As the summer begins, stations take to the road in full force. For
most stations, the remote broadcast is a supplemental element to their
programming schedule. In the case of the Motor Racing Network (MRN),
location broadcasts are the routine and not the exception.
To refer to MRN's latest project as simply a remote vehicle is an
understatement. When Jim Moody, director of engineering of MRN, began
designing a new location vehicle, he spent several months gathering
information and determining the needs of the new facility. It had been
several years since MRN built its last vehicle, and technology advances
provided new possibilities in audio routing, recording and
A large part of MRN's programming is race events. MRN covers more
than 100 racing events a year. The race schedule spans about 10 months
in locations all over the country, so the broadcast schedule leaves
little room for equipment downtime. In addition, the network also
provides a weekly talk show and several daily program elements to more
than 700 affiliate stations. While some of this programming originates
from the offices in Daytona Beach, FL, the broadcast fleet provides a
large amount of material. To accommodate this demand, the network
needed a new vehicle that could be set up on location in a minimal
amount of time. As the project manager and designer, Moody had a full
agenda before him.
Designing the new trailer required a completely different approach
than designing a fixed broadcast facility. The Featherlite trailer,
chosen because of its reduced weight and the company's experience in
providing customized interiors, presents a finite space. Once built,
the vehicle cannot exceed 80,000lbs. gross weight. Also, there are
specific weight load points that must support any internal equipment
and construction. In addition, the trailer uses an air-ride system to
prevent unnecessary jarring of the equipment inside. Despite these
limiatations, the vehicle houses three studios, a voice booth, an
office, four work desks, a kitchen, abundant storage and enough
electrical power to run on its own for a week without shore power.
When a studio facility is designed, there is some flexibility to
adjust the construction elements as needed. In most cases, the area
above the ceiling is considered an open space. Ducts and conduits can
be routed as needed with little effect on another system. With the
trailer, there is no extra space. Every decision affects another
element. If an additional inch of clearance is needed for a pocket
door, that space must be taken from a cooling duct, cabinet or some
The monitor above the edit suite rack provides system information and
provides race-event information.
The world feed panel provides convenient connections and metering for
audio sources and destinations.
The control room rack features its own HVAC and filtration
Outside the edit suites, showing the rack and entrance to the
The talk studio.
The control room.
The prep area.
The edit suites.
To add to the design complexity, this is a mobile environment.
Everything must be provided with a tie-down or fixed storage point. The
trailer also has two side extensions, called slide-outs, to create
additional space when in use. These slide-outs must retract cleanly for
During a race, there can be as many as 10 talent mics covering the
event. There are two announcers in the announce booth in the stands, as
many as four announcers on each turn, up to three announcers in the
pits and perhaps an additional announcer for the field. There are also
prerecorded elements and native sound from the event. Every race is a
major event, and these steps are repeated every weekend for 10
The final program audio mix is sent to the satellite uplink truck
— a separate vehicle — which is parked near the trailer.
The trailer is equipped with a Telos Zephyr Xstream and Comrex Matrix,
which can be used during the race for contributed elements, but also
serve as backup audio paths in case of an uplink problem.
Fixed but flexible
While the design of the vehicle was based on the current needs of
MRN, the overall design and many of the equipment choices provide
flexibility to meet demands that may arise in the future. The digital
consoles by their nature provide flexibility in routing and control,
but additional insurance was needed. Because the lines between audio
and data are becoming less clear, the vehicle was wired with shielded
CAT-5 cable. With this infrastructure in place, the Radio Systems
Studiohub+ system was used for the interconnections. The modular
connectivity of Studiohub enables MRN to make changes quickly without
pulling additional cable or worrying about connector choices.
Most of the live audio sources originate from outside the vehicle,
so the Studiohub world feed panel is used extensively. This panel
provides an interconnection point and provides transformer-isolated XLR
and binding-post terminals. In addition, the panel provides metering of
all the sources appearing on it, providing an additional point of
confirmation. Different events use different methods of transporting
audio around the track, so the different connectors provide the
flexibility needed for on-site adjustments. An additional advantage to
having the binding posts is that they provide a convenient test jack
During an event, the trailer and the announce booth are in constant
communication. While it would be possible to connect these locations
with wire or fiber optic cable, this is not practical. Every venue is
different, and a stable physical connection is not always possible.
Instead, MRN uses a Bitrage CR45-A, license-free, spread-spectrum
wireless system to provide a 45MB/s link between the two points. This
link is then tied to a Terawave INT multiplexer on each end, which
provides a 10/100BaseT Ethernet path, three video channels, six audio
channels and some ancillary connections. This provides the announce
booth with complete connection to the trailer. The event producer runs
a laptop that accesses the Audiovault system so he can trigger audio
The equipment taken to the announce booth is housed in two 5RU road
cases. These contain the Terawave multiplexer, Bitrage radio, Studiohub
mixer and a UPS.
Announcers around the track use Lectrosonics wireless systems to
stay in communication with the trailer. In some cases, dry copper pairs
are used if the RF link cannot be established because of local terrain
or structural interference issues.
The tour of the interior begins in the talk studio, which seats two
guests and isolates them from the control room. The large glass window
provides a clear view between the producer and the talent. Two
Audio-Technica AT4040 mics and an Audion Labs Voxpro audio editor,
which can be used for offline recording, are used in this studio. This
studio sees most of its action before a race and when the truck is used
for a live MRN show. This studio also sees many drivers and racing
celebrities, who use the recording facility for interviews or recording
In case of a rain delay, the booth announcers will come to the truck
and report from this studio, taking advantage of the resources the
vehicle has to offer.
The glass is etched with the racing checkerboard motif, and a
fiber-optic light rope, imbedded in the glass frame, provides added
contrast. The light rope accent and checkerboard pattern are carried
throughout the vehicle's interior design.
The countertop panels near the window provide access for the mic
cables, and they also conceal additional audio connections, including
headphone jacks and data connections. Each room has its own HVAC
controls, which eliminates hot and cold spots in the vehicle by
providing climate control for a small area.
Behind the talk studio, toward the front of the trailer, is an
office with a desk and a couch. This serves as a green room before
interviews and the producer's work area before and after a race.
During a broadcast, this room serves as the central control point.
All the audio sources are routed through this room.
During a race, MRN provides a program mix to its broadcast
affiliates. It also provides an audio feed to the raceway PA system.
Additional feeds may be provided on site as needed. With so many
dynamic audio sources available during a race, MRN needed a way to
route sources and change assignments quickly. In addition, to simplify
the equipment needs of the announcers around the track, a separate IFB
system is not used; rather, the console is reconfigured for on air,
local breaks and network breaks.
The Mackie d8b console was chosen for this application because of
its ability to recall scenes instantly. When the broadcast goes to a
commercial break, sources are reassigned to different output buses,
creating an offline communications network and eliminating the need for
a separate IFB system. Further integrating this process, the Audiovault
system is tied to the console via MIDI. When the Audiovault system is
told to start a break, it issues a command to the Mackie console,
recalling a different configuration that provides the offline
communications system, provides commercial audio to the network feed
and provides house audio to the PA. The announcers are free to
communicate during the break.
When there are 10 seconds remaining in a break, the Audiovault
system plays an announcement through the IFB, which is the signal for
everyone to be quiet and stand by. The on-air scene is then recalled
and the show continues. This is all done with the press of a
When the vehicle is parked at a venue, the trailer is disconnected
from the cab and auto-levelers adjust its position. Two slide-outs are
then extended to provide more internal space. These extensions are
moved in and out with a button. The preparation work area is in the
driver-side slide-out. These four desks provide a work area for the
race announcers. Each position has its own drawers and cabinets to
store materials and supplies that each individual may need.
A fax machine is mounted at the end of the counter, and each desk
position has a telephone and Ethernet connection.
The countertop is made of Corian, while the cabinets and drawers are
made of laminated wood. As was done in all the rooms, the underside
edge of the counter is traced with a fiber-optic rope light, which adds
a decorative touch to the vehicle. Featherlite manufactured all the
furniture and installed the rack rails to mount the equipment.
From the angle shown here, the control room is through the door and
up the four steps. To the rear of the trailer is a galley with a
refrigerator, a stove and a bathroom. Directly behind the prep area in
the other extension are the two edit suites.
Before the broadcast begins, this area hosts the pre-show meeting,
where everyone involved in the broadcast goes through the broadcast
schedule. The group is given final instructions and information before
heading to their specific race location.
There are two edit suites in the passenger-side extension. These
suites are mirror images of each other. Edit suite B is shown here. The
room layouts complement each other, not so much for design reasons, but
to accommodate left- and right-handed users. The suites are small
rooms, capable of seating one person.
Each suite is equipped with a Yamaha 01V console, Audio-Technica
AT4040 mic, Broadcast Electronics Audiovault workstation, Radio Systems
CT-2002 timer, Denon DN-M2300R dual minidisk recorder, Tascam C-222
cassette/CD combo, Studiohub switcher, Alesis M1 active MK2 monitor and
a Furman PLP power conditioner. There is an audio input and output
panel for producers to connect a laptop running an audio editor or any
other audio device.
There are two sources of light in each suite. A 12V incandescent
lamp provides a great deal of light on its own, but in this small
space, this single lamp creates a large amount of heat. If four lamps
were installed, the air conditioning would run non-stop to keep the
room cool. Instead, there are four fiber-optic spots near each corner.
These spot lights provide a brilliant white light, no heat and can be
focused to illuminate specific work areas. The fiber-optic light source
is in the upper section of the trailer.
There is a rack between the two suites that houses the Audiovault
servers, a DBX 2231 program equalizer and a DBX 1066 compressor and
limiter for each suite. This rack can be accessed through an opening
under the edit suite cabinet. Amazingly, there is sufficient space for
a technician to stand up and comfortably work.
The main racks in the control room are sealed and cooled on their
own filtered-air system, and provided with a positive-pressure air flow
to ensure that the equipment stays clean. This may seem like overkill,
but air quality can never be guaranteed in a mobile environment,
particularly one that travels to events centered around combustion
engine exhaust in locations that are typically rural and dusty.
There are several storage and access panels around the outside of
the vehicle. One access panel toward the front houses the world connect
panel. Another provides the shore-power connection. The rear liftgate
provides easy access to the upper storage area, which provides a large
storage space. A Will-Burt 42' mast provides a clear line-of-site
platform for the antennas.
The trailer is highly functional, but the attention to design
details make the overall presentation stand out. The MRN broadcast
trailer exceeds its practical function to create a remarkable showcase
The pit crew
Jim Moody managed the entire project and handled the equipment
integration and installation. The project was authorized by David
Hyatt, MRN president. Audio wiring plan and installation was done by
Radio Systems. George Waters & Associates provided the IT services.
Featherlite provided the trailer and built the interior. Broadcast
Electronics installed the Audiovault system. SCMS provided the majority
of the remaining studio equipment.
|Advantest R3465 spectrum
Alesis M1 active MK2 monitor
Alesis RA300 power amp
Aphex 320A Compellor
Audion Labs VoxPro
Audio-Technica AT4040 mics
Bose outdoor speakers
Broadcast Electronics Audiovault
DBX 2231 EQ/comp/limiter
Denon DN-M2300R MD recorder
Denon TU-1500 tuner
Furman PLP power conditioners
JVC RX-7020V tuner
Lectrosonics UDR 200C receivers
Lectrosonics UM 250C transmitters
Lectrosonics UMC 16A
Microboards CWR-424 duplicator
Middle Atlantic shelves and drawers
O.C. White mic booms
Panasonic plasma display
Panasonic SV-3700 DAT
Popfilter pop filter
Radio Systems CT-2002 Master Clock
Radio Systems CT-6 GPS master clock
Radio Systems DA-4×4a distribution amps
Radio Systems StudioHub+
Radio Systems StudioHub+ 4×1 switchers
Radio Systems StudioHub+ World Panel
Rane HC-4 headphone amp
Sony MDS-E10 minidisk
Tascam CC-222 cassette/CD
Tascam CD-RW402 dual CD recorder
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Terawave INT multiplexer
Yamaha O1V mixer