Outside broadcast trucks have evolved in recent years. It’s not just that they’ve grown in size – although smaller units still have their place – but the technology inside them has changed. This is largely because of the demands put on them by not just established TV broadcasters looking to differentiate themselves from the competition but also the new generation of internet streaming services, which want quality sound and pictures to rival their broadcast competitors. So how do you set about building one?
Find your space
Having enough room to work comfortably and not be hampered in what you’re doing by bumping into things or just a general oppressive feeling is conducive to doing a good job. It’s probably even more of a priority in OB trucks, which have the inherent contradiction of space always being at a premium. Even more so for the audio crew in scanner trucks because the vision control area and, increasingly, the production gallery – with seating for the producer, director, various assistants and sometimes the talent – will always take a great deal of what available real estate there is.
A positive point in today’s market is that, as Wayland Twiston Davies, OB specialist with Sony Professional’s systems integration division observes, it is “very rare not to build vehicles with expandable sides”. Back in the days of the first articulated trailer OBs the sound department usually had its own area, separate from the other sections, but now it can have much more room as well.
Malcolm Robinson, director of broadcast and media solutions with Broadcast Networks, says in recent years the mixing console has been “central to the final design” of units built by the company. He explains there are two usual configurations for the sound desk. It can be installed across the vehicle facing the production area, although this means the width of the truck could give limited space for the console’s surface, or along the side of the vehicle’s wall. In both cases a double sound proofed window will give eye contact between personnel in the sound and vision areas.
An exception to these approaches is when there is an ‘expanding front’ to the trailer. In this case the console fits across the vehicle but on the front wall, which in turn expands to give what Robinson describes as “significant space for the sound engineer”.