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OB vans play a vital role in helping broadcasters cover news and live events...
Calrec, Megahertz, Ob vans, Outside broadcast, SAM, Analysis, Content production

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OB vans play a vital role in helping broadcasters cover news and live events. With the technology inside OB vans becoming ever more sophisticated and with the cost of technology falling, DS takes a look at some of the key trends in the OB vans sector.

THE EXPERTS

Naresh Subherwal, MD, Middle East, SAM

Anthony Harrison, international sales manager, Calrec Audio

Robert Stopford, sales director, Megahertz

DS: What trends are you seeing in OB vans?

Subherwal: Global trends and new technologies drive future trends within the Middle East, where adoption tends to be slower. For instance, whilst 4K is being used in OB vans in certain markets across the globe, the Middle East is still to embrace it. That said, 4K opportunities are expected to become more prolific here in the near future.

What we are seeing is a broad spectrum of OB vans being used across the Middle East, from small SNG trucks and six camera OB vans, through to trucks providing 8K delivery. HDR has become increasingly popular in recent years and is now expected as standard across the region. There has been an increase in OB truck venders, which is a reflection of the buoyant opportunity here. The rental market is also growing – catering for long and short term projects.

Harrison: We are seeing increasing demand for smaller OB units that can still deliver the same high-quality material as the larger OB units. Operators want more flexibility – they want equipment that they can adapt to meet different requirements - one week for sports, the next for live concerts.

They appreciate the plug and play nature of Calrec’s Hydra2 network, which allows easy scaling of I/O resources on an ad hoc basis, which in turn enables broadcasters to minimise their costs for smaller events.

Stopford: Many of the outside broadcasters we speak to in the ME have been investigating IP infrastructure for some time - and now that broadcasters elsewhere in the world have been observed reaping the rewards that an IP infrastructure can bring, both practically and commercially, our Middle East client base is gearing up to take the plunge and make the investment.

We’ve provided systems implementing services that mix IT/IP and video for broadcast in recent years, so we’re ready to support the region’s broadcasters when they are, at any stage of their transition process; from consulting to design, installation, commissioning and support.

UHD is also a hot topic – especially with the region’s focus on live sporting events. We’ve also noticed a demand for smaller 6-12 camera vans that can access smaller venues or that need to navigate congested streets where a larger OB may have difficulty accessing.

DS: Are you seeing an uptick in OB projects in the Middle East? What’s driving this?

Stopford: Since Q2, just after CABSAT, there has been a significant increase in the number of RFP’s issued for OB trucks in ME. Most are upgrading and replacing existing facilities rather than expanding their fleet. The new trucks are looking for HD Cameras with 3G infra structure to allow for future expansion.

Harrison: In honesty, uptake in the region has been slower than elsewhere in the world, such as the USA where there are new HD OB projects every month, and where Calrec really dominate with around a 70% share according to the Sports Video Group. In the Middle East demand is increasing for smaller scale OB vans, and as such the Summa and the new Brio console are perfectly suited to provide broadcast-standard audio in a more compact footprint and at a lower cost. Of course the move to HD is still driving many upgrade projects for OB vans, and that demand varies from country to country in the region, but as HD gets more established in the Middle East more OB projects are coming online.

Subherwal: The growing demand to provide live broadcast of outdoor sporting events and news are the main drivers for OB vans in the Middle East. They enable broadcasters to provide coverage of events that may be remote and lacking in fixed infrastructure or unplanned, as is the case for breaking news.”

DS: Have you been involved in any recent OB projects? If so, please provide some details.

Subherwal: We have been involved in multiple projects across different regions recently, including providing our Kahuna switcher, IQ modular and Sirius router products to EUROMEDIA to sit at the heart of their three hybrid 4K OB Vans for live sports broadcasting. The new OB fleet has recently been used by broadcaster Canal+ for a 4K HDR football broadcasting trial between Olympique Lyonnais and PSG. The fleet will also be used for European football championships, the Tour de France and other sporting events later this year.

Harrison: Kuwait Television (KTV), Kuwait’s official state-run television station and part of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, installed a Calrec Summa audio console in its newest and most advanced OB van. The Summa gives KTV the flexibility to cover a wider variety of programming such as sport events and tournaments, live concerts, and talk shows.

DS: Which products are commonly used in your OB vans?

Subherwal: A wide selection of our products can be used in OB vans. In having a range available, it enables us to be flexible depending on the type of project and its requirements, whilst always ensuring a higher quality experience is provided to the viewer.

Our Kahuna range is used most frequently for live production as it is customisable and versatile, but we are also seeing an increased demand for our new, more compact Kula product, which is well-suited for the OB environment. Our multiviewer systems offer scalability to our clients, from modular multiviewer systems that provide standalone solutions for small OB vans to larger OB vans that are integrated into our routers. Our asymmetric routers offer broadcasters flexibility as broadcaster demands change. Wrapped around this is the infrastructure providing the video and audio processing products.

End user perspective

Waleed Hamadah, TV broadcast engineer, TV engineering division, Ministry of Information, Kuwait, told DS about the MoI’s OB vans and the Summa console.

“We’re always working on expanding capacity and raising our standards of television production and delivery,” Hamadah said. “This new OB van is the embodiment of that effort, and the Summa console is a perfect fit for our ambitious goals.

“We have six other OB vans, and though the audio consoles in those units are more than adequate, the Summa console enables us to take our audio coverage to new heights. What’s more, Summa’s advanced audio capabilities mean less reliance on third-party companies and on other departments when covering the more complex audio events.”

Calrec’s Harrison added that the Summa’s functionality is more sophisticated than that of KTV’s existing audio mixers, especially when it comes to reliance on the touch-screen and ease of console configuration. Operators use the touch-screen to deliver all commands and control multiple operations. The scalable nature of Hydra2 also allows more analogue/AES inputs and outputs to be connected than KTV’s other mixers, which means KTV is able to accommodate larger shows and events, with the opportunity to add more I/O for future expansion of the system.

KTV were early adopters of Calrec’s Zeta and Omega technology, and so they are a long-term customer of Calrec. We’re proud to be able to play a continuing role in their growth with the addition of the Summa console, and we look forward to seeing how KTV will benefit from the increase in functionality that this console will give them.

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