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Building a flexible uplink vehicle

Timeline Television is trusted by some of the biggest brands in the UK and international television market, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and BT Sport. It delivers technical and creative facilities for programmes as diverse as live music and awards shows, political conferences, global and domestic sporting competitions, light entertainment and current affairs.

The company decided to build its first uplink vehicle, designated “RF1”, a six-camera UHD production truck that is also able to operate as a comms vehicle with six radio cameras and four talkback channels. The vehicle – which was designed fully in-house – has two powerful independent transmission paths with dual chain redundancy on both; with a built-in 2.4m KU band system and a 2.4m towable trailer-based dish for the second path, if required. RF1 also has a 1.2m KA system for IP services.

RF1 recently returned from Majorca, where it was on location for ITV’s Love Island, providing main and reserve paths back to the UK. The reality show, which sees contestants couple up to convince the public to keep them on the island to win £50,000, pulled in huge ratings for ITV2 this year, consistently beating its rivals and becoming a major talking point on social media. With the show often reaching over two million viewers a night, bosses even extended the series past its original end date.

Signals are required to be routed to and from the two dishes RF1 has. RF1 has six modulators and seven receivers, and the modulators are required to be able to transmit on both dishes with minimal reconfiguration. The receivers are also required to work with both dishes with minimal configuration and the classic way this is achieved is with an “RF tray” that contains splitters and combiners mated to a patch field.

Timeline needed to build an RF tray to handle the routing of various L-Band signals around the transmission paths and needed an equipment manufacturer to provide the required solutions to make this possible.

Of course, as with any project, there were challenges along the way. As the project progressed, Timeline had to adapt and sometimes completely change designs from the initial drafts and change the order to better suit the direction the project was heading in. Since Timeline’s designs were changed, ETL had to follow suit and change the order.

ETL’s dedicated in-house design and manufacturing capabilities enabled it to get the various requirements changed immediately. It managed to deliver the items by the original agreed shipment date, providing Timeline Television with L-Band splitters and combiners for the vehicle’s RF tray, allowing all signals to be correctly routed around its two dishes easily.

Dominic Overton, components sales manager, ETL Systems, said: “Taking a consultative approach, we were able to offer Timeline a solution from ETL’s wide components product range, ensuring it was a suitable solution for their UHD production truck and delivered on time to meet their schedule.

“It was a great experience working with Timeline and we are delighted that the project was a great success.”
The project was an outright success, with the vehicle built and on the road by the end of December 2016. The vehicle has been very busy since operating up and down the country and has completed work for both BT Sport and the BBC.

“It’s been a very pleasant experience working with ETL Systems from the start. Timeline is a very dynamic and innovative company and we have since worked with ETL on smaller scale projects and aim to continue doing so going forward,” said Lee Wright, senior broadcast engineer, Timeline TV.