Game Creek Video Ups 4K Game With New Madison Truck for MSG Networks

New 4K-capable truck is Game Creek's first purpose-built 4K truck and builds upon MLB Network Showcase 4K-production experience

Game Creek Video has played a key role in the evolution of live 4K sports production over the past year, retrofitting its Riverhawk truck to serve as MLB Network’s primary 4K/HD mobile unit for the weekly MLB Network Showcase games delivered in 4K on DirecTV. Now Game Creek has taken its 4K game to the next level with the launch of Madison, its first purpose-built 4K/HD mobile unit, for MSG Networks — with more 4K units on the way later this year.

Madison is Game Creek Video’s first purpose-built 4K-capable mobile unit.

Madison is Game Creek Video’s first purpose-built 4K-capable mobile unit.

“We decided internally that it made sense to make ourselves 4K-ready everywhere we could, so we elected to make Madison a 4K-capable truck coming right out of the gate,” says Jason Taubman, VP, design/ new technology, Game Creek Video. “We basically took the modifications we made to Riverhawk for 4K for MLB Network, and we baked those properly into Madison. The evolution now from Maverick to Madison with some of the Riverhawk mods produces a single standalone 4K-capable truck. And when I say 4K-capable, I mean it is legitimately ready to do a 4K show today if called upon.”

Madison, which launched in August, replaces Game Creek’s Legends truck (launched in 2009) as MSG Network’s primary mobile unit; Legends will continue to regularly work MSG shows. The new standalone single-expando truck is based largely on Game Creek Video’s Maverick (a sister unit to Riverhawk), which has become the company’s standard midsize model popular with RSNs.

Madison features a 9M/E Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher.

Madison features a 9M/E Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher.

Plenty of Video, Audio Firepower On Board
Built around a 9M/E Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher (192 inputs/96 outputs), Madison rolled with 12 Sony HDC-4300 HD/high-frame-rate/4K cameras (it is wired for up to 20 in HD mode) with 95X Canon lenses. Although it will primarily be working HD productions for MSG Networks, the truck can quickly and easily be switched into 4K mode, thanks to its infrastructure and the 4K license available on HDC-4300’s.

“When we want to do a 4K show, it’s just a matter of putting the cameras in 4K mode, loading a 4K config into the switcher, and adjusting the replay area to have a channel count to support 4K,” says Taubman. “After that, we’re basically good to go. The infrastructure is fully 4K from end to end.”

Madison houses three12-channel EVS XT3 replay servers.

Madison houses three12-channel EVS XT3 replay servers.

On the replay side, Madison is equipped with three EVS 12-channel XT3 servers (with high-speed XNet network and 10-GBps fiber) and one EVS four-channel XT3 SpotBox.

“Right now, for MLB Network [Showcase] 4K games, we’re doing replay in 60p currently,” Taubman explains. “But, when the day comes when someone wants to do a fully native 4K show with 4K replay, we’re ready to do that with up to nine EVSs and 20 cameras.”

Although, because of current technology constraints, Game Creek opted to go with a 576×1152 Evertz EQX HD-SDI video router rather than an IP router for Madison, Taubman doesn’t rule out the prospect of installing an IP router in future mid-level truck builds.

“We did look at [the prospect of an IP router], but it was a pretty easy no from a practical point of view,” he says. “There isn’t a physically small enough frame to put in there at the moment. We feel like that’s coming down the pike, and we may at some point start developing the mid-level trucks with IP. The other thing is, at the moment, the benefits that IP brings to us is capacity, and we just didn’t need that in this particular-size truck at this time.”

MSG Networks received a significant audio boost with the new Calrec Apollo audio inside Madison.

MSG Networks received a significant audio boost with the new Calrec Apollo audio inside Madison.

In addition to being 4K-capable, Madison significantly enhances MSG’s audio capabilities, including a Calrec Apollo console (1020 channels, 133 12-layer faders, 128 mic/line input) and Evertz EMX router (384×384 AES, 256×256 MADI, 288×288 analog, 128x128x16 HD-SDI embedded). The truck travels with Sennheiser and Audio-Technica shotgun mics, Electro Voice handheld mics, and Sony lavalier mics.

“This truck represents a big upgrade in terms of audio,” Taubman points out. “We’re also working on some other exciting things on the audio side of things. We have been working with [vendors] to iron a few things out, and we’re excited about what’s coming down the line.”

Other gear aboard Madison includes ChyronHego Mosaic XL graphics, RTS ADAM 272-port intercom system, IHSE Draco Tera KVM router, and Evertz frame syncs and up/down/crossconverters,

“The Evertz [up/down/crossconverters] operate in two different modes,” Taubman explains. “In the first mode, we have 30 dual HD paths. In the second mode, we can turn them into pairs for 4K. So it would be either 30 HD paths or 15 4K up/down/crossconverters.”

More 4K Trucks on the Way, HDR on the Horizon
Although Madison is a fully 4K-capable truck, HDR has become an equally hot topic in live sports production. According to Taubman, Game Creek Video will be ready when the demand for live HDR coverage arrives.

“We’re capable of doing a native-HDR show today, but one of the tricky things about HDR is what [to] do about all the SDR sources that you might have,” he points out. “With that in mind, we’re working with Evertz right now to get all the frame syncs we purchased from them to have HDR mapping to and from SDR.”

Madison is just the beginning of a 4K boom for Game Creek, which already has another two 4K trucks planned to launch by spring 2017. Though confident in the future of 4K as a format, Taubman believes the key to this new wave of trucks will be the flexibility that the 4K infrastructure provides in the future.

“The interesting thing about 4K,” he says, “is how it relates to infrastructure. In the past, building 3-Gbps infrastructure allowed us to move forward with 60p, but it also allowed us to deal with 3D when that was happening. And now it’s now allowing us to do 4K in quad link. Moving forward, we think about what 4K infrastructure will let us to do in terms of HDR or whatever comes next. And then also, if 4K doesn’t pan out or if our clients want instead to do high frame rate across the board, we have a high-frame-rate–capable truck that can distribute all those signals if we don’t do 4K. So it gives you a very high level of flexibility.”