How long have you been with Sony?
Just over 4 years
And where were you before?
I originally trainedat Ravensbourne before moving to CNN where I worked on stories such as the Russian Coup. I then worked for Cine Video where amongst others covered the West Indies cricket tours.
After working for Visions I contracted for 4 years before moving to Sony.
What is your role in Sony now?
I am the Head of the Outside Broadcast Unit Professional Services section of Sony. When I joined the divisionwas split into two departments, proposals and projects. This has now merged to form one focused division giving the customer a single point of contact for the whole project.
When did Sony build their first OB Truck?
The first two trucks were built in 1980; one was a two camera unit for Westwood TV and the other a 3 camera unit for Ulster TV
How many trucks do you build a year?
Well, 12 were delivered in 2007, 16 are confirmed for 2008 with a further 20 or so being negotiated for this year.
Are the trucks built for UK or export markets?
One of the many things I am proud of is that the UK markets have really been developed with 3 trucks for Arqiva and one each for Arena, CTV and Telegenic to name but a few in the last few years. We do build for many overseas customers and these trucks are mainly built here in the UK but can of course be built locally where applicable.
Do you have much competition?
There are 4 or 5 main competitors around Europe. I firmly believe Sony offers the best complete and profession package ensuring the truck is delivered within the time and budget specified.
Does Sony building a truck mean all the kit will be Sony?
No not at all. I would argue that Sony cameras are the best available and would always recommend these, however most customers have a legacy truck or staff with experience of one manufacturer or another so we will simply assist them with their choice, offering our experiences and advice along the way. Operators in OB trucks may spend many hours a day for weeks on end looking at a screen, for this reason it has to be their choice, the new CTV truck for example is kitted out with third party vendor equipment.
Although we always start with a blank piece of paper the majority of our customers understand what they want.
What are the trucks mainly used for
Sports. These trucks are typically bigger due to the space required for the amount of EVS, slo mo and replay hardware required for sporting events with often 25 people working in them. Music events for example usually require a simpler set-up requiring less space.
What is the build time of a truck?
It does not really vary a great deal for the size of truck, there is a 6 to 7 month build time for the coach build of the truck and then around 2 months to equip it to the customers specifications. The costs of the coach build can vary by 35% depending on the budgets available.
Hardware is often not ordered until later on in the build process as nine months in technology can make a lot of difference. We would continually be researching with manufacturers to question when new products are due for release to programme them into the build.
Sony pride themselves with an excellent health and safety policy, all trucks have a scaffolding rig assembled to assist with a safe installation for the engineers and wiremen.
What has been the most significant change in OB trucks over the last few years?
Flat screen monitoring has made a major impact on the amount of room we now have available for desks and operator room. Surround sound monitoring is now a standard requirement and in a 2m2 room can be quite challenging!
High Definition recording has also seen many vehicles refitted from SD to HD and physically smaller hardware now being installed.
What is the most challenging truck you have built?
Arqiva was a challenge with a Full Dolby E systems infrastructure for the Sky football market, with 12 EVS and 24 cameras, high end graphics and all in a very tight timescale (see case study).
The challenge of any OB truck is normally the deadline as customers normally commission trucks for a contract they have; we did try to move the World Cup a few years ago but no luck!
Do you build trucks differently for the environments they are used in?
This is not really an issue. Customers have to weigh up the amount of time the truck will be in a harsh environment of say 50 degrees c, if its one or two days a year then is the upgrade of aircon etc worth the extra cost. Lower power and increased tolerance hardware has also helped with new technology always being sought. Mitsubishi, Daikin and Carrier all offer superb air con solutions with the all important local support for most countries.
What do you view as the next major progression in OB Technology?
1080P will soon be required as well as advanced server based equipment. At present displays are split by Quad Splitters and large multiview screens (one screen showing a multitude of inputs – often used in galleries for example) are avoided as if they have a technical problem then you would loose all monitoring. However, these are getting better so will no doubt be seen in the future.
Fibre cabling will develop further and with over 20km of cable currently being used in an OB truck this will greatly reduce the weight and space required.
Can you give us some stats of average OB’S?
38 tons, 16.5 metres long, 4 metres high, 4.5 metres when expanded (2.5 metres on road due to EC reg’s) and anything between €1.2m to €9.8m for a 30 camera fully loaded