MIRA Mobile Trucks Hit the Road En Masse for Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Enterprises will celebrate another milestone moment in its launch on Friday night, when the networks air their first live event as the top-ranked and defending National Champion Stanford women’s soccer team hosts Santa Clara in the season opener at 7 p.m. PT.
MIRA Mobile Television, Pac-12 Networks’ remote-productions provider, will be on hand with its newest truck, M12HD, for the inaugural telecast.
“They are putting in a fair amount of resources into this first game,” says Frank Coll, director, business development at MIRA Mobile Television. “They want to come out of the blocks shining. So we’re bringing out the big guns, and we’re looking forward to launching with these guys with a big bang.”
As the slickest truck in MIRA’s fleet, M12 will regularly serve as the mobile unit of choice for all of Pac-12 Networks A-level broadcasts on football Saturdays and throughout the men’s and women’s basketball season.
Confident in the burgeoning sports-television industry on the West Coast — this year has seen the launch of FS San Diego and seven Pac-12 Networks and will welcome Time Warner Cable’s new Lakers networks in October — MIRA began building M12 without a contract.
“We were just convinced that we were going to get an opportunity,” says Frank Taylor, VP/GM at MIRA Mobile, “and we just wanted to be sure that we were already well down the road to being able to handle that opportunity before it really even coalesced into something we could get our arms around.”
When Pac-12 Enterprises came calling and the two sides were able to strike a deal, M12 proved to be a perfect fit.
“As we got deeper into discussions with the Pac-12 and we had a look at their RFP [request for proposal] for their A-level football and basketball, there were things we knew we had to be sure were going to be on board any truck we were going to dedicate to that A-level package,” says Taylor. “As it ended up, M12 ended up meeting 99% of the specs that they had in their RFP for the A-level events already.”
The 53-ft. Expando is similar in size and layout to other trucks in the MIRA fleet — most notably M7, M9, and M11 — but the company made significant technological changes that point its future in a new direction. M12 has an Evertz router, whereas other MIRA trucks use PESA. Instead of Sony cameras, M12 features 12 Grass Valley LDK 8000 Elite cameras coupled with Fujinon lenses, including two 101xs. M12 also marks the first MIRA truck to use a Grass Valley Kayenne HD production switcher.
According to Tyler, though, the biggest changes are on the audio side, with MIRA upgrading to Calrec’s Artemis Beam with Bluefin2 and Hydra2. Extensive audio embedding/de-embedding is incorporated, supporting 48 video sources. In addition, there is a 256×256 MADI interface to the Evertz router.
“We have worked together for a long time,” says Leon Schweir, SVP of production and operations for Pac-12 Networks. “So they understand our markets and know our universities very well. We figured, with us launching new networks in new facilities, we should also have a new truck, so their cutting-edge M12HD equipment will fit in nicely.”
M12 has gotten some warm-up swings in over the summer, first hitting the road in early June and covering just under 40 events, including various international soccer friendlies and Major League Soccer matches.
Following its Pac-12 debut on Friday, M12 will next be in Utah for the networks’ football debut on Aug. 30, when the Utes host Northern Colorado. It will then have to make a quick trip up to Seattle for a Saturday-night telecast of San Diego State at Washington.
Pac-12 Networks is kicking its football coverage off in a big way over the first two weekends of the college football season. With two games on Aug. 30, the networks will celebrate the first Saturday of the season on Sept. 1 with three more games on its air. On Sept. 8, another six games will be aired across the national and six regional networks.
That means there is plenty of truck business to go around. MIRA’s M11 will be on the schedule for the entire football season to help shoulder the load. To cover the first two big weekends, MIRA is turning for assistance from their Alliance Productions partners.
MIRA’s M4 is also helping the networks get their sea legs, The slightly more compact production unit will cover five live events in August prior to the start of the football season. For many of the non-football broadcasts throughout the fall and for many other B-level broadcasts throughout the year, Pac-12 Networks inked a deal with iN DEMAND to supply more space- and cost-efficient mobile units.
Taylor and the rest of the MIRA Mobile team were thrilled when they landed the Pac-12 package, which was officially announced in April.
“As you can imagine, we were pretty pleased,” he laughs. “It was something that we had our sights set on for a long time. As the largest West Coast mobile-facilities company, this wasn’t something that suddenly occurred to us was a great idea. We were very focused about putting together a partnership with the Pac-12 Networks because we knew it would likely be the single biggest thing to change in the Western U.S. marketplace in our business ever.”
Although all of the 800+ live events that Pac-12 plans to broadcast to its linear or digital networks will not be serviced by mobile units — the network has established a multicam flypack system on each of the campuses of its member schools for its C- and D-level broadcasts — Coll acknowledges that the work load is still large and adds that “every truck in the fleet is going to get a chance to work a Pac-12 event.”
To help handle the work load, MIRA is currently converting M6 from SD to HD and expects it to be on the road by Nov. 1, just in time to tackle the more than 100 men’s and women’s basketball games that are on the horizon come the winter.
“The big challenge for us on the mobile side is just the sheer number of events; it’s a massive undertaking,” says Coll. “There is still a tremendous amount of truck events that they are going to be doing, and that, I think, for a company like MIRA is pretty daunting. It’s a big challenge, but we’re up for it.”