Tactical fiber cables. Courtesy Belden.
Those of us working on the technical side of broadcast and production like to have options. Certainly when it comes to equipment choices, we’re lucky to have an array of vendors to choose from for all but the most specialized products. However, when it comes to connectivity – an ever-present requirement in mobile production -the options quickly diminish.
Looking specifically at cameras, there are two primary connectors most mobile production companies consider. For many years it was all about triax, which provided the extra protection, greater bandwidth and interference rejection compared to its coaxial cousin. Triax was perfectly fine in the SD universe, and it remains a viable option in HD productions.
Fiber is the second viable connection option, and the preference for TNDV as it offers the dual benefits of accommodating longer camera runs; and wider bandwidth for HD signal transport back to the truck. The latter benefit certainly makes fiber – specifically, SMPTE fiber - a better option when it comes to moving 4K, 3GB/s and other advanced HD signals across large venues.
At the truck, a fiber receiver takes in the two fiber lines and outputs a compatible SMPTE camera signal.
However, cable is cable, and whether connecting with triax or SMPTE fiber we’re still adding weight and consuming storage space on the truck. Every pound matters when it comes to long-haul highway transport. For example, a three-camera shoot with 1,000 fiber foot runs still requires 3,000 feet of cable. The fiber connectivity solutions from Multidyne have helped us solve the problems of reducing the costs, labor and complexity associated with long-distance fiber connections.
As with other equipment categories, Multidyne is one of many options for fiber connectivity on the market. The Multidyne SMPTE-HUT (Hybrid Universal Transceiver) solution is a compact box that converts single-mode fiber into SMPTE fiber. This is especially important in mobile production, where many of the venues we visit have single-mode fiber, but completely lack SMPTE fiber.
Conversion from single-mode to SMPTE fiber is critical in simplifying our camera operations. For one, it means sending many cameras down a single bundle of fiber versus using a dedicated cable per camera. In the field, the Multidyne SMPTE-HUT works so that one 12-strand, single-mode tactical fiber connection takes care of six cameras.
That ability to reduce complexity by replacing six bulky, heavy camera cables with one tiny cable makes an immediate impact on board the truck. We’re reducing weight in the area of hundreds of pounds, which has a positive effect on diesel fuel consumption, space efficiency and on-board comfort.
How It Works
The SMPTE–HUT system is a universal camera transceiver that not only increases transport distances and bandwidth, but also eliminates noise artifacts from RF, EMI and grounding issues. This ensures that we maintain signal integrity for live and recorded productions from start to finish.
The Multidyne solution brings together two boxes to handle single-mode/SMPTE conversions at both the camera and the truck. The system works by “tricking” the CCU into seeing a physical copper connection between it and the camera. This ensures that we can still control the iris, power the viewfinder and remotely shade for color control from the truck. Two microphone lines with intercom and tally lights ensure that the camera operator knows when they are on the air, with an open communications line to receive direction.
The key difference is that the optical connection between the two HUT boxes eliminates the voltage that traditional camera cable would carry to power these and other applications. Instead, the HUT system sends the signal optically to and from the camera, and then reapplies the voltage at the receive point. The camera operator has no sense that the architecture is any different than had we run several thousand feet of cable.
Set up is simple. For example, we typically have a head start when we pull up to an NFL or professional sports stadium. It has become industry-standard for most large stadiums to install multiple single-mode tielines. In this case, it means pulling out two short cables and the two HUT boxes. We attach the first HUT device directly to our I/O panel and run a short pair of single mode fibers to the venue I/O panel; a second set of single mode cables run from the panel inside the venue to the primary HUT device. Finally, a short SMPTE fiber runs to the camera just like a typical setup.
A key difference in using fiber is that the optical connection between the two HUT boxes eliminates the voltage that a traditional camera cable would carry to power the required on-site equipment.
The HUT devices work especially well with ST connectors, which are screw-on connectors similar to BNC and often seen in large stadiums. Essentially, using HUT to convert single-mode to SMPTE fiber means I can walk in prepared to virtually any large venue in the United States, with minimal setup time required.
We’ve also found that the Multidyne solution has a positive effect on operating costs. Every piece of fiber costs about $2,000. We can purchase one thousand-foot 12-strand tactical fiber and, using the SMPTE-HUT system - which costs about $1,000 – it can do the job of six cables. This means we’re looking at the difference of $12,000 to run six separate connections; or $3,000 with Multidyne. This adds up to exceptional savings.
In mobile production, every project is different and has unique requirements. Multidyne allows us to retain the high quality and exceptional communication requirements for camera shoots of any scale while sharply reducing costs, labor and complexity from setup to tear down.
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