Last year GH One, Ghana’s biggest private television channel, rolled out support for Ultra HD following an upgrade of its studio facilities in Accra. Following a significant investment in 12G-SDI, which supports single cable connectivity for the 2160p60 format, the broadcaster recently chose to expand its 4K capabilities further, commissioning its first ever OB truck through systems integrator Axel Technology.
“Delivering the studio install and then the OB truck build represents one of the biggest broadcast projects ever undertaken in Ghana; however, the turnaround was extremely quick, taking just four months from initial order to completion,” explains Marco Branzanti, video projects manager at Axel Technology. “Because of the enormous variety of content that GH One produces, from live sports to news gathering, through to on-location interviews and shows, our single biggest challenge was designing a system that could adapt to cope with all of those requirements.”
The 14m long and 2.5m wide truck can accommodate a production team of up to 20 people at any one time and has four distinct production areas. While the main production gallery can seat up to six audio and video technicians, as well as two directors, the truck also incorporates a post-production hub, studio spaces, including a green screen and virtual sets, as well as an independent television studio workflow.
“Fully expandable, the OB truck occupies a 15m by 4.80m footprint, allowing multiple productions to take place without staff feeling cramped. That means the vehicle can be used comfortably for longer periods,” explains Branzanti. “For example, the truck can have a fully-fledged television studio up and running for several days, rather than on a short-term, event orientated basis.”
Signal routing onboard is managed via a Smart Videohub 40×40 from Blackmagic Design. Housed in the OB’s technical control room, it sits alongside a rack of HyperDeck [Studio Pro] broadcast decks, used for both recording and backup purposes, as Teranex Express standards converters, which allow production crews to up or downscale any incoming video sources from external contributors.
“As well as 4K production capabilities, a major part of the brief was to ensure that the truck would be able to incorporate footage and content coming into the OB from a host of external sources,” explains Branzanti. “When you’re on the road, you have to be able to contend with a whole range of formats and signals, and the Teranex converters give the engineers a very practical set of tools to convert everything into a consistent format for their broadcasts.”
Axel Technologies’ IT servers are also housed here, together with its playout and CG systems for live titling, news tickers and graphics, which can all be added to the live programme mix. As with its studio facilities, the truck is also fitted out with 12G-SDI cabling, which allows single cable connectivity for Ultra HD signals. “This allows us not only to reduce the volume of cables within the truck, but also means there is less likelihood of signal degradation or dropout.”
The truck has a full range of ENG and remote control cameras, which can be rigged in the studio sets or used out in the field, for news gathering, sports production or covering live events happening across Ghana. Satellite and robust wifi connections are on board to allow the truck’s team to broadcast from wherever they are in the country, no matter how remote.
Redundancy played a huge part in the design of the OB truck’s workflow, and Branzanti explains how Blackmagic allowed the Axel team to develop a bespoke solution. “The truck has two ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K switchers connected via a patch panel, and both have the same IP address assigned so that if there were any disruption, the console would automatically connect to the backup unit. The price point of Blackmagic’s switchers is what made this approach possible. We couldn’t have done it otherwise.”
A further ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K is also installed for the truck’s television studio and is configured to act as the master control for the system. “The ATEM switcher’s ability to manage embedded audio makes it a very affordable and practical solution for any OB build which needs to be able to handle broadcast grade productions without any studio support,” explains Marco.
“The balance between affordability and functionality that the Blackmagic Design kit offers has been the key to the effectiveness of the GH One truck,” concludes Branzanti. “We’ve been able to implement 12G Ultra HD workflows that have not previously been seen before in Ghana, that give the GH One team state of the art broadcasting systems, both when working in the studio and out in the field.”