Fox Sports Southwest Unleashes the Power of 6X Slo-Mo with MTVG’s 38 FLEX Mobile Unit
Fox Sports Southwest has officially entered the age of large-scale 6X slo-mo replay with the launch of its Mobile TV Group 38 FLEX mobile unit. The two-trailer dual-feed production unit is the first of MTVG’s new fleet of FLEX mobile units, which deploy up to six 6X slow-motion camera systems and can also serve full-4K productions. Fox Sports Southwest has rolled out 38 FLEX in the Dallas-San Antonio market in 6X slo-mo mode, complete with six Grass Valley LDX 86 cameras — the most ever for an RSN production.
After being previewed at NAB 2015 in April, 38 FLEX launched in August for Texas Rangers baseball and made an immediate impact on the telecast and MLB replay-review operations.
“The very first night that we had the truck, we had three replays overturned in the game, and I can tell you it was the direct result of having super-slo-mo capability on these trucks,” says Fox Sports Southwest Senior Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou. “The clarity of the replays is so definitive that there is really no question about it, which simply wasn’t the case with an HD camera. So it was transformational for us the very first night out.”
With the Rangers regular season now in the rearview mirror, 38 FLEX is set to serve as the home truck for NBA Mavericks and NHL Stars games and also work a handful of NBA Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs dates in the coming months before returning to baseball in the spring.
“Everyone gets to use all six super-slo-mo cameras for every game, which is amazing when you consider that you don’t usually have that many super-slo-mos even on a national A game,” says Mobile TV Group President/founder Philip Garvin. “They are getting upwards of three super-slo-mo angles on any critical play, so it ends up really being a game-changer. I’m very pleased they have been able to use this new technology in a way that truly has an impact on [the telecast].”
The 6X Slo-Mo Replay Factor
In addition to the six LDX 86 6X slo-mo cameras, 38 FLEX rolls with five LDX Premier HD cameras — all with Canon lenses (one 95X long lens, eight 72X long lenses, one 10 x 4.5 wide-angle lens, and three 17 x 7.6 HH ENG lenses). For Rangers baseball, the LDX 86s are located at tight center field, low first, low third, shooting down the first-base line, right field, and high-third.
“We really work hard to not duplicate angles so we can optimize all six of these cameras,” says Anastassiou. “As a result, sometimes they may choose to put one camera in a tight follow position, and that’s not a bad thing because they may end up with a little different or slightly better look than if we had duplicate angles.”
Although 38 FLEX was originally set to launch with Grass Valley K2 Dyno replay systems, the mobile unit ended up using four of EVS’s new 12-channel XT3 replay servers (16-channel embedded audio). The 12-channel units debuted over the summer and provided an optimal server for the LDX 6X slo-mo cameras, which require three replay channels apiece.
“EVS’s new 12-channel replay units made it possible to put two 6X cameras and two regular cameras on one system, which basically gave you four-in and two-out,” says Garvin. “That is just like a six-channel EVS, which is the industry standard, but two are super-slo-mo in this case. You could do that with K2 Dyno previously, but you couldn’t do that with EVS until this summer.
“We went with EVS [replay systems] not because there is anything wrong with K2s; we were very pleased with how that was developing,” he continues. “But, in terms of workflow for a regional sports network, where they do only half their games on this truck and half the games on road, they [had] a workflow problem. If the truck was all K2 Dyno, they would need to modify the files to work on EVS when they went to a non-Dyno truck, which is almost all other trucks, and then they would have had to modify it to come back. Once it became apparent that this truck would focus more on super-slo-mo than on 4K, we decided to go with EVS.”
With up to six replay-operator positions (and one tech-manager position), 38 FLEX also features one four-channel EVS XT3 replay-only server, one four-channel EVS XS server for SpotBox (two channels per show on duals), and XFile3 software.
Anastassiou adds,“The XT3s and the XFile3 with their new version of software make beautiful music together. It’s a marriage made in heaven in that it’s flexible, it’s powerful, it’s transparent, and you can easily record files in any format that you choose. The workflow is as good as I’ve ever seen it in a replay room.”
Inside 38 FLEX: Plenty of Dual-Feed Firepower
Built around a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher (7 M/Es, 96 inputs/48 outputs in HD, 40 inputs/12 outputs in 4K), 38 FLEX features a Calrec Artemis Beam audio mixer with 56 faders (256 routable inputs via MADI, 64 analog inputs), ChyronHego HyperX2 graphics, a Grass Valley NVision 3G/4K router (77×862) , a Grass Valley NVision audio router (9,216×18,432), a 105-display monitor wall, and an RTS ADAM 96-port matrix system and Studio Technologies IFB system for comms.
38 VMU, the companion trailer housing the visitor show, has full access to all six super-slo-mo cameras via its three EVS-operator positions. In addition, the visiting show has directorial control over at least one 6X slo-mo camera on every show (and sometimes two). Three switcher M/Es are assigned to 38 VMU, which also features a Studer Vista 1 audio console (50 mono channels, 38 stereo channels ), a seven-rack monitor wall with 58 displays, and ChyronHego HyperX3 HD graphics.
A 6X Model To Live By Moving Forward and What About 4K?
Both Garvin and Anastassiou believe 38 FLEX sets the benchmark for what will be a new standard moving forward in terms of super-slo-mo camera complement.
“This is the model moving forward,” says Garvin. “I don’t see us launching trucks in the future that don’t have at least six super-slo-mos. I truly think a substantial complement of super-slo-mo cameras should be absolutely standard for a pro sports event.”
Anastassiou seconds that notion: “I do think that this truck is probably going to be a prototype for the regional trucks moving forward.”
38 FLEX remains a 4K-capable truck (as it was publicized at NAB 2015), with the ability to deploy eight 4K cameras with eight records. Garvin says 39 FLEX, set to launch next year, will be capable of handling 12 4K cameras. However, 38 FLEX will focus on HD 6X slo-mo production until the live-4K-production market heats up.
“We saw that there is still going to be some time before 4K is in demand, so we spent more time focusing on the super-slo-mo capability of the truck and optimizing the replay system for that. But yes, this truck can absolutely still do 4K, and we are definitely keeping the door open should we see demand for 4K rise.”