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A television production truck is a small mobile television studio to allow filming of events and video production at locations outside a regular television studio. They are used for remote broadcasts, outside broadcasting (OB), or electronic field production (EFP). Some require a crew of as many as 12-16, with additional trucks for additional equipment as well as a satellite truck, which transmits video back to the studio by sending it up through a communications satellite using a satellite dish, which then transmits it back down to the studio. In contrast some production trucks include a satellite transmitter and satellite dish for this purpose in a single truck body to save space, time and cost.
Other television production trucks are smaller in size and generally require two or three people in the field to manage. For instance broadcast journalism news reporters providing live television, local news in the field electronic news gathering (ENG) outside a formal television studio. In some cases, it can be a station wagon, people carrier or even a motorbike (especially in cities with congested streets or where a rapid response is needed and a motorbike is more maneuverable).
A television crew can include: Technical Director, Camera operator, Video Tape Operator, Video Technician, Audio Mix Engineer, Audio Assistant, Graphic Operator, Production Assistant and Broadcast Engineer.
- Technical Director (TD) – The TD operates the video switcher during a telecast. The TD translates the cues from the Director to take a specific source and route that to “the air” or line cut. The TD is also in charge of setting up the production room with the correct sources on the monitor wall in front of the Director and TD. The TD sets up the video switchers “cuts” and graphics overlays before the telecast, and when necessary will “key” them over the video.
- Camera operator or Camera Op – The Camera Op set up the cameras at various locations around the venue before the telecast. The Camera Ops focus on subjects and zoom for different kinds of framing of the subjects. Camera Ops also listen to the director for targets of new shots and for the focus of the production. Some productions require the Camera Op to be very quick and responsive to any and all action. A sample of some shots called from the Director include: wide, tight, over the shoulder, extreme close up, 2 shot, 3 shot, etc. In the end of each production, they are also in charge of striking their equipment back to the production truck for safe keeping.
- Video Tape Operator and Digital Disc Operator (EVS) Operators – The Tape Operators control the recording equipment that receives the video from the various cameras. They coordinate with the Director on playing back pre-recorded video, and other replays of action they recorded. The EVS Operator records and plays back instant replays and small wrap-ups of the action that is accessed from a Video server.
- Video Technician or Camera Shader – The Video Technician, sometimes called a V1, is in charge of all the cameras' iris and overall look of the cameras video. They can “shade” the cameras for optimizing the color and unifying all the cameras’ colors and shade. The Video Technician also troubleshoots the issues that may arise with the cameras, cable length and intercom.
- Audio Mix Engineer or Audio Mixer A1 – The A1 controls the sounds that the audience will listen to. They will mix the assorted sounds such as crowd noise, effect sounds, announcers, etc. They route the different sources of sounds from microphones, cameras, discs, video tapes, telephones, EVS, or outside audio sources, into the audio mixing board for control. They are also in charge of ensuring the audio is successfully being transmitted. They also insure the intercom is working for every station in the production, as well as dial up coordination with a network director. (The A1 may also be referred to as the Audio Director.)
- Audio Assistant A2 (remote television production) – The A2 works under the direction of the A1 as they set up all the audio equipment around the venue for various sounds. They also set up the intercom system between the production truck and stage or announcer booths. They are also in charge of “mic-ing” the talent as they enter and exit.
- Graphics Operator and Graphics Coordinator – There are a wide range of Digital on-screen graphic elements used in television production, but the main devices are manufactured by Chyron Corporation and Bug Box (Fox Box). The Chyron Character generator “keys” graphics over a specified video the TD chooses, but is generally used for Images, and lower third Messages, as well as occasionally smaller videos. The Bug Box Character generator Operator works the same way but is only for sporting events as it is the Operator that keeps time, score, and statistics on the telecast but shouldn’t be used to show images or messages.
- Stage Manager – The Stage Manager is involved in coordinating talent and the direction of the producer and production crew in a booth, stage or area the telecast will be produced. They are in charge of building the stages props and cues, as well as the banners and scenery, but usually outsource to Production assistants.
- Utilities or Cable Pullers – These are the people who pull the equipment and cable in and out of the venue. They also are skilled in routing the cables so that they are not seen or in people’s ways. Usually these are people a little less experienced or looking to gain experience in the television industry.
- Engineer In Charge (EIC) – The EIC is the Broadcast engineer who knows more about production of the truck than anyone else on the production. They are involved in installing all required equipment, having the correct skills needed to fix and maintain the equipment. EIC’s usually stay on one truck for years learning all the intricacies about each machine and how to fix them in difficult situations.
Transmission of video
The transmission of the raw video feed from the remote location to the studio is called backhaul. There are several ways of transmitting the backhaul:
Direct microwave link
The earliest method, used before satellites and videotape and still used for short ranges, is to beam the video directly back to the studio using a microwave dish, where another dish receives the signal. Microwave transmission requires an unobstructed line-of-sight path from the transmitting to the receiving antenna, which can be difficult to achieve in urban locations. Some production trucks have a small microwave dish mounted on a telescoping mast, that can be raised 30 to 40 feet to "see" over buildings and other obstructions.
One of the most common techniques is to use a satellite dish to transmit the video feed on a microwave uplink signal to a communication satellite orbiting the Earth, which then retransmits it back to a dish at the studio. Satellite feed allows televising live events virtually anywhere on Earth. The satellite is in a geostationary orbit about the Earth and so appears at a stationary position in the sky, so the dish merely has to be pointed initially at the satellite when the truck reaches its remote location, and does not have to turn to "track" the satellite. Satellite feed became common in the 1970s, when there were enough satellites in orbit that a consumer market for satellite use started in television. This open market for satellite space spawned a flurry in mobile satellite uplink trucks for hire, making possible the television viewing of live events all over the world. The first satellite trucks were allocated frequencies in the C band (5.700-6.500 GHz) which required large 2 meter dishes. In the 1980s frequencies in the Ku band (12 to 18 GHz). were authorized, which required only small dishes less than a meter in diameter, but these are not usable in rainy weather because of rain fade. Today, the satellite dish and microwave transmitter may be on an satellite truck (uplink truck) separate from the production truck, but some production trucks (called "hybrids") also incorporate the satellite dish and transmitter.
Fiber optic lines
Where available, production trucks can use existing high capacity fiberoptic cable to send video directly via the Internet to broadcasting companies for distribution. These accept an asynchronous serial interface (ASI) digital stream from the video encoder. This is a very high quality, low loss way of sending video quickly and securely around the world.
. Space Today Online Magazine (http://www.spacetoday.org/Satellites/Hamsats/Hamsats1970s.html)
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