Simplifying Setup, Extending Types of Events DJP Can Cover
Posted by Doug Johnson, 11/26/2017
Back in October 2016, DJP was shooting a rugby tournament in northern Utah. The shoot went very well for the most part, but the director and I were really struggling with one thing: seeing the video on our monitors. Because we were outdoors, the amount of light around us was overwhelming our monitors, even though we were under a canopy to block the sun. Additionally, even though we arrived more than two hours before the start of the event and we were only running two cameras, we were still setting up equipment as the event began. It was at that point that I decided that DJP needed a mobile production facility that would effectively be a control room on wheels.
Planning began pretty much immediately -- many designs were considered. At first, it was quite modest -- just two or three stations for the crew, but it became apparent quickly that that wasn't going to meet the needs of the various types of events that DJP covers. Sporting events, for example, can really benefit from instant replay, and there was no way to handle that. Concerts need good audio, and there was no place for an audio engineer. Conferences and sporting events alike both need graphics, and there was no space for someone to do that. So the design began to expand and by the end of 2016 the basic design had evolved to cover all of the basic needs for all of the types events that we support, which means that the final design included space for eight crew members: director, technical director, instant replay, audio, engineer, PTZ camera control, graphics, and a space for a producer.
DJP started to acquire the equipment to make it happen pretty much right from the time we decided to build the trailer, and acquisition continued for about a year. One thing that we had decided from the get-go was that if we're going to all of this trouble to build a trailer, it has to support the latest technologies -- so everything inside the trailer from recorders to switcher to monitors all supports 4K, and all cameras connect over fiber optic cables with distance capabilities measured in miles, not feet. And when you start talking about features like instant replay and graphics the 10-input switcher we had at the time was no longer sufficient, so we upgraded to a 20-input, 2 M/E switcher (that means it can handle up to 20 video sources like cameras and that it can output two independent, finished video feeds). We started meeting with trailer dealers and picked the one we wanted to go with and in May 2017 we placed the order for the empty shell.
Manufacturing delays meant that instead of receiving the trailer in late June or early July, it arrived in mid-August, at which point construction began. And even though it wasn't even close to done for our August events, we still have used it for every event we've shot since we got it.
Construction still hasn't been completed -- it takes a long time to do this properly -- but the trailer has really simplified things for us a great deal. Setup times for events are nearly always under an hour-and-a-half, often under an hour, compared to 2-3 hours before, and are no longer done at a frantic pace. And having all of the equipment pre-wired means that we aren't having to troubleshoot issues nearly as often. It also means that we can incorporate equipment into a production that there just wouldn't be time to connect and configure otherwise, like audio processors to keep sound levels in check, or a cellular Internet connection with proper antennas for stream-anywhere capabilities. The trailer brings other benefits to the crew as well... for example, now, because we have more than a dozen big video monitors (instead of one or two small ones) and proper speakers, we can really see and hear what is going on.
While it may be that the DJP crew benefits most from having the trailer, it also means that our customers really benefit as well. We can do a higher quality production than we could before. It also means that we're in and out of your facility much faster, making video production less intrusive into your business. And putting the crew in the trailer means fewer people inside your facility, reducing the interruption and distraction during an event. Other types of events which were difficult to cover previously (specifically, anything outdoor) is much, much easier.
As far as I can tell this is the only trailer of its kind in all of Utah. The only other mobile production facilities are either tiny vans which are seriously limited in their capabilities or big 53-foot tractor trailers which costs tens of thousands of dollars per day to operate and are only capable of operating at the largest of facilities due to their power and other resource requirements. The DJP trailer has the space we need for a full crew, but yet can be powered from just two household-style power circuits, or even a portable generator. Our primary fiber optic cable is 200 meters long (and can be extended out to 900m), so we can park it pretty much anywhere. That means we can both go anywhere we need to and provide all of the services that someone could need.
So what we have now is a mobile production facility capable of handling 4K video from up to 20 cameras or more, with a crew of up to eight inside. It features a 2 M/E switcher, which means we can generate two separate programs simultaneously -- one for a projection screen and another for an Internet stream, for example. It can also run off of internal battery for up to two hours, or a generator all day when a power source is not available.
The other good news is that DJP doesn't charge any extra for using the trailer over what was previously our normal way of doing things. The trailer is included with any of our multi-camera packages.
Construction of the trailer is nearing completion -- as of this writing it's about 75% done. If you wish to follow its progress from start to finish, we've been documenting it on our YouTube channel.