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Mobile AV: Santa Cruz County Remote CTV, Part 1

Apr 26, 2011 12:00 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

It's one thing to buy a nice new remote truck for your TV operation, but it’s a whole different ball game when you build it up from a shell and fit it out with your own hands. Craig Jutson of Community Television in Santa Cruz County, Calif. is here to tell us how he did that very thing. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Craig, it’s great to have you with me on the SVC podcast all the way from Santa Cruz County, Calif. where they apparently have a lot of community television fans. Tell me about CTV Santa Cruz. What sort of programming do you have there?

Well, CTV Community Television in Santa Cruz County is a non-profit peg group of television stations public, educational, and government access started in the early 90’s by the county. We won the bid to offer public, educational, and government services and we offer government meetings on the government channel and educational stuff, etc. and then on our public access channel you’d find what you’d expect—shows made by mom and pop, talk shows, tech shows, cooking shows, entertainment shows, and we mix that in with some satellite feeds like Free Speech TV and Classic Arts Network and stuff like that to fill the day. [Timestamp: 1:42]

And a perfect example of peg channels, public, education, and government and those are added to the dial, so to speak, by your local cable TV company in return for the clearance to use the county rights-of-way to run their cable to your home.
Yeah, that’s the package, that’s right. [Timestamp: 1:57]

So it seems to be a good deal for everybody bringing all sorts of local events to cable TV viewers. So what generated the idea of CTV operating their own remote van?
Community television isn’t the first thing everyone thinks of every day they get up, so what we wanted to do was try and become more familiar in the community and be more of a go-to for local news and sports and Comcast is the primary cable company. There is AT&T and Charter also here in our county but Comcast is the lion’s share of subscribers. They actually had their own truck for 20 years and they stopped in 2009 making the local Game of the Week and so there hasn’t been a local sports presence here…putting the kids on television for a couple of years now. [Timestamp: 2:45]

Yeah and there’s a huge demand out there for local sports too.
I’ve been involved in local sports since the late 80’s and so, yeah, I understand that need and how to fill it. So local sports as opposed to local news, we decided what we could do would be to add local sports since that’s one of the most clamored after things—there’s an event you go out and shoot it, it’s in the can and then you play it. Local news is a different kind of commitment and we didn’t feel that we had the staff to do that to the justice that it might deserve. And we do have a lot of people on our employment who have a lot of local sports experience and so we decided to fund a production truck and get started as soon as it was ready. The board of directors asked me for some different proposals that encompassed everything from used standard-definition equipment, of course, all the way right up through new high-def equipment and I had came up with five or six designs—basically ranges of equipment, not complete designs, utilizing different pieces and then proposed it to them and they voted a budget of about $250,000 to $275,000 to outfit a production van with four high-def cameras and a high-def switcher, etc and so that’s the genesis of our truck. That was in 2010 and I went to NAB and then made my decisions about what we were going to go with and we lined up the funding, ordered the equipment in July and August so it all arrived in September and October and I got the truck stripped out, wired up and ready to go by about Thanksgiving of 2010 and so we shot our first event in December of 2010. [Timestamp: 4:31]

Now what kind of truck body is your remote van built on?
I’ve built another truck before out of basically a step-van. I decided that that was too small of a format for the need that we had. I looked around at different kinds of production vans, trailers, a variety of formats and I decided because of the nature of staffing something like this is one or two people have all the knowledge on a production like ours and have to train and guide people within arm’s reach, so to speak, so I couldn’t have a engineering compartment where the engineer was operating solo and no one watching him, I couldn’t have an audio booth where the audio operator was there with no one watching replay, video wall etc.—had to put it all in one room. So what we decided to do was to put it in something like an RV platform, so I searched around California for a used platform like that and I happened upon a Barth mobile office. It was used as a sales vehicle for a big RV place that went out of business in northern California and it had very few miles on it—only 27,000 miles, a 1995 body so it’s a 33ft. Ford Motor Coach body with a Ford 460 in it and Dooley’s on the back and so 33 feet was plenty long enough for me to build everything that I needed to and still have extra room to use as a classroom/meeting space in the front of the primary room. [Timestamp: 6:12]

Well that sounds like you’ve got enough room in there to equip yourself to really do some things.
Because it was a mobile office, there was never any of the standard accoutrements of RV—plumbing, living room furniture, that kind of stuff. It was just an empty box with air conditioning and some IT cabling basically and of course it had desks and chairs and walls and plywood and stuff, and I ripped all that stuff out back down to the naked floor and walls and then put back in what we needed. And so in front of the rear wheels I have the control room and the primary rack, I have four racks Middle Atlantic 77 space racks I think they are the tallest you could get—they’re 83.5in., I have four of those ganged side-by-side right across…right on top of the back axle and then behind the axle I have storage for all my tubs and cameras and tripods and everything on the truck that I don’t fit into the belly base. [Timestamp: 7:1]

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