I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the production truck, to be honest. I’ve seen the brief interior shots before — one or two toward the end of a Monday Night Football broadcast, maybe, or one on a Thanksgiving or Christmas game — and I’ve seen the trucks outside FedExField, but never really paid much attention to either.
The truck is, predictably, large. This particular truck is the Comcast SportsNet HD production truck, which is a bit of a coup — most regional networks don’t own one of these, and have to rent it out. If you’re watching a Caps home game, a Wizards home game, soccer … any home contests in HD on CSN are coming from this truck. Occasionally, if it’s available, it’s rented to broadcast in Philly or some other nearby market.
The inside is divided into four sections — from front to back, Video, Tape, Production, and Sound. To the completely uninitiated, each one looks roughly as complicated as the average airplane cockpit.
Video, as you might expect, handles anything to do with video as it comes into or goes out of the truck. Their primary in-game responsibility is, apparently, “shading” the cameras — making continual adjustments as the camera moves from lighter areas to darker areas to ensure that the burgundy remain the same from shot to shot. (Other colors, too, obviously. Burgundy is just an example.)
I couldn’t get a picture of the video area, though, because the NFL replay booth gets an HD feed from one of the trucks, and for this game the CSN truck got the nod. What this appeared to mean in practice is that the folks who man the video section had to start climbing under decks and plugging and unplugging wires and generally being way too busy for me to interrupt.
This is Tape.
Each of the eight cameras on the field feeds into a tape deck. The people in this section of the truck monitor those feeds, ready to rewind for replay if the producer calls for it. Three of the cameras are run through a machine called an EVS, or Elvis, which works more or less like a DVR; the others are on tape. If the camera guys are looking at what they’re supposed to be, and the guys in the Tape Room are doing what they’re supposed to do, every play should be accessible at any time from multiple angles.
I’m going to skip the Production Room for now and go to the Sound room, which is in the very back of the truck.
Unlike the first three rooms, which are all connected and are only “rooms” in the most theoretical way, Sound is completely separate and soundproofed so that Caroline, the lead audio mixer, can have the sound as loud as she wants. The truck is capable of putting out full 5.1 sound, and the room is equipped appropriately to let Caroline hear it as clearly as possible. During the game, she’ll be getting audio from the booth, from the Production Room, from the cameramen, probably from other sources that I forgot to note. Her job is the same as for Video, only she’s responsible for all audio in and out. Frankly, it sounds like an ADD nightmare to me, but she seems completely at ease.
I’m going to highlight the Production Room in its own post, as that’s where I’ll be spending at least the first portion of the game.