The outside exhibit area at IBC has, much like the location television sector itself, become dominated in recent years by big articulated trucks with expanding sides stuffed full of the latest technology. But amongst the behemoths there are usually smaller, less obvious OB vehicles that are just as worthy of attention and which often give an indication of how this market is developing.
That was true this year with a medium-sized van that marks new media the first move into outside broadcast vehicles by Irish facilities provider Riverside Television. The long wheel base Mercedes Sprinter 316cdi, designed and built by UK coachbuilder Dawson Coachwork, houses specific areas for the sound supervisor, vision engineer, director and graphics operator in such a way that they have enough room to do their respective jobs and don't feel they are on top of each other.
Based in Galway, Riverside TV is not a newcomer to the OB market but had previously been working with a flight cased EFP (electronic field production) package. Known as BOB (Boxed Outside Broadcast) and based on five cameras, this has been used on a variety of productions, including news and sport.
BOB has served the company well but managing director Cyril O'Regan says over the last couple of years he and his crews had "come to realise all the things they didn't have". This included, he explains, "really good cabling, audio and communications". Adding these components and putting them in a van has made for what O'Regan calls Riverside TV's "first step into full OBs".
The new unit has been named ROB 1 (Riverside Outside Broadcast) and features a 32-channel Roland M-300 V-Mixer with a 48-track Roland R-1000 recorder, JVC KM-H3000 vision switcher and Trilogy Communications Messenger matrix-based intercom, all on an internal infrastructure installed by AB Cable and Wiring of Andover.
On the first morning of IBC O'Regan says representatives from different Irish broadcasters came to look at the vehicle: "Each saw different uses for it but they also take what we set out to do. Now it makes sense why we built this and why it is as it is, as opposed to being just a scanner or just a satellite van."
ROB 1's first outing was on The Hit, a talent competition for unknown songwriters shown by Irish public TV broadcaster RTE One for six weeks from the end of July. Broadcast from the O2 in Dublin, each show featured six aspiring writers pitching songs to established singing stars. O'Regan says the production involved 28-channels of audio to allow the two presenters and two performers to move between the six songwriting "pods". Everything was multitracked and so available for any later post-production.
Even more demanding was continuous live coverage of the Fleadh Cheoil, the annual festival of Irish traditional music held in the Northern Ireland city of Derry during mid-August. O'Regan says the event has never been shown live before, so internet broadcast service Fleadh Live decided to put out 18 hours of streamed transmissions, with Riverside TV providing facilities. Irish language broadcaster TG4 also took feeds for its own simulcast broadcasts.
Audio desks at each of the main performance areas were used to prepare a broadcast mix, which was fed back to ROB 1. All signals, which also included feeds from EFP crews with boom and stick microphones, were mixed for final transmission on the Roland M-300. O'Regan says the audio area is his "favourite seat in the whole truck", partly because it has been designed to be almost self-contained despite being close to the other operational positions.
Small Genelec 8020C monitors help create an invisible barrier between the neighbouring graphics position but, says O'Regan, sound supervisor Derek Recks not only has enough room to work but also has a clear view of the main vision displays at the front of the van, so he knows what is happening all the time.
O'Regan says the Trilogy Messenger system played a key part in the Fleadh production, connecting the different crews round Derry to the OB van. He explains that the Messenger handles all the intercom and radio communications for ROB 1, which is important to any broadcaster but particularly to an operation like Riverside TV that works mainly in EFP. "When we're in the field we need to have confidence that our technology is not going to let us down," he observes.
ROB 1 is now moving on to sport, covering a hurling match this month. And it may not be the lone unit in Riverside TV's offering for long, as O'Regan reveals that plans for ROB 2 are already being drawn up.