How to build an Outside Broadcasting truck

In the last entry, I looked at the background to the launch of our new Outside Broadcasting facilities and television studio. In this entry, I’ll cover the process of converting our new truck from an EVS Server truck into an outside broadcasting facility:

The truck arrived in July 2011, and was delivered to C2S in nearby Morley for refurbishment. Originally built by a company called E2E in Leeds (since folded), I was pleased to discover that Jon and John who run C2S used to work for E2E, and had in fact originally built our truck themselves! C2S have a brilliant facility at their site, building trucks for worldwide broadcasters entirely in-house. We planned to fit-out of the truck’s production kit back at the university, but first C2S had to carry out coachwork modifications. We bought several items of second hand broadcast kit with the truck, and once we had ripped this out, C2S began work.
The edit suite took up almost half the truck, being fitted with a large sofa in its former life and a glass partition sliding door. This was removed, and two new partitions put in to create a new sound control room, with the edit suite remaining at the cab end undamaged.
A second larger access door was fitted in the side of the truck to allow us to use a disabled lift. An added benefit is that it creates a fantastic balconette, which we can open up for exhibitions and open days!

After much searching I realised it would not be possible to fit a lift mechanism to the chassis of the truck. It was a struggle given that the chassis body was in the way, plus the height of the floor was just over the limit of most lifts. Instead, we purchased a hand powered lift, which can be transported as required by a separate tail lift vehicle.
After much deliberation, we also had a 17kVA generator fitted. The truck came with a 63Amp single phase input, however we were concerned that we may be restricted on location given the cost and availability of local power supplies. The truck would draw less than 40Amps including air conditioning in full use, and the thought was that we could have an energy saving mode where we could split the power, lower the requirements and plug into two 13Amp sockets, however this proved unrealistic from a logistic and consumption point of view given the computer processing required in a modern OB!

Back on the university site, we had agreed a suitable location for the truck, and had power and data plumbed in ready for use. The next stage was the most daunting – I had to pass my HGV truck driving licence! Most people (of my age +!) can drive a truck or van up to 7.5 tonnes on their standard driving licence, however above this a Class 2 HGV licence is required, or Class 1 for articulated lorries. Our new truck is built to handle axle weights of 18.5 tonnes, however as a complete vehicle, it is not carrying goods, and so comes below 13.5 tonnes, making it more suitable for some roads with weight restrictions. I’m pleased to say I passed my test first time, so was able to take the truck out for a test drive around Bradford!
At this stage, I was also fed up of referring to the truck as “the truck”, so by now she had received the name “Bertha” or “Big Bertha”. Now, some might assume this refers back to a Howitzer gun, but in reality, it just goes back to my passion for 1980’s Children’s television series!

On site, I started to rip out all the existing cabling. Despite the fact that the truck was fully wired from its previous role, it was easier to start from scratch, reusing much of the cabling for the new build. With miles of cabling for audio, video, networking, power and serial data it was a long process. For ease of use and safety, the power cabling was left in place – This had been the first installation when the truck was built, and it was easy enough to rip out the signalling cabling without affecting its operation. With a bit of help from some willing students, untangling cabling and arranging into set lengths, after a few weeks, I was in a position to start the rebuild.
Having liaised with the staff at the media museum throughout the process, I built a specification for the new truck from which we went out to tender for the truck contents, weighing in at over £300k of kit. This was put out in lots on an EU wide basis, with the end result that awards were submitted to Creative Video (CVP), Visual Impact and ES Broadcast for everything from cameras, lenses, LCD screens, to sound mixing and video switching equipment.
As the equipment arrived, I began the installation refitting the video and audio equipment back into the truck. We had planned out much of the design in advance, but revisions were made en route as the technology had developed and we were able to add kit once tender pricing had come back to us. In this way, it was a much more organic install than one specified down to the last connector by a regular truck build company such as C2S! As of the release of this blog, we are still enhancing the facilities by adding things we never thought we would need at the time, or have found useful from our location shoots.