Sweetwater Deploys New HD Truck

Los Angeles-based Sweetwater Digital Productions has deployed a new high end, HD-capable production truck, “Cobalt,” that will be used in the production of the upcoming 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which will be held May 18 in Las Vegas and air on CBS.

Co-owner Joe Shackelford said the company had a small HD-capable truck but decided to build the larger 53-foot mobile unit -- which will be used for live broadcasts, awards shows, concerts and other events -- because of the rapid move towards HD production of high profile events. The truck is already booked for several upcoming events.

“There is a lot more interest in doing live events in HD,” added Mark Hale, the company’s chief engineer. “All of the big award shows, The Grammy’s, the Oscars, are on the HD path. There is lot of demand in the market now for a high-end mobile unit.”

Equipment vendors for the new truck include the Grass Valley Kalypso switcher, Sony 1500 L Series cameras and Fujinon, which provided a variety of lenses, Hale said.

The Cobalt truck was first used in February for Film Independent’s Spirit Awards and has since been used for six shows, including the Last Comic Standing and Secret Talents of the Stars. The Country Music Awards will be its first high-definition production.

Hale said Sweetwater’s choices for equipment for the new truck were heavily based on recommendations from operators.

“Operators were key to the design of the truck and the product we chose,” Hale said, adding that when possible they tried to use equipment that operators would be familiar with or would prefer.

Schackelford said the company chose a package of Fujinon lenses that includes four XA88x8.8BESM/PF HD telephoto lenses, four HA27x6.5BESM/PF high-definition studio lenses, twelve HA13X4.5BRD/PF super wide angle ENG-style lenses, eight HA16X6.3BERM ENG-style lenses with extender and four HA22X7.3BRD/PF HD ENG-style lenses.

Shackelford said the company chose the XA88x8.8BESM/PF HD telephoto lenses because “it is the widest telephoto lens on the market. Having a wide angle is very important in award shows where you have to see the whole set, floor to ceiling and then be able to get in tight for a shot at the podium. Having the wider angle means you get a little more in the show and don’t have to put the cameras as far back.”

He also praised the lenses for not ramping or losing light as it zoomed in and out for a shot.