University’s High-spec OB Van with Soundcraft Vi6™ is envy of many
Southampton Solent University has what is probably the most-envied educational Broadcast facility, in the shape of a fully-equipped HD OB vehicle. So well is it designed and equipped, external industrial partners often hire the vehicle for OB events around the UK.
Designed principally as an educational tool to support their media courses which include BSc Outside Broadcasting, BSc Audio Technology, BSc Media Technology and BSc Sound Engineering, the truck was built by Total Audio Solutions, and is designed to act as a scanner, providing both multi-channel audio recording and mixing and multi-camera video.
At the heart of the audio system in the truck is a Soundcraft Vi6 Digital console, which according to the Programme Leader for the Entertainment Technology Programme, Dr. Chris Barlow, was chosen for its flexibility, number of inputs, quality of sound and ease of use for its price.
“The fact that it shares a considerable amount of its technology with the Studer Vista is obviously great, as it means that the audio quality is superb, and the Vistonics screens make it one of the most user-friendly desks around. We also love the convenience of the remote Stagebox, as it gets rid of having to carry miles of analogue multicore.“
“One of our main concerns”, reports Chris, “is for students to get hands on, practical experience during the course, working in real world situations using professional equipment. The outside broadcast truck has helped us considerably expand our programme of practical activity. We film and record a large variety of events throughout the year, from very small local events to major national ones. Major events this year have been extremely varied and have included: recording the official DVD for the National Youth Choir's Silver Jubilee concert at Symphony Hall, Birmingham; filming 'Formula Schools' at Silverstone; providing multi-camera and audio recording coverage of two stages at Glastonbury for Glastonbury TV; filming and recording Dance Stage East at Glade Electronic Music Festival; filming the departure of the QE2 from Southampton and working for Children in Need, the last two both in partnership with the BBC.”
For audio the Soundcraft Vi6 is linked by a MADI interface to a Pyramix Digital Audio Workstation along with outboard audio processors, CD recorders and Das and a 5.1 surround sound monitoring system, enabling the van to record up to 64 simultaneous audio channels, and distribute the mix around the truck to multiple VTRs. The video capability is built around a Panasonic AV-HS400 HD vision mixer, a Sony Anycast, Sony DXC-55 system cameras and Panasonic HVX-200 camcorders, so we can record both HD and SD video.“
Has the Vi6 been everything they expected?
“It's been fantastic - reliable, good sound quality and easy to use. The full channel strips on the Vistonics screens are great, and the FaderGlow makes it very easy to use in the Broadcast environment where overhead lighting is kept relatively low for the vision operators.
“We particularly like using the stage box as an active split, as it means we can split the feed of even a complex mix between us and the PA in a live music environment, allowing the sound supervisor in the truck to do an independent mix to go down onto the video, while the FOH mixer gets on with his own mix for the PA system.”
So was it always the intention to be able to hire out the vehicle?
“We had always anticipated working with industrial partners as we have a number of very strong industrial links, in particular the Glastonbury/Glade links where we have provided them with multi-camera coverage of stages for a number of years - one of the best work experience opportunities in the country. With the purchase of the OB truck we knew this would open new opportunities for both some commercial hire work, but particularly for partnership working in which we provide the truck with a student crew to work in real broadcast environments providing services for our partners in exchange for the work experience opportunities that the students get out of it. There is no better way to learn how to do the job than by doing it for real. We have probably averaged one major external activity per month since about April, with a number of smaller ones in between which often use flyaway kit rather than the truck. Our next major event is working with BBC Southern Counties Radio for a Christmas Service from Chichester Cathedral.
Given the huge expansion in Outside Broadcast and location recording across the industry in recent years, we have developed courses to specialise in the Outside Broadcast environment. “
Southampton Solent University has been running courses based around Media Technology for over 15 years, and is one of the principal suppliers of graduate Broadcast Engineers to the Media Industry.
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