Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


How content creator Michael Praetorius built his own OB van

The small van provides a workspace for a crew of two - with everything else done remotely

Michael Praetorius is a content producer and media consultant from Munich, Germany, who manages content and concepts for innovative journalistic formats on social media platforms.

When Covid-19 hit, Praetorius was unable to use his studio in Munich-Giesing, and that led him to come up with the idea of building his own outside broadcast van.

The van is designed so that all inputs and outputs run via patch panels and a router. It’s also possible to distribute cable lines from outside the set or from the van to video walls or other OB vans as required. The vehicle provides a workspace for one vision mixer who has access to 17 displays and monitors to preview cameras, clips, streams and graphics.

All signals can be looped out to additional monitors to double the workspace or relocate it outside so that the van is only used as a pre-configured technology hub. It allows for up to eight cameras to be operated via SMPTE fibre with talkback and tally. The passenger seat can be used as a control room or commentary booth.

The setup includes a Smart Videohub 12G 40×40 from Blackmagic Deisgn with Videohub Smart Control Pro for all video inputs and outputs as well as breakout options. That makes it possible to handle individual recordings from other stages simultaneously or the individual camera recordings. Programme video, stage monitors and audience aux are switched on an ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K switcher.

An ATEM Talkback Converter 4K with 12G SFP Optical Modules allows talkback to up to eight cameras. Praetorius relies on the ATEM Camera Converter with 12G SFP optical modules for talkback to camera operators or other editors, while a Teranex AV converter allows for converting old video and lip-sync correction of the video signal before it is sent back to the stage.

Audio monitoring is carried out via a Blackmagic Audio Monitor 12 G connected to the video router to monitor any source. The OB uses a host of SmartView 4K and Scope DUO for all preview monitoring.

HyperDeck Studio 4K Pro is used for recording in 4K and playout of pre-recorded material, including key/fill of lower thirds. Streaming to platforms or to an ATEM Streaming Bridge is carried out via a Web Presenter 4K. The ATEM Streaming Bridge also allows mixing the OB van video with content from other stages or with other material.

“Essentially, our setup shares many similarities with a classic OB and is the hardware hub for all our production work,” says Praetorius. “What makes it different is that it only provides a workspace for a crew of two – everything else works remotely.

“With Blackmagic Design technology, you already have an excellent ecosystem that works together perfectly; however, we are not locked into the system. With our setup, we have the flexibility to decide, for example, whether we use HDMI or SDI, which lenses we’d need, etc.,” he explains. “What’s more is that it saves us a lot of time as we no longer have to set up and dismantle racks anymore. We just park the van and lay some network cable.”