HD on wheels


Fully dedicated to HD production, post-production and mobile work since March 1992, Dallas-based HD Vision is handling mobile production for a mix of sports events, concerts and trade shows. Recent projects include the Final Four NCAA basketball telecasts for CBS and a Barry Manilow concert for Angotti Productions.

Pointing to the increased affordability of equipment, Randall Dark, HD Vision president and CEO, notes that, two years ago, an HD camera cost about $350,000. Now, one costs about $150,000. Similarly, VTRs for HD have dropped from $365,000 to about $70,000.

"The equipment has also gotten more user-friendly," he observes. "It's more portable and has more options. It's easier to get a variety of lenses." He expects overall HD production to increase dramatically in the fall.

HD Vision recently rolled out its fourth HD truck, the HDV-5, a 53-foot tractor-trailer accommodating up to 12 CCD cameras, 15 digital recorders and all the required support equipment for HD multicamera remote production. The truck, a joint venture with Capitol Broadcasting, includes four Sony HDC-700 studio cameras with Canon 65X1 lenses; four Sony HDC-750 portable cameras with Canon 18X1 lenses; four Sony HDW-500 digital VTRs; two Panasonic HD-D5 VTRs; a Snell & Wilcox HD-1024 digital switcher with 24 inputs; a complete Sony BVE-9100 editing system; and a Pixel Power Clarity HD graphics system.

When Ackerley paid $5 million for Panasonic's showcase unit for its prototype 720p technology, the goal was to provide a 20% internal rate of return. Kelly Alford, Ackerley's vice president of engineering, believes this is achievable. As part of Ackerley's Sports & Entertainment Division, he says, the truck will be a one-stop shop for clients on the broadcast side.

Although Ackerley owns the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics and the WNBA's Seattle Storm, the truck wasn't acquired with the teams in mind. The Sonics are covered by a two-year agreement with National Mobile Television for games in Seattle. Even though Ackerley's truck could be used for games outside Seattle, Alford says, that won't necessarily happen. The company's goal is renting the vehicles to outside clients, says Alford. To that end, Ackerley has been in discussions with ABC Sports to do HD coverage of Monday Night Football, which previously was handled by Panasonic with the same mobile unit.

"We hope to focus on entertainment events," he says. "The unit lends itself to such things as DVD recording of a concert and other entertainment events that require the progressive format. This truck has the only native 720p cameras in existence."

Also on board are Panasonic universal format converters that allow conversion to 1080i, 480p or NTSC. The unit also has a Calrec Alpha 100 all-digital, 96-stereo, input/output audio-mixing console, lending itself to concerts and other entertainment events.

"In our view," Alford says, "sports trucks are easily gotten hold of. This truck, in the 720p environment, lends itself to entertainment."-E.R.