There is a small group of international sporting events that capture the public imagination like no other. In this Olympic year, March saw the athletic world’s focus drawn to the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul.
These games, however, were also notable in that it was the first time that Turkey has hosted such a prestigious international event. The Turkish Athletics Federation spent 32 million TL building facilities that would grace any international event.
And another first saw Turkish national state broadcaster TRT unveil a sophisticated new high definition outside broadcast facility, used to provide HD signals to well over 100 countries and a global viewing audience of many millions. The facility comprises two identical and very large OB trucks that were designed, built and commissioned by UK-based systems integrator Gearhouse Broadcast.
“These new OB trucks are very comfortable for broadcast – they make the production of fantastic HDTV programmes so much easier,” says Deniz San (pictured right), sports director at TRT Sports Channel. “It is still early days but already we can say that TRT is totally prepared to televise this event and many other types of event in high definition.
“The world is migrating to HD – it is inevitable. For a director details are all important and the ability to show the tears on the faces of competitors as they win, or lose, is so important.
“HD helps to communicate the emotions felt here in Istanbul to a worldwide viewing audience. Also, HD Slo-mo is so much better than its SD counterpart and this is a key to my abilities as a director,” San continues.
The two OB trucks are identical and can operate independently or be dovetailed to create a single integrated OB facility. Each vehicle is a 14-metre trailer with a single expanding side, providing a comfortable working environment for 16 people.
Both trucks support 11 cameras, which comprise nine Sony HDC-1450 HD cameras (of which one operates as an HD RF camera) and two Sony Super Motion cameras, all of which operate a range of Canon lenses. Each vehicle operates a Snell Kahuna 360 vision switcher and features a fully featured Studer Vista 5 5.1 Dolby surround audio system.
The vehicles each feature three EVS XT2+ servers, which maintain the production workflow, as well as supporting the operation of the Super Motion camera systems. The backbone of both vehicles is provided by numerous integrated Harris systems, including its Platinum HD Video (176 x 256) routing system, Platinum HD audio (192 x 160) routing system, its customisable Navigator monitoring and control software alongside Harris test and measurement systems, its 6800+ up, down and cross conversion and distribution systems as well as extensive application of Harris’ QVM multiviewing systems throughout the trucks’ production areas.
Trucks for all seasons
Gearhouse Broadcast first became aware of TRT’s intention to acquire HD OB facilities in 2009. The company started working with TRT’s planning and technology group leading to its success in winning an international tender in December 2010. A timeline of 330 days was set for the design, construction, delivery and commissioning of the trucks – an ambitious timescale for a project of this scale.
“TRT needed to acquire the skills and knowledge to design and build two HD OB trucks that would meet their demanding production needs,” says Eamonn Dowdall (pictured left), Business Development director at Gearhouse Broadcast’s parent company, Gravity Media Group. “To start with, the vehicles have to withstand climatic extremes from the incredible dry heat of the Turkish summer in the south of the country to the hard freezing winters in the mountainous north eastern regions.
“Above all the vehicles, and the technology used within them, has to be fit for purpose in a broad range of productions from international sports events such as we are seeing here in Istanbul to a wide range of light entertainment and ENG applications,” he continues.
“We spent a considerable amount of time working with TRT, learning how they produce different types of programmes and how they resource productions. With this knowledge, we were able to design the optimum layout of the vehicles in terms of production, MCR, engineering and audio areas.
“We chose Sony cameras because of their excellent reputation as an OB style camera. With regard to vision switchers, we looked at the range of established vision switcher manufacturers in the region and matched up the need for a flexible, multi-functional and future proofed product. In this respect, Snell and Kahuna 360 is the stand out choice in the region.”
When it came to building the vehicle’s technology architecture, Dowdall shows a different perspective. “When you are building an elegant truck, capable of supporting both SD and HD video and audio, it is important to identify a brand and technology that puts the heart of the truck together in terms of routing, digital distribution, up- and down-converters, embedding and de-embedding. For us, that brand is Harris.
“We needed an architecture and technical structure that integrates all the key components under one operating system and user interface. From our experience as an international SI, Harris is listening to the end user and is tuned in with what the user wants from those technologies.
“In an OB environment, every job is a new job. Whilst it’s nice to have great cameras and vision mixers, it is the interfacing of how the truck works that is so critical and Harris has a winning range of products for us. It is well engineered, very reliable and very much fit for purpose according to TRT’s needs,” says Dowdall.
According to TRT’s Production Manager Tugrul Bas, the IAAF World Indoor Athletics event could form a stepping-stone to a much larger prize. “Istanbul has been accepted as a candidate for the host city for the 2020 summer games,” explains Bas. “These championships are a good reference for TRT, together with our fantastic new HD OB production facility.
“It demonstrates the skills of our dedicated team of engineers, production and support staff, as well as our ability to invest in the resources that such an international event requires. Can we support the 2020 summer games and make it into something special to the world – yes we can!”