are smaller than what you’d find parked outside a MLB ballpark, he says, they have many of the same components, so there is no drop in production quality.
“These trucks have a Kayenne switcher, too,” Yoslov points out. “Instead of having EVS XTs on there, they have EVS Nanos, but you’re still doing slo-mos in HD on a high school event. MSG Varsity knew that freelance production crews were going to be working in these trucks, and they wanted them to be able to walk in and do a high-level show, so it’s designed for that level of comfort and familiarity.”