Tech Features

ARET builds OB van for Sharjah TV

Dr Eng Umberto Asti, Vice President of ARET Video and Audio Engineering.

BroadcastPro ME speaks to the team at systems integrator ARET that custom-built the 3G HD OB van for Sharjah TV.

Sharjah TV recently took delivery of an OB van from ARET for sports coverage and other demanding productions. The Italian broadcast systems integrator ARET has supplied 450 OB vans over four decades since 1976, with several customers in the region, and this probably influenced Sharjah TV’s choice.

“ARET has been active for the past 15 years in the MENA region, and the Middle East is one of the leading markets for ARET,” comments Sales Engineer and Marketing Director Dr Eng Umberto Asti, who is also Vice President of ARET Video and Audio Engineering.

“Among the 450 OB vans delivered around the world, many are operating in the Middle East, including Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and the UAE. The last year has seen the completion of many outstanding projects in the region.”

As broadcasters require access to content no matter where they are, the mobile unit is now less of a workhorse of equipment and racks, and much more of a creative hub where broadcast technicians can focus on better engaging audiences through innovative live coverage. In response to the demands of the modern-day broadcaster, Dr Asti and his team at ARET created integrated workflows.

“We did all the coachbuilding. Instead of buying a pre-made coachwork from third parties, as most of the other companies do, we are very proud to have our inhouse coachwork department that relies exclusively on internal resources. Our coachwork allows us to carefully monitor every single step of the creation process. We also did the designing and systems integration.

“Another strong point of ARET is the ability to combine coachbuilding and systems integration towards creating a state-of-the-art product. This technique allows us to have strict connection among all the parts and variables of the project that need continuous feedback. As a result, all our coachwork creations are instruments for broadcasters built around equipment specifications, and this OB van is proof of that.”

Recalling the timeline of the project, Dr Asti says: “After an initial draft for the project was submitted, we at ARET proceeded with the analysis and modified it accordingly. Following the client’s requests that arose during the development phases, we then revised it and further customised the system. Every detail has been monitored with maximum precision and expertise. The van was completed last year and commissioned the following month.”

Giving an overall perspective of the OB van, Dr Asti says: “This 3G truck has been designed for eight to ten cameras and is expandable on one side. The inside of the OB van is divided into four different areas that are separated using sliding glass doors: engineering and CCU, production, sound and a voice-over booth.

“It features a telescopic mast with a PTZ camera on top and a flexible layout that allows adapting to different types of productions. The robotic PTZ camera, installed on the top of a pneumatic telescopic mast, can be raised up to eight metres. The pan-tilt head system incorporates a camera with 20x optical zoom that can supply high-resolution and high-magnification video in real time. The system is managed by an active control installed on the CCU desk that provides smooth transitions of the pan-tilt head.

“The voice-over booth, designed as per the customer’s requirements, is used for live commentary and features dedicated acoustic treatment. A satellite antenna, used to receive digital TV and radio signals, is also mounted on the roof. Each area is also monitored by a closed-circuit surveillance camera system.”

Highlighting the wide interiors of the OB van with dedicated lighting in every area, Dr Asti also remarks on the finishing details, from the designed tapestry to desk materials. He adds: “The power supply can be selected between the public network and a diesel generator. On the back of the truck, there is also a motorised cable drum system.”

Despite all the buzz around live remote broadcasting, OB trucks will remain on the front line of production, especially when it comes to covering live events. Having an in-house coachwork department has helped the team at ARET to custom-design each van according to the client’s requirement, Dr Asti stresses – especially in the case of Sharjah TV, which requested a full expansion to be able to adapt its workflow to every type of event.

“The chassis of the OB van is based on a Mercedes-Benz ATEGO. Modifications have been carried out by ARET in its internal coachwork department.”

“Our coachwork allows us to carefully monitor every single step of the creation process. We also did the designing and systems integration” Dr Eng umberto Asti, Vice President of ARET Video and Audio Engineering

The technicians at ARET also accounted for the harsh summer temperatures in the region, as Dr Asti explains: “The vehicle has been specially built to endure harsh weather conditions, with particular attention paid to the climate of the region. ARET has developed a unique coachbuilding technique dedicated to OB vans working in hot, dry and humid countries, that includes using custom fibre-glass reinforced plastic (FRP) panels and dedicated solutions to prevent sand and dust damage, as well as internal water condensation from the AC system. In addition, the careful selection of the materials, together with their assembly methods, guarantees perfect resistance in every weather condition.”

The new 3G HD van joins a fleet of OB vans already with Sharjah TV.

“This brand-new truck is a vital addition to their fleet that allows for the proper distribution of workload, optimisation of the overall workflow and significant improvement in video quality,” says Dr Asti. He explains that partnership with more than 30 broadcast brands has helped ARET “select the best equipment for every turnkey project”.

“Most significantly, partnering with the major broadcast brands has enabled ARET to be flexible and cost-effective, allowing the customer a tailored configuration instead of an all-in-one brand solution.

“The OB van uses Grass Valley’s LDX-86 Worldcam cameras and a Karrera video switcher with K-frame, NVision 8144 video router, Densité 3 glues, Kaleido multiviewers, Vinten camera tripods, Riedel intercom systems, an Evertz replay system, Genelec monitors, audio mixers by Studer (Vista 1 for the main mixer, On Air 1500 as a back-up) and Tektronix waveform monitors. A Canon XU-81W camera is mounted on the telescopic mast.”

On the critical issue of testing and training, Dr Asti spells out the exacting procedure that ARET followed.

“The first part of the training was carried out at our headquarters in Milan. We verified that the coachwork corresponded in all of its details to the project specifications. The same meticulous check-up was carried out for the broadcast and electrical systems. The whole system was then validated and tested together with all the supplied devices, always including the broadcast, electrical, air conditioning and hydraulic systems.

“The second part of the commissioning was carried out on-site in Sharjah, where ARET’s engineers fine-tuned all the configurations, verifying that the OB van operated without any issues in every condition. Both phases of the training were carried out flawlessly and the customer was pleased with the support received.”

To understand the potential uses of the OB van and provide solutions to suit the client’s requirements is at the heart of the success of such a project, Dr. Asti underlines. Signing off on our conversation, he adds: “We have received positive feedback from the client, and we are looking forward to the next collaboration.”