The first UK outside broadcast truck fitted with a Lawo digital console went into operation at the end of March and will be among production facilities for television coverage of the Royal Wedding on 29 April, writes Kevin Hilton.
Arena Television’s OB14, with its 56-fader mc266 desk, was delivered to the company’s base in Surrey during mid-March for soak testing and staff training before starting a three-week stint on the BBC programme Lambing Live. Like other major British OB operators, Arena has been a long-time user of Calrec Audio consoles and has five Sigmas, one Omega and a Zeta in its existing fleet.
Richard Yeowart, managing director of Arena TV, acknowledges this “traditional” association with Calrec, which he calls an “extremely powerful” system, adding that the company’s audio teams have “probably only scratched the surface of what it can do”.
But OB14 is something of a departure from the norm of TV scanners and for this reason Arena looked at what other manufacturers were offering. The new, articulated truck has a single expanding side but because of its interior design it has more space than either a fixed chassis single-expander or double-expander artics.
Many big UK OB trucks are designed primarily for large-scale, long-term contract sports broadcasts but OB14 is aimed at the ad hoc market, which leans towards theatre, music and light entertainment (LE) work. “We’re beginning to see more sound mixing being done within the scanner,” Yeowart comments. “The audio section in OB14 won’t replace a big music mobile but we can do some music mixing in it. These days broadcasters covering festivals like to have all the mixing in one truck, although we still work with other mobiles, including radio trucks, if they’re on site.”
Yeowart says he was “a little nervous” about going with a new manufacturer, particularly in terms of support and back-up. “We talked to other users and had discussions with Lawo, who we thought were worthy of our trust,” he comments, adding that Arena has “a lot of spares” for the desk in stock.
Arena’s head of sound, Tim Rowden, observes that the company has always been “reasonably innovative”. It was the first in the UK OB sector to put a digital desk in a truck and has now installed a Lawo. “There were various reasons,” he says. “We wanted to use an Evertz video router and have an audio desk with an in-built router and for the two to talk to each other. The Lawo is also a slightly more creative tool for music mixing. Clients are looking to save money by not bringing in separate sound trucks and we hope we can appeal to that market, especially covering smaller festivals, where we can do everything in the one unit.”
The 5.1 monitoring system is based on a Genelec rig, with HT210Bs at the front and a sub-bass under the desk. RTW loudness metering is integrated into the Lawo console.
Arena placed the order for complete design/build and systems integration with FAL Systems of Leeds, who subcontracted WHF to build the base chassis. The remaining external and all of the internal coachwork was designed and built by our FAL’s own in-house team.
Richard Yeowart acknowledges that OB14 has a new layout but says it has been designed to make people used to working in double-expander trucks and permanent studios feel at home.