Feb. 22, 2022 - In our latest Beyond the Lens blog post, Tedd Tramaloni, Business Development Manager for Production Switchers and Video Servers, shares his thoughts on a different approach to managing size, weight, and power requirements when designing mobile trucks.
Not too long ago, I had lunch with one of my mobile truck pals. He was designing a new 53' (16+ meter) production trailer and was frustrated by the challenge of cramming in all of the technology needed to be "self-sufficient." It seems, he grumbled, that there are never enough DAs, frame syncs, converters, and the like to satisfy the technical and creative requirements of each show. But given the size, weight, and power constraints of this proverbial "five-pound sack," designing even the "perfect truck" would always be a compromise. I realized that unlike that old real estate joke about "location, location, location," the three most important words for truck designers might be size, weight, and power. How those factors are managed, individually and collectively, significantly impacts how well a truck performs and how economical it is to run.
You wouldn't think that size would be a consideration in building a mobile truck. After all, in most of the world, the maximum dimensions of a straight truck or tractor-semitrailer are set by national or regional authorities and are typically based on practical factors such as overpass heights or roadway widths. So, it should be simple: just get the biggest "box on wheels" legally allowed and then start cabling those racks.
But the reality is that increasingly, a single trailer, even an "expando," simply isn't enough – top-tier events now require multiple units to accommodate all the gear and operators necessary. For straight trucks, the situation is not much better. The demands of even smaller scale live event productions have grown almost exponentially, making it difficult for even moderate-size trucks to provide all the necessary components to satisfy customer demands.
Although truck and trailer weights, like size, are also set by law, there are ways to trim the load. Using aluminum frames, composite materials, different structural components, and even "rivetless" construction can shave hundreds or thousands of pounds from the empty weight of the truck or trailer.
Further weight reductions can be achieved by using lighter-weight cables and racks or installing composite-based furniture. But many of those solutions involve compromises that could result in increased long-term maintenance costs and reduced working life of the rig. So, even though shrinking the empty weight would provide more "headroom" for equipment, adding more gear might result in more headaches down the road.
Power consumption is less of an issue now than it was in the past. Broadcast equipment is much more efficient because the components used are much less power-hungry than those of just a few years ago. Even as gear gets more capable and therefore more complex, the trend continues toward systems that sip rather than gulp power. And although the implications of that trend are significant, designing a new mobile unit still requires careful monitoring of the power requirements of all the broadcast and support systems needed to keep everything humming smoothly.
Solving the Size, Weight, and Power Equation
Although my truck pal may have less to grumble about than he did in the past, the thorny problems of size, weight, and power requirements are still challenging. Given that size is fixed for the most part, and weight and power can only be reduced by a few percentage points or so, how do you cram more into that "five-pound sack?" The answer, of course, is to increase density; in other words, replace lots of single-use boxes with lightweight, small-footprint components that can tackle multiple tasks simultaneously. And it just so happens that Ross Video offers several systems that can do just that.
We call it "hyperconvergence," and for us, this means blending different best-in-class solutions to create a product that is more than the sum of its parts. Take, for example, our Hyperconverged Ultrix Acuity and Ultrix Carbonite systems. They combine our multi-format, multi-transport Ultrix router with our specially designed and engineered software-defined production engine (SDPE) blade to create game-changing production and routing systems that are unlike anything else on the market. With four SDPE blades and the I/O cards of your choice, Ultrix Acuity packs a fully-featured, four-ME production switcher and 882 SDI router (802 in IP) into a compact 5RU chassis.
With appropriate software, that same frame and SDPE blade complement can instead create four independent two-ME Carbonites.
The notion of merging different technologies to create more powerful and efficient hybrid solutions is not new to Ross Video. In fact, we've been doing it for years, so these new products are as much "evolution" as they are "revolution." And there's no question that there are all kinds of advantages that this type of fusion can offer. But does combining a router and production switcher in the same frame really save all that much space, weight, and power?
The answer is yes, partly because Ultrix is so much more than a simple routing switcher. Buried in that 5RU powerhouse is a complete audio processing system that can significantly reduce the number of audio embedders and de-embedders required. Furthermore, Ultrix can be licensed to provide MultiViewers that can be deployed around the truck without the need for another dedicated frame. And whole racks of frame syncs can be repurposed or eliminated with another Ultrix license. Now you can get rid of another big frame – the production switcher – by adding SDPE blades, and the savings can be significant.
The point here is that creative engineering solutions such as Ultrix Acuity and Ultrix Carbonite can solve problems, produce better efficiencies, and thus redefine traditional truck design.
CineVideo Unveils New Fully Loaded Mobile Truck
Our friends at Aret, one of Europe's top truck design and integration companies, recently rolled out a stunning new sports truck for CineVideo.
This spacious 14-meter (46') 12G beauty boasts 18 cameras, full audio, comms, replay, and even a second production switcher for smaller events. The compact, space-saving design of the truck's fully-loaded Ultrix Acuity helped make that possible while still providing all the production power CineVideo will need to continue producing top-tier sporting events throughout Europe.
If you'd like to learn more about our hyperconverged production solutions and how they can help optimize your mobile truck design, drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you!