Last week we decamped to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers expo at Darling Harbour for an afternoon so that we could have a look at the latest outside broadcast vans — the trucks that are responsible for bringing us sporting events, like horse racing.
This wall of LCD monitors carries all the vision being captured by the cameras hooked up to the outside broadcast (OB) van, as well as other sources that might be needed for the broadcast, such as graphics and slow motion replays. One screen will also carry what's currently going to air. Appropriate camera, vision and graphic sources are chosen via the video switcher board seen on the bottom right.
With a full view of all the possible vision, the director sits high and mighty on his throne, deigning what shall be broadcast.
Sitting in a room located behind the director is the audio technician who, via the mixer seen here, can choose appropriate audio sources, marry up sound to vision and fine tune settings.
Located behind the audio guys are the people responsible for the slow motion replays.
Here the small wall of monitors is tied into a tape-less slow motion device made by EVS.
The operators sitting at the back of the van can tweak the settings on individual cameras, including iris and exposure, leaving the cameramen the task of pointing and shooting.
Beyond the bountiful quantities of storage required to store and playback footage captured by the cameras, an OB van's servers need to pack a lot of processing brawn because graphics and the like all need to be rendered in real time.
Sony had two broadcast vans on display, a mini and a midi version (the inside of which we've just breezed through). Both vans are about to be delivered to TVN and are valued between AU$3 million and AU$5 million each. The structural elements of the van's rear cabin are made in Newcastle, while the fitment of all electrical gear, as well as bench tops and doors, occur at one of Sony's Sydney offices.
To showcase its range of broadcast cameras, Sony set up a fake cricket scene replete with ladies enjoying a spot of high tea.
Larger events require more cameras and, therefore, more people to control and direct. Global Television brought along one of its three semi-trailer OB units. Able to handle up to 24 HD cameras and featuring 62 square metres of space, an outfit like this costs between AU$10 million and AU$15 million depending on the equipment within.