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Central AV OB Van

Central wraps up HD video production with new Sony truck. With the only full HD OB van west of Melbourne, Central Audio Visual has just staked a massive claim to the video business in South Australia – and beyond.

By

29 May 2014

Text:/ Derek Powell
Images:/ Courtesy Central Audio Visual

A 12-camera capable full-HD Outside Broadcast (OB) truck is not the usual item on an audiovisual company’s hire price list, but then Adelaide’s Central Audio Visual, led by the irrepressible Glenn Spear, is not exactly your average audiovisual company. “We blew the budget on the truck just in the month of March,” Spear confided. I was about to commiserate, knowing how costly full HD broadcast gear can be, when I realised he meant he’d achieved his annual income budget from the brand-new OB unit in just one month! I got the feeling this didn’t happen just by chance and indeed Spear explained there was a well thought-out plan behind the acquisition of this massive, $2.5 million asset.

Central Audio Visual has been in business for 32 years and has just had a bumper period, picking up a 10-year contract as in-house supplier to the recently-redeveloped Adelaide Oval, a busy conference venue with some 23 function rooms and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor events [and the subject of an upcoming AV feature – Ed]. For the past 15 years OBs have been very much part of Central’s work, utilising a range of Sony broadcast cameras and a substantial fly-away production kit. Heading up the production division is Wayne Christian, a senior producer with a 35-year career in live event television that includes everything from live concerts to the 2000 Olympics. So with an established set of broadcast credentials and knowing there was no high definition competition within a day’s drive, Spear was certain the move to a fully equipped HD OB Van presented some good business opportunities.

FULLY-CUSTOMISED MERCEDES

The new vehicle is based on a brand new Mercedes-Benz truck with fully-custom bodywork that includes an Expando (slide-out) section along with full air suspension and hydraulic stabilisers. The truck, which is the most modern in the country, was built in Australia by Sony Professional Solutions division at its new custom solutions engineering facility located in Beresfield, Newcastle. The basic truck with bodywork, racks and wiring took 12 months to build, with the finishing touches added by Central’s engineers once it was delivered to Adelaide.

The truck is wired for up to 16 cameras but Spear prefers to see it as a highly-competent 12-camera unit with full remote CCU (Camera Control Unit) capability, that can be expanded with extra stand-alone ENG-style (Electronic News Gathering) cameras linked in if needed. For added flexibility, the van is cabled for either triax (tri-axial copper) or fibre-optic camera cables. A folddown panel on the rear of the bodywork provides access to easily change out the CCUs, providing great flexibility in configuration. While Spear concedes that fibre-optic cables are definitely the future, he notes that the fibre connectors are somewhat susceptible to damage while triax connections are more robust. 

To go with the truck, Central has taken delivery of a set of new Sony HDC-1700 studio cameras. Their fibre-optic CCU base stations allow the cameras to operate up to 2000 metres away and naturally the company has a range of big Fujinon box lenses (up to 77x) to cater for all requirements. Along with the HDC-1700 cameras, there’s four Sony HSC-100 series triax-based cameras as well as a pair of DVW-709s, together with assorted Miller and Vinten tripods and heads. 

Outside the truck, under a full-width lift-up panel that provides weather protection, are the patch bays for camera, power, audio and comms. There’s also a set of vision monitors and a router control panel, so individual inputs can be viewed as they are patched, and signal integrity checked right at the external connection point.

(above) The expanded producers’ station on the left, overlooks the vision control area with its 4 x 55-inch OLED monitors configured as a video monitor bank. Audio control is visible through the door to the left of the vision console. 

The truck in road-ready format with the expando section retracted.

LUXURY ACCOMODATION

Back in the van, the engineering compartment at the rear has three CCU operator positions, each handling four cameras. All stations are connected by a massive Miranda 144 x 144 Nvision 8140 hybrid router that provides tremendous flexibility in signal distribution. Also down in the technical area is the slo-mo replay section equipped with an industry stalwart EVS XT3 HD video server. The truck is pre-wired for a second EVS unit should there be a requirement for more channels. Recording duties are handled by a trio of Sony HD XDCAM disc recorders.

Moving forward from the engineering compartment is the two-tier production gallery. At the back, in the slide out section, is the producer’s desk while taking up the entire front wall are four Sony 55-inch OLED monitors that comprise the infinitely-configurable multi-view display system driven from a Miranda Kaleido-MX multiviewer. Each monitor can be configured at will to show individual input sources, preview, program output, clean feeds or whatever is required for the production, simply by configuring inputs from the Miranda central router. When the production compartment is expanded, the spectacular control surface of the Sony MVS-6530 slides out from its bunker below the monitor wall to form the main production desk with positions for the director, director’s assistant and the vision switcher. The MVS-6530 switcher is a new model from Sony with 48 primary inputs and 32 output busses and features three mix-effect rows and a total of 16 individual keyers. A 3D digital effects unit is built in and RGB colour correction is available on all inputs.

The final compartment, up front is reserved for audio. The main desk is a 96-channel Digico SD10 broadcast console, with a Soundcraft Si Expression 1 fitted as a stand-by unit or for sub-mix/monitor duties as required. Spear is a fan of the Digico product already having three other Digico consoles in the Central Audio Visual inventory. Audio monitoring is from Genelec.

The truck configured for action with the expando section deployed to provide the producers' station and truck access doors.
The rear access panel contains the three phase power, communications, audio and video patching, camera cable connections, plus waveform and signal monitoring.
The audio compartment at the front of the truck features a 96-channel Digico console and a 28 channel back-up mixer.

BIG CAPABILITIES

Since its commissioning, the truck has already been out and about for the ABC, Network 10 and Fox Sports, handling everything from the Good Morning show to election coverage and even the Alice Springs Cup. But broadcast work is only one of the outlets for the van’s high-definition production capacity and only one element in the Central Audio Visual armoury. Back at base there’s also a TV production studio and two Avid on-line edit suites to provide all the post production needs.

However, broadcast work can be fickle and Spear has his eyes firmly on mainstream audiovisual events work for the truck. “We do big shows,” he affirmed, “and we’ve been doing them for 32 years”. With the new vehicle as a mobile control room, Central is now fully kitted-out to handle a range of high-profile events with its own indoor and outdoor LED screens in 6mm or 10mm pitch, supported by a formidable audio inventory that includes four Meyer line-array rigs plus significant lighting and staging kit. Spear reckons his company is pretty much unique in owning all this gear in-house giving them some remarkable abilities when it comes to the top level of corporate and event audiovisual work.

I couldn’t resist stirring the pot a little by asking Spear whether he had considered building 3D or 4K capabilities into his OB unit. He’d already done his research on that so his response was swift and emphatic. “3D [television] won’t happen. They started to do some trial OBs in 3D but people aren’t prepared to wear glasses so it’s just a non-event. As far as 4K is concerned, the networks are mainly broadcasting in standard-def. Even the AFL Grand Final last year was broadcast, to my frustration, in standard definition, so the broadcasters aren’t going to need live content in 4K – at least not for the foreseeable future.”

BRIGHT FUTURE

It is great to speak with someone who is so bullish about the future of our industry, and clear about his goals. “We are just running at full capacity,” Spear told me. “Last month was our biggest in 32 years and I think we’re probably one of the strongest private companies in South Australia.”

Having just made a $2.5 million investment in the future of event audiovisual in South Australia, I think he intends running at full capacity for quite a while yet!

MORE INFORMATION

Central Audio Visual: www.centralaudiovisual.com.au
Sony Professional Solutions: pro.sony-asia.com

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