SVG Sit-Down: Lyon Video’s Bob Lyon and Chad Snyder
Since rolling out the Lyon 14 mobile unit in August 2014, Lyon Video has stayed busy. The new truck worked a variety of college football and basketball and several large-scale events, such as the NBA All-Star Game and CONCACAF Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Lyon has jumped into the world of IP with the recent purchase of a Grass Valley IP router. SVG sat down with Lyon Video President Bob Lyon and Account Manager/GM Chad Snyder to discuss Lyon 14’s first year, the thinking behind the purchase of their first IP router, the rise of at-home production, and the promise of live 4K production.
Last year, Lyon Video launched its latest mobile unit, Lyon 14. What has it been up to?
Snyder: Lyon 14 was launched primarily to work for ESPN on the ABC college-football package. It did a large quantity of college basketball. It also went to the NBA All-Star Game [in New York City], where it was NBA TV’s truck and ESPN used it for part of the show, [which] was split between two different venues and broadcasters. [Then,] it moved on to working on CONCACAF Gold Cup, where it was the primary unit for the world feed of the finals. So that’s a nice run of events, and it stayed busy working this summer.
At NAB 2014, you displayed Lyon 14 with an Evertz IP router, but the truck rolled with a baseband router. Why was that?
Snyder: [NAB 2014] was more of a science-fair scenario. We are very early in terms of IP, and, in essence, we knew that we were not able to put that system on the road because it was not marketable at that point, but it was a good project to look at. A lot of time went into doing it, but it wasn’t something that we felt would be logical to put in a mobile unit and operate at that time. Plus, the baseband router is plenty adequate, without the interconnectivity from cameras and EVS and all the different parts in the video realm.
Can you foresee Lyon Video’s launching an IP-router–based truck in the near future?
Snyder: We have purchased an new Grass Valley IP router and are looking for the proper application for that system and the benefits it will bring to a mobile unit once integrated.
Lyon: IP is here and will continue to grow, but it’s still about how can we manipulate in a big video switcher, frame syncs, replay devices, and so on.
Snyder: We would like to see more of the cameras, the replay devices, the generic pieces [embrace IP]. Once you have to go through less conversion to get in and out, it makes more sense. You can only future-proof so much. Everything’s timing in this business: when’s the sweet spot? I don’t mind being first, but the other side of that is, is it going to make sense, or is it going to cost you an extra million dollars to do it?
Do you have plans to roll out any trucks in the near future?
Lyon: We always have at least one on the drawing board, and it’s most often dependent on when the next deal is going to happen. We’re also always considering when to modernize one or two or more in the fleet. Some of the newer trucks already have frames that would [make it] easier to plug in IP and the newer Evertz [equipment]. It is about a nine-month gestation period from inception to rollout. That’s the other reason we look ahead at IP. Whatever router size, whatever fabric that will go into [a new truck], we need to know we can have that ready in nine months.
Have you seen significant growth in any specific market niches lately?
Lyon: The non-traditional and Olympic-sports stuff is probably the biggest growth area. In terms of the high-profile sports, it seems like all the events are being produced and have been for a long time. It’s not just the [college] Olympic sports either. Whoever thought e-gaming would have a whole tournament on nationwide TV and sell out arenas? The proliferation of streaming concerts has been very big as well, and we are seeing a little bit more of that.
The rise of “at-home” productions has been a hot topic in remote production over the past couple of years. How is Lyon adapting to smaller onsite productions?
Snyder: We’ve put some proposals in, and we’ve done some of the at-home productions. I think it’s more about growth of the total overall productions. You are seeing shows that never would have been produced before. So there should be some growth in terms of overall show count year-round in the U.S. What will be interesting to see is how that gets divvied up or spread out to all the different companies.
Lyon: Both in the testing and the early stages, it goes back about four years, when we helped launch the Longhorn Network with ESPN and their operation in Austin. There aren’t many campuses better fibered than the University of Texas. Those concepts of REMI [remote integration] and at-home production were right there, where you could centralize [the production] using fiber. So there was a lot of testing of that concept. How do the producers work? How does the talent work? Those are still the questions you see today. Is it noticeable? Is it affordable? What are the rest of the impacts on that style of production?
It’s not for Chad or me to decide if these are going to be REMI [productions] and we’re going [to have a full truck]. If Fox, ESPN, or Big 10 Network decides this many shows are going to be REMI-style, then we will [service] the model for that. And, if it’s a Sprinter van, then Lyon will have a Sprinter van. Because it’s still all about mobile engineers with equipment that you can take out on location, set it up, pack it up, and go on to the next venue.
Our clients and our own people are the two most important things that we deal with everyday. The client will always demand the best possible engineering, so the brainpower here is really what keeps us going, regardless of what comes in the future.
Do you have plans to launch any smaller mobile units to cater to growing at-home production?
Snyder: Could happen [LAUGHS]. It’s certainly something we’re interested in. You just never know.
Is there any specific piece of technology that sports clients are demanding these days?
Lyon: The Grass Valley Xtreme 6X slo-mo’s have been big. For example, they are now used literally on every Fox Sports Ohio home show with Dyno as the replay device. That is probably one of our hottest add-on tools that we’re getting asked for frequently.
The other thing that I think is being used frequently is fiber audio, which has been around for years but is [flourishing] right now. To a large degree, we are now integrating [Calrec] Hydra2 I/O. You can call it a booth box, a sideline box, whatever; it’s fiber audio pickup. Taking it off the side of the truck and putting it thousands of feet away and making it sound as if it was on the side of the truck has been a real step forward, I think. And, as stadiums get more and more fiber in them, you can do more and more things with that fiber, not just rely on it for video.
Lyon: I’d say definitely this year, with the move towards MADI. And external audio over MADI fiber has probably been bigger this year than any year before. It’s not just a dirt cam or a one-off; it’s for every mainstream show. I think that will also even trickle down to the smaller shows, just because that’s going to be an easier transport, maybe even built into more infrastructures in the future.
Snyder: Also, for lenses, we’ve invested in the Fujinon 99X’s to a good degree, adding to our long-lens portfolio. It’s got the nice wide angle to it; it gives you a large magnification. We are also told that that lens is going to be able to pull forward to 4K. It’s a good investment for us.
Speaking of 4K, do you see full-4K live productions taking place on a widespread basis anytime soon? If so, how are you preparing?
Snyder: We look long term. In addition to those lenses, we have purchased Grass Valley Universe cameras. We are seeing a lot of interest in 4K production from clients, and finding the right mix of equipment is challenging and pushing us to find new solutions to serve those clients.
Lyon: And you have to think how many channels of replay you are limited to [with 4K]. It’s a really small show for the same 53-ft. box. What [feeds are] going out the side of the truck seems to be the logjam at this point. We’re still waiting to get to 1080p and uncompressed HD.
We don’t have any magic eightball or a crystal ball to either make the cost go away or know when is the right time to do any of that. But we all live in [a] world where [4K] may not be forced by consumers. When HD finally did get the saturation of HD TV sets and everybody saw how good it was, it really came into its own. But we also remember those early HD broadcasts that were, technically, out of an HD truck but [were] really just the nicest SD broadcasts I’d ever seen. No doubt, with 4K, we will get to that same level, where we output [downconverted 4K] out the side of the truck. No doubt, on a philosophical high note, we should always aim for the best production quality we can. But, that aside, we have to deal with the realities of cost and the complement of equipment that you need to do a whole TV show.