We recently expanded the scope of work available to our video journalism students by building a customized production vehicle called the Mobile Storyteller.
The grant-funded 40 foot production bus is outfitted with a control room, cameras, edit suites, and plenty of space for students to work from, even while traveling to and from events.
As we reach deeper into the community to tell stories and record events, we find ourselves continually facing challenges that need solutions. One of the latest hurdles came when we offered our services to MAPS Air Museum, a local treasure run by retired men and women with true grit. These volunteers, most of them veterans, crank out military aircraft restorations that make aviation enthusiasts flap their wings in admiration.
In October our crew started making plans for the recording of the museum’s latest dedication of a Blue Angels A4 Skyhawk to take place just before veterans day. Right away we knew the massive hangar filled with at least a dozen aircraft on display and over 300 people in attendance would produce a spectacular visual appearance from any angle. There was one serious problem. The Mobile Storyteller would need to be parked outside, and the distance needed to get those stellar shots was much further than the allowable distance our HD-SDI video signals could be carried.
If you have worked with HD video in a multi camera event set up, you know the signal is either showing up in the control room, or it’s not. If you don’t see anything, you have probably reached that maximum distance of about 250 feet that an HD signal can be carried.
So what do you do when you need to solve a problem? You leave it up to student ingenuity. Coming from the “wireless” generation, the solution to them seemed simple. Just send the signal wireless back the truck and then you won’t need the cables. At this point I’m thinking they are just trying to get out of pulling cables and using their under-over skills to make that perfect cable loop at the end end of the night.
We turned to a product I had seen in School Video News Magazine made by IDX that comes in at a very affordable price point for education. The CW-3 3G-SDI Wireless Video Transmission System supports 1080p60 with 4:2:2 10-Bit HD video with little to no latency. Although it transmits up to 380 feet line-of-sight, the recommended distance is still only 164 feet. That would be less distance than what our 250 foot cables can already carry.
Again, here comes the student ingenuity. “What if instead of putting the IDX wireless receiver in the TV truck control room, we connect it to the end of a 250 foot SDI cable? Wouldn't that be just like connecting it to a camera?”
Pure engineering genius! We just extended our cable range an additional 160 to 380 feet. Sorry kids, you will still need to impress us with your over-under technique to wrap those cables back up at the end of the event, but it will be worth it for the added production value.
In an effort to maximize the use of airplane hangar space, not to mention an endless supply of really cool looking military aircraft, we attached the IDX Transmitter to one of our Sony FS100 cameras mounted to a slider setup on a four wheeled utility cart. We left it up to Jacob and Chris, two of our seniors in the video productions program, to spend the evening roaming in and out of the people and planes to wirelessly transmit cinematic excellence. You could hear the cheering from the control room crew each time they revealed a crowd shot from behind the nose of a B-26 Marauder or the dark blue wing of the A-4.
Chuck Yeager might have broken the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, but the IDX CW-3 let our students achieve a new level of production quality with this wireless transmission system. The event was flawless and the video image was spectacular.
We didn't notice the 1 ms latency, and we never lost signal from our roaming camera crew. Using an L series IDX battery adapter with the transmitter also gave us plenty of power to keep the production going during the two hour event. By next year, we hope to be back at the MAPS veterans day event with a second IDX unit to extend our capabilities even further.
Tom Wilson works at Hoover High School in North Canton Ohio with the video production and broadcast journalism programs. You can learn more about the Mobile Storyteller project at www.nctvstorytellers.org