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Sony: On the road

Posted on May 2, 2023 by FEED Staff

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Sony Europe and France Télévisions are putting wheels to tarmac, as Mobile Unit 1 goes into production – with two more to come

A new OB production truck, the Mobile Unit 1 (UM1), was recently kicked into operation gear by France Télévisions. UM1 is based on hybrid SDI/IP architecture and provides UHD and HDR images with a 25-camera capacity and two video control rooms that each work simultaneously. 

The new OB van rolled out during the summer of 2022, with the broadcast of the French National Day concert from the Eiffel Tower and coverage of the European Athletics Championship in Munich, among others.

Sony HDC-3500 portable system cameras are on board and a Sony XVS-9000 vision mixer with four mix/effects bars is installed in the main video control room. Its resources can be shared with a second independent control room in the truck. 

Sony PVM-X2400 (or PVM-X1800 for the audio control room) UHD/HDR reference monitors equip the vision engineer stations and screens (preview and final) of the two video control rooms. All other workstations are fit with Sony LMD-A240 monitors.

“The beginning of the project was the renewal of a 2000s OB van which was 20 years old”, says Laurent Vindevoghel, project manager at France Télévisions. “Specifications for UM1 were straightforward: 25 cameras capable of shooting in HD, 4K UHD and HDR, and SDI and IP compatible.”

“This van, made to last about ten years, can be maintained over time,” says Skander Ben Attia, CTO of France Télévisions, “so that we can use it across our different events.”

“The production operations of France Télévisions include both mobile and fixed means,” according to Norbert Paquet, head of live production solutions, Sony Europe, “in order to cover different kinds of events such as live shows or sports broadcasts.”

“One of the main issues was to find equipment we could start using in SDI and switch to ST 2110 in the future,” adds Grégory Vital, deputy CTO, head of control rooms and studios, France Télévisions. “Sony checked all the boxes and answered with the XVS-9000. This perfectly fits our needs.”

“When we started the renewal of our OB van,” says Attia, “the vision mixers brought by Sony were the obvious choice. What was very important was to find different versions of the same product, to be able to adapt and fit our operational constraints.”

OB upgrade

UM1 will be supplemented by a smaller second truck, the UM2, followed by a third unit to operate as a mobile production control room in flight cases.

“We are renewing a few trucks actually,” says Vindevoghel. “The UM1 is the first, but two others are coming. We hope to be able to interconnect the vans to each other.

“We will be keeping the XVS series for the vision mixers – and as for the cameras, we’re keeping Sony HDC-3500s for the upcoming UM2. The mobile controller will be able to host broadcast and non-broadcast cameras of all types.”

“What’s great with Sony is that they have skilled people in every domain, whether it’s the equipment or their vision for the future of control rooms with things like IP,” continues Vital. “We work together a lot, starting from our needs to then finding solutions. And that is very important for us: the idea is to start from the need and go towards the product that works for us. Sony knows how to do that very well.”

“Sony accompanied France Télévisions and BCE France [the French subsidiary of systems integrator Broadcasting Center Europe] on the technological and human aspects,” explains Paquet. “On the technology side, we had to take into account the evolution and needs of France Télévisions productions in order to build an architecture and solution. We helped in the training of the engineering and exploitation teams that are now using this tool and making productions daily.”

“BCE’s expertise in production, operations, integration and IT, as well as the implementation of its own IP radio and television centre, enable major projects for the media industry to be carried out,” adds Philippe Mauduit, president of BCE France. “IP pioneer and expert, we support many companies in this technological transition. BCE is proud to have received the confidence of France Télévisions for this major project.”

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Originally featured in the spring 2023 issue of FEED magazine.

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