Rec4Box Adds Truck Model for Slimmed-Down Remote Production
Targeting the need for nimbler field-production infrastructure to cover a wider range of sports, Montreal-based OB-vehicle builder Rec4Box Factory is using a combination of newer technology platforms and ergonomic designs to build what it expects will become a burgeoning tier below the 53-ft. expando trucks deployed throughout broadcast sports.
Rec4Box’s 26-ft. Corsair series trucks have been used for a variety of peripheral events, including Red Bull’s antic Soapbox Derby event and boxing shows. But that design and the 37-ft. Galleon series — a larger model intended to provide additional workspace for graphics, stats, and replay staff introduced at the CCW expo in New York in November — are ultimately aimed at the expanding second- and third-tier collegiate sports events that are filling regional sports networks and major-network subsidiary sports networks. To accommodate this growing market, Rec4Box is using both technology and ergonomics to reduce the size, weight, footprint, and cost of outside-broadcast production.
No Wasted Space
For audio, Rec4Box’s trailers deploy Studer’s Vista digital consoles. According to Rec4Box CTO Jonathan Fortin, the multi-layered work surface allows use of a much smaller console than is customary on high-end trucks. “The Vista consoles also have the Lexicon processing already built in, which saves on rack space, too,” he adds.
Similarly, both the Corsair and the new Galleon production trailers will use Grass Valley’s Karrera production switcher, a software-based modular platform with multiformat-video support, but smaller and less expensive than the Grass Valley Kayenne usually found on larger production units.
On the design side, Fortin says that Rec4Box essentially starts with custom racks and designs the rest of the unit — the technical, production, and audio compartments — around them.
Rec4Box SVP of Sales and Marketing Rob Poretti notes the trailers’ 10 ISO/program-record confidence video monitors, which are attached to the interior side of the central machine bay’s door instead of taking up rack space of their own.
Signal transport within the trucks are routed via HD-SDI; MADI is used to move audio around within the unit, and, as part of the recently announced oB-Link system, based on Riedel’s MediorNet, that can let users link Rec4Box trailers to create larger production units.
“MediorNet — which does the muxing of HD-SDI, MADI, GigE networking, intercom, and other signals onto a fiber transport system — is used to interconnect multiple trailers,” Poretti explains. “oB-Link puts all those fibers onto a single umbilical, which is actually eight fibers in an armored jacket, that fans out to eight Neutrik OpticalCONs.”
All major systems are IP-controllable, allowing a much more compact engineering area. “With our CMR [central-machine-room] design,” he says, “we’ve eliminated the space and weight requirements of having racks of patch panels.”
That aspect in the Corsair series keeps the trailer at less than 10,000 lb. and thus free of certain U.S. transportation restrictions. Less cabling also means that all the units’ wiring can be run through conduits on either side of the trailer; this, says Poretti, eliminated the need for computer flooring and gained almost a foot of interior height, further adding to the sense of roominess inside despite the overall smaller size of the units.
“Jonathan’s approach to building the rest of the trailer around the CMR was due to the fact that the CMR is centrally located and attached to the main exterior bulkhead,” Poretti explains. “So most signals enter and exit the trailer directly behind the CMR. Not only is it a space saver, but we save thousands of feet of cable. It’s a critical weight-saver.”
The units’ costs are considerably less than traditional OB trucks. The Corsair series base price is $850,000, and the Galleon base is $1.2 million. Poretti points out that, using oB-Link, a two-truck combination of a Corsair and a Galleon would provide as many as 16 cameras with main and submixed audio for under $3 million — half to a third the cost of a 53-ft. expando.
That’s where Poretti sees the sweet spot for sports. He’s not expecting the NFL or MLB to suddenly switch to midsize OB units, but he says they’re positioned technologically and economically for the fast-growing middle occupied by collegiate leagues, extreme and winter sports, and major-league hockey, for which, he notes, more than six to eight cameras are rarely used. All this can be accomplished with crews of 10-14 people, fewer than the 20 or so aboard larger trucks.
According to Poretti, Rec4Box is in talks with a major equipment-rental company, which he declined to identify but which he says is looking for a cost-effective solution for its regional- and secondary-sports-network clients. Rec4Box’s manufacturing capacity is 12-16 trailers a year; it can build up to four trucks at the same time, each taking between three and four months to build, depending on the model.
Rec4Box is targeting the mid to upper-mid part of the remote-production market at the same time that use of the “at-home” production model is proliferating. Dubbed REMI (remote integration) by ESPN or IP production by Pac-12 broadcasters, it uses IP-based technology to cut costs by reducing onsite resources while boosting production capabilities by connecting the remote production with the power of the broadcast center, where such services as shading, switching, editing, replay/slo-mo, and mixing are done. The tips of the at-home spear are really little more than flypacks on wheels: cameras and microphones.
Already fitted with digital audio consoles and video switchers, Rec4Box’s Corsair and Galleon trailers would be overkill for that market. However, Poretti says that, judging from inquiries about that field-production model in the wake of this year’s NAB Show, the company began drafting blueprints for its own at-home type of unit.
“Last month, we started organizing technology tests, which we hope to complete by the end of the year,” he says. “We’ll be making some announcements in early 2016 regarding this.”