Mobile TV Group’s New 45FLEX Is First End-to-End Native-IP Mobile Unit
The truck and visitor unit will serve as pathways to 4K and HDR productions
Mobile TV Group has officially entered the IP age. The mobile-production-facilities provider has rolled out 45FLEX, which it’s describing as the “first-ever end-to-end native-IP mobile unit.” The entire truck is fully SMPTE ST 2110-integrated, including the switcher, router, replay systems, audio console, and cameras. 45FLEX and 45VMU (visitor mobile unit), which launched this month, are based in St. Louis and will be deployed for dual-feed productions of MLB, NBA, and NHL games across the Midwest and nationally.
“We’ve been wanting to go IP for a while, but there were two primary factors that caused us to wait,” says Mobile TV Group President Philip Garvin. “One was that the ST 2110 [suite of standards] hadn’t been fully completed. The second was that we were waiting until the major components — switcher, replay, cameras, router, and audio — were also 2110[-compliant] so that all the devices could be connected natively and without going through gateways. So we waited, and, when we felt that both issues had been resolved, we decided that our next truck would be 2110.”
With the truck fully IP connected via SMPTE ST 2110, MTVG believes that 45FLEX and 45VMU will provide an easier pathway to 4K and HDR productions, as well as serving the ever-growing size of regional and national live sports productions.
“In terms of resources, IP gives us the ability to say yes to almost anything,” says Mobile TV Group COO Nick Garvin. “The client might not even know that the truck is IP, but, if they ask for something, the answer now is almost always going to be yes. Can we add these five extra sources? Can we add an extra camera here? Can you send that feed to the NBA [headquarters]? And the answer is just yes. Before, you may have had to say, ‘I’m sorry, we’re out of router capacity.’ I think that’s the beauty of IP in action. [The user] doesn’t see IP or touch IP, but they know that our answer is going to be yes if they need to add something.”
Inside the Truck: IP From Soup to Nuts
45Flex is built around a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame X IP switcher (7M/E, 96 inputs/48 outputs) and rolls with seven Grass Valley LDX82 Premier cameras and four LDX86 Universe super-slo-mo cameras (with IP XCUs), as well as LDK 8000 3G Elite triax cameras for the announce booths — all with Fujinon lenses.
“IP gives you a tremendous amount of capacity that you just can’t achieve in SDI without adding significantly more cabling and equipment and taking up more space, and, of course, space is always of the essence on mobile units,” says Philip Garvin. “A 25G path can carry two 4K signals, which would’ve normally taken eight cables previously, and there was simply no space for that – either physically or in the router.”
At the core of the truck is an Evertz 384-port EXE 2.0 IP router with up to 9,600 GBps and a Magnum control system to manage the IP infrastructure. Although several mobile units have launched in recent years with IP-based routers that feed into other systems via IP gateways (IPGs), MTVG believes this is the first mobile unit to feature an end-to-end IP ecosystem.
“If you were to look at the back of the switcher or an EVS [server] in a mobile unit where only the router is IP, you would see a whole bunch of coax and BNC connectors for the video,” says Philip Garvin. “Everything would be going into IPGs to convert the video to IP on the way in and out of the router. However, if you look at the back of the devices on this mobile unit, you will see only SFPs connected by fiber. We have no IPGs between the switcher, the router, the replay, and the cameras — with the exception of external devices that aren’t 2110[-capable], such as a POV camera. The bottom line is, this truck takes full advantage of the advantages of 2110.”
On the replay side, the trucks are equipped with four 12-channel EVS XT-VIA IP full editing replay servers (with 16 channels of embedded audio). Four SSMO and 16 HD inputs/12 HD outputs are available when the truck is running in SSMO mode; two XT-VIAs can be split into two operator positions with four inputs/two outputs each. In HD mode, 32 HD inputs/16 HD outputs are available (one position uses LSM Connect). The truck also features a four-channel EVS XS-VIA server for SpotBox with two channels per show during dual feeds.
“If you look at the back of an EVS [server], there’s tons of connectivity. You know, a 12-channel EVS typically is full of cables. It’s much simplified in 2110 because you can connect either 10G, which is equal to three 3G cameras or six 1080i cameras on one 10G path, or 2times that on one 25G path. You can run a lot of capacity in and out of that EVS with far less cable.”
A 64-fader Calrec Artemis Beam console (256 routable inputs via IP, 64 analog inputs/64 analog outputs) handles audio for the home show, and the VMU unit is equipped with a 32-fader Studer Vista 1 console. The 10,240×10,240 Evertz audio router is connected via IP to the Calrec console. 45FLEX rolls with Sennheiser shotgun and stick mics, Sony lavaliers, and Crown cardioid mics.
Other key equipment includes Evertz IP multiviewers, a Leader LV7600 IP waveform/vector rasterizer, RTS ADAM-M matrix intercom system (64 ports of OMNEO, 32 channels of MADI, 48 analog ports), Image Video TSI-4000 tally system, and ChyronHego HyperX3 or Vizrt (for Fox Sports shows only) graphics.
“IP opens up a whole new world for our customers,” says Philip Garvin. “Every device can reach in and get whatever it wants from the router; it’s a two-way street. But that also means there’s got to be a higher form of communication between all these devices, so vendors need to work together.”
Though noting that demand for live 4K productions remains limited, he says it is growing nonetheless. And the launch of 45FLEX and more IP trucks will dramatically enhance Mobile TV Group’s ability to convert a truck from HD to 4K in a short time.
“IP make an enormous difference in terms of [converting] a truck to 4K vs. converting an SDI truck to 4K,” says Philip Garvin. “If we were asked to [convert] an SDI truck that was built for HD into a 4K truck, we would need a month to bring it back in the shop to work on the infrastructure. From an infrastructure point of view, the path to 4K for this truck and its successors is 100 times easier: it’s just a matter of licensing the cameras for 4K and making a few tweaks.
However, the transition to IP is about much more than just 4K productions. As the size of national and regional HD productions expands and the need to distribute content to multiple outlets grows, mobile units are being stretched thinner than ever.
“The capacity needs for HD shows these days are sometimes maxing out our traditional SDI routers,” says Nick Garvin. “Even a regional sporting event has to serve many needs now, including the home team, the away team, the OTT feed for each network, the league’s OTT feed, the [officiating] feed, the venue feeds, and specialty feeds like NBA Mobile View. And a gambling feed doesn’t seem too far away. The shows are ballooning because the truck needs to have so many feeds now. The sheer production size of an everyday show is now quite large, and IP lends itself well to that.”
The IP Impact: New Infrastructure Means New Engineering Needs
Although the IP ecosystem adds new challenges for the truck’s engineering team, the Evertz Magnum control system will be in charge of managing the bulk of the complexities.
The engineer will use Evertz Magnum without necessarily interfacing with the IP infrastructure that lies beneath. The GUI is no different [from SDI]. If you want to do a route from this device to that device or change a camera in the multiviewer, it’s the same as in an SDI show.
The 45FLEX engineering team also underwent a week-long session of IP training to be able to troubleshoot issues that can’t be managed by Magnum. In addition, 45FLEX’s systems can be accessed remotely from the company’s home office in Denver, allowing the company’s chief engineer and director of technology to make adjustments to the IP infrastructure when necessary.
“The most important thing to know is that, when an operator or production person uses this truck, it won’t seem any different than an SDI truck,” says Philip Garvin. “It’s exactly the same from an operator’s perspective: a [production team] could go in there, do a whole show, and not even know it was IP.”