It is not often that a production truck goes live for the first time with its biggest show of the year, but that is exactly the case for F&F Productions’ brand-new GTX 16, which is making its debut as the core production unit for CBS’s and ESPN’s coverage of the US Open.
“This is definitely the biggest show [GTX 16] will do all year, and it’s only the first show,” says Marc Orgera, VP of sales and marketing for F&F Productions. “The response [from ESPN and CBS] has been very positive so far. It’s a learning process for everyone right now. There is so much technology on this truck that our engineers still don’t even know its full capabilities.”
The truck is built around a Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher with a K2 Summit server and features a Calrec Apollo audio console with up to 1,020 channel-processing paths, five six-channel EVS XT+ servers, and a 3G Evertz router with 288×576 inputs and outputs.
No Need for Plan B
Built by Spevco, the GTX 16 is an all-in-one unit that does not require a B unit. It is wired for 24 cameras and 25 VTRs, and the flat-panel–monitor walls allow operators to be located on both sides of the center console. As a result, the entire production — from graphics to audio to the front bench — is housed in the double-expando truck. Although GTX 16 is capable of working with a B unit, as it will for CBS’s SEC college-football coverage, it is operating independently for the US Open.
“You can fit all this technology and have plenty of space left over into a single, contained unit,” says Orgera. “You don’t have to have tape, EVS, and graphics in one truck and then production and audio in the other truck. There’s major cost reduction for the client because you’re not running two units, which means a quick setup and no interconnecting between A and B units. You don’t need four engineers to run the truck, and that is a huge cost saving.”
The Quick Switch
For the second consecutive year, ESPN and CBS Sports are using the same truck for their respective US Open productions (GTX 15 was used last year), making for an interesting situation on CBS’s coverage days. The CBS crew has an opening of just five minutes between the close of ESPN’s coverage window and the start of CBS’s to change over the truck’s settings and switch out personnel.
“This is a truly shared truck, meaning everything is made for two crews,” says Orgera. “It’s a hot switch. From the time ESPN gets up out of the chair to the time CBS sits down, they really only have about five minutes.
“The program for the monitor wall, switcher, graphics, and so on are saved on the computer,” he continues, “so the EIC switches everything over that way. It can be hectic because you’re just hoping that everything comes up the way it’s supposed to. It’s all computerized so there’s no way to tweak anything. The hardest thing is getting everything set up where everybody wants it. After that, it only takes a few moments to come back up.”
Building a Truck in Less Than a Month
F&F Productions received the truck at its headquarters in Clearwater, FL, on July 23 and needed to deliver it to Flushing Meadows for the Open by Aug. 20. As a result, the F&F team was forced to complete its fastest truck buildout in recent memory.
“Even for us, that’s cutting it close,” says Orgera. “ That’s a quick buildout, to say the least. Even the first few days we were here [at the US Open], they were still messing with the routers to get it perfect. The important thing was, we’ve got great guys back in the shop who can handle that kind of turnaround.”
Off to Tennessee
Following the Open’s conclusion this Sunday, GTX 16 is bound for Knoxville, TN, where it will kick off CBS Sports’ SEC football season with Tennessee-Florida. CBS Sports has tapped the truck for its SEC A Game throughout the college football season and will then use it for March Madness in the spring.
“We’re still learning how big a show we can actually do with this truck. It’s not maxed out yet,” says Orgera. “We’re hoping that, after college football and before March Madness, we can get quite a few entertainment shows in. This truck is ready for pretty much anything.”