NEP Group Rolls Out IP-Based Supershooter 4, Supershooter 9 Production Units
NEP Group has introduced two new mobile production units with the latest IP innovations for the fall’s return of live sports and entertainment. NEP Supershooter 9 and NEP Supershooter 4 launched with advanced, fully IP-based technology and the latest creature comforts amid health and safety measures required to operate safely in today’s production environment. The mobile units are the fourth and fifth IP production units in NEP’s U.S. lineup, building upon the company’s rollouts of SMPTE ST 2110 EN3, M15 and Supershooter 8 since 2018.
Launched in February of this year, Supershooter 9 is a standalone 1080p HDR/4K-capable double-expando truck built around a Lawo/Arista IP router and the first of NEP’s fleet to feature Lawo’s new vm_dmv infinitely expandable IP multiviewer. It features Lawo’s V_matrix IP routing and processing platform integrated with an Arista IP routing switch. In addition, Lawo’s VSM (Virtual Studio Manager) serves as the overall IP broadcast-control and orchestration system.
“With the Lawo VSM control system, the engineers and operators now have everything at their fingertips,” says Ryan Jones, Mobile Unit Engineering Manager for NEP Group. “We can just give them a Microsoft Surface Pro, and they make their own routes and set up their wall just like that. It’s very cool to see how quickly and easily it all comes together.”
Other key IP-based gear includes a Grass Valley Kayenne X-Frame switcher (128 inputs/96 outputs, 9M/E), EVS XT-VIA replay systems (two 12-channel LSM 10 GB, three eight-channel LSM 10 GB, and one six-channel SpotBox 10 GB), and Sony cameras (11 HDC3500, two HDC4300, and two HDC-1500R cameras) with Canon lenses.
“From the switcher to the EVS replay to the cameras, it’s totally IP,” says Jones. “[IP technology] definitely provides its own challenges, like troubleshooting signal flow, but the whole IP world has taken off, and it’s very interesting to be a part of.”
A Calrec Apollo console with Bluefin 2 high-density signal processing (1,020 channels with full signal processing) drives the audio side, and an RTS Adam intercom system (368 ports) handles comms.
“The audio side is also heavy on IP,” Jones notes. “We have a mix of Dante, AoIP, and OMNEO networking.”
In layout, Supershooter 9 is very similar to Supershooter 8, which NEP launched in October 2019, except that the latter’s audio room spans the entire expand with an open, flexible sandbox room directly behind the audio room to serve as part of audio or part of production. Though it runs as a single unit, NEP has built a new support truck to run with Supershooter 9 when requested.
Supershooter 4: Robust, multi-unit support to handle the largest events
Supershooter 4, designed with A, B and C units, rolls out this week to support the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season, in addition to its use to cover college basketball and golf events. A year in the design and planning stage when COVID-19 spiked in the U.S., the NEP team had to pivot quickly to meet several unforeseen challenges along the way.
Joe Signorino, NEP Group, vice president, systems integration & design, explains: “When the pandemic really hit the U.S. in March, we were mid-build with Supershooter 4. We halted what we were doing and shut down for a time to get a clear understanding of what was happening and how we needed to adapt before moving forward. If we had kept working the way we traditionally do—but with fewer staff on site because of social distancing restrictions—we would have ended up delivering the truck in October, two months after the deadline. That was clearly not an option, so we had to get creative.”
Signorino says NEP took a fresh look at how it approached scheduling staff and how it built facilities in the midst of the pandemic.
“We did things like having some teams work on elements outside of the truck in a different part of the building while a limited number of people at a time worked inside the unit. With this flexibility and some new approaches, we got it done on time with great results,” he says.
“There were other unique challenges brought on by COVID-19, everything from delivery delays for parts coming from China to not being able to meet with our vendors or the client for walk-throughs in person,” adds Bill Niehoff, NEP Group, mobile unit engineering manager. “Our team’s experience from NEP’s previous IP builds helped us tremendously through these issues, especially when we had to conduct set-up and testing meetings for several weeks by video due to travel restrictions. But we pushed through the obstacles and came together to meet the deadline.”
Like NEP Supershooter 9, Supershooter 4 is 1080p HDR/4K-capable using a Grass Valley Kayenne-X Frame Switcher, EVS replay systems, Sony cameras with Canon lenses and audio via the Calrec Apollo console. NEP says Supershooter 4 is built on the best of IP and its predecessors, with more fire power and a bigger ethernet switch than any other unit to date. Safety is a big part of the new unit design as well. Continual airflow analysis, MERV 13 air filters and ionizers have been added throughout for optimal airflow and air exchange, along with UV-C light and chemical processes for sanitization and plexiglass dividers at workstations along with increased use of support units for social distancing of staff.
“We’re excited to roll out two new flexible mobile units during such a difficult time and I think it demonstrates the strength and dedication of our engineering and integration teams,” says Stephanie DeMoss, NEP Group, vice president of xales for NEP U.S. Broadcast Services. “Even though we’re facing something we’ve never seen before, our teams found a way to complete these projects on time for our clients. Now through 2021, between these two trucks, we can cover multiple clients and all types of productions.”
“I think the fact that we’re rolling out these builds in a relatively short period of time is indicative of NEP’s commitment to offering the latest innovations and adapting them to fit the times,” adds Signorino. “IP is still a challenge, but it is getting better and more seamless. We’re getting better and better with each truck, and not even COVID can stop what we can do with a little ingenuity and adaptability.”
“NEP has always been on the cutting edge of technology and adding these two fully IP-based mobile units to our fleet in the U.S. demonstrates that,” says Glen Levine, NEP Group, president of NEP U.S. Broadcast Services. “I couldn’t be more proud of what our team has accomplished, especially during such a challenging time—and we’re not stopping there. We’ll continue to partner with our clients to keep adapting and keep innovating as the industry evolves.”