Executive Perspectives: Remote-Production Leaders on the Current State, Future of the Industry, Part 2

Few would question that remote sports production is a booming business. As sports media rights skyrocket, live sports content becomes increasingly valuable to broadcasters and streamers. With more shows — especially regional and college — produced than ever, truck and facilities providers that cater to sports-content owners face major challenges. From rising fuel and travel costs to tighter budgets and rapidly evolving technology, remote-production providers are under constant pressure to deliver top-flight facilities that satisfy their clients’ bottom line. To discuss the current state of the industry and, more important, where it’s headed in the coming years, SVG sat down with more than a dozen industry leaders: Mary Ellen Carlyle, SVP/GM, Dome Productions; Len Chase, president, CSP Mobile; Craig Farrell, president, Alliance Productions; Philip Garvin, GM/founder, MTVG; Robby Greene, president/COO, IMS Productions; George Hoover, CTO, NEP; Peter Kimball, senior account manager, NEP Trio Video; Glen Levine, co-president, U.S. Mobile Units, NEP Broadcasting; Spruce McRee, president/CEO, Crosscreek TV; George Orgera, founder/president/CEO, F&F Productions; Chad Snyder, account manager/GM, Lyon Video; Pat Sullivan, president, Game Creek Video; Jason Taubman, VP, design and new technology, Game Creek Video; Frank Taylor, senior advisor, U.S. Mobile Units, NEP Broadcasting (formerly GM, MIRA Mobile); Mike Werteen, co-president, U.S. Mobile Units, NEP Broadcasting.

How can truck providers work with venues to help both parties meet their needs? How well have the newest venues dealt with truck providers?
Philip Garvin: Better communication; we need both fiber and triax to all camera positions.

Robby Greene: Planning and communication are the keys. What we often see is that new venues plan for what they think is best, instead of asking those in the business what really is best for the new facilities. Making the best decisions about investments before a new venue goes up inevitably saves dollars in the long run.

Peter Kimball: Venue managements realize they benefit by working closely with truck providers. Utilizing the latest technologies allows NEP to supply top-quality audio and video content to just about every state-of-the-art venue in North America, as well as major markets internationally.

Chad Snyder: Many state-of-the-art venues have interesting architectural properties that are challenging for mobile-unit providers. We consulted with several design firms during the planning for facilities. Consulting has helped the facilities be friendly to the production process.

Are you planning for the potential rise of 4K? If so, how? Do you feel current 3G infrastructure is enough to meet near-term 4K needs? What about the long-term path for 4K?
George Hoover: We support 4K capture for replay reframing, pan and scan. Long term, a 3-GB truck will not support a 4K show at the equipment levels we have today. We have overbuilt 3-GB trucks to handle 4K multicamera live, and, for a few cameras, it works just fine.

Snyder: Current 3G mobile-unit infrastructure is not friendly to 4K production at the current scale of a sports remote. The resources to accomplish what we do everyday for 3G 1080p are not adequate. Equipment providers still have many holes in cost-effective 3G-production equipment.

Jason Taubman: Many of our clients are using 4K cameras in specialty situations, and there is plenty of buzz about future 4K projects and products. We’re as prepared as we can be for 4K right now with the 3G architecture at the core of the Game Creek fleet. As it stands, we don’t have any gear that can take us beyond 3G on a single link, so 4K will require quad-link for the immediate future. One manufacturer recently announced their intention to produce 12-gig coax cable, but it remains to be seen how practical that will be. I suspect that IP will make 4K a reality. It’s hard to say what the future will bring with 4K; a lot will depend on equipment vendors and also on consumer uptake on UHD sets.

How quickly are you moving away from baseband in favor of IP-based workflows?
Hoover: Just as soon as we can get a complete workflow with CCU, production switcher, server, graphics, and a router that have an industry-standard IP connection and format built in. I think that’s scheduled for 2025! Whatever IP does, it can’t take longer to set up, be less reliable, weigh more, and cost more.

Taubman: I think the transition to IP will occur much more quickly than anyone expected. We’re looking to push past the barriers that even the largest baseband routers can achieve inside the truck environment. IP is poised to help us break through those barriers.

What is the most significant technical challenge from a truck-design standpoint today?
Trying to determine how our industry will change from a technical, logistical, and business prospect and then designing and building a mobile unit that can adapt to these changes.

Snyder: The proper amount of space. With all the people and network shows’ specific added infrastructure, space is the most precious commodity.

Taubman: For Game Creek, it’s a balancing act that remains the same: packing in as much capability as possible while remaining road-legal. Keeping one foot firmly in familiar, proven, legacy technology while evolving designs to keep our fleet relevant for years to come.

Is there a technology (or technologies) that clients are demanding more?
Definitely the new Grass Valley [LDX XtremeSpeed] 6X slo-mo camera. The words I hear from clients are game-changer, awesome, changes our approach entirely. [6X cameras] are so much more flexible and more instant. You can use them as the regular game cameras, and you can’t tell them [from regular game cameras].

Hoover: Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switchers, EVS XT3 [replay servers], and Canon 95X lenses.

Snyder: We are always asked to provide a larger core in the mobile unit. Lucky for Lyon Video, we have additional headroom in each mobile unit that has been able to accommodate network requests.

Taubman: Specialty cameras driven by 4K acquisition devices are the hot topic at the moment. Hi-Motion, zooming, and stitching seem to be hot items. File-based workflows at 10 GB from EVS are coming to the forefront on the larger network shows.

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