Chuck Colby

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  First TV Production Van with 4 channel Audio

Design, Construction and Operation of a Mobile Television Production Van
By Charles E. Colby
November 1972, Journal of the SMPTE, Volume 81

With the rise in demand for more on-location shooting of television shows, commercials and sporting events there came a need for a sophisticated mobile television production van. A van 40 ft. (12.20 m) long and 8 ft. (2.44 m) wide has been designed and built with the latest solid-state equipment. It features two VR-2000B videotape recorders; one HS-100 videodisc recorder; a 20-input, 11-output bus video switcher; a 60-input, 4-channel output audio console; 1/4 in (6.35 mm) audiotape recorder; two cartridge recorders; turntable; and six color cameras plus two monochrome cameras, one mounted on a film chain, and the other a portable unit used for graphics and insert keying.

Building this van for outside broadcast or on-location shooting was initiated by Transmedia International Corp., the world's largest mobile television van rental organization, who wanted "the finest mobile production van in the world, no matter what the cost." The result was a 1.5 million dollar 40-ft. (12.20 m) unit that contains more equipment than any other TV mobile unit ever built (Fig. 1).
With the high cost of film production and a market demanding more and more on-location shooting, especially for television, TV production units of this type will lower the cost of production by doing the initial shooting directly on videotape rather than on film. The advantage of being able to play back immediately the scene and other capabilities such as instant effects, editing and slow-stop-reverse motion can save innumerable hours and dollars in any production.

The van did its first show in September 1970 -- The California 500 Indy-type race at the Ontario Motor Speedway. Since then it has been on the road constantly and has done many live network shows.

In designing the van, a 1/10 scale 4 ft. (1.22 m) model (Fig. 2) was built as a feasibility study. In 1971 it was used by Transmedia for sales demonstration when the van itself was on the road.

The van is divided into four sections: Production Room, Audio Room, Video Room and Tape Room. These are separated by walls or glass partitions that permit each group within a section to function without disturbance. Anyone within the van can talk to anyone else in the van or to people outside the van (cameramen, floor directors, etc.) via a two-channel Interphone System.

IFB System

The van is equipped with an IFB (Interrupted Feed Back) system that allows anyone in the production or audio room to talk to any one of the 15 positions, such as announcers, outside the van. Normally, the on-the-air announcer would be receiving any one of four (switchable) program audio channels in both earpieces of his headset. When someone pushes the button to talk to him, the program audio in one earpiece is interrupted with the voice, which the announcer continues to hear the program audio in his other earpiece.

The IFB System is also used as an adjunct to the Interphone System within the van to provide communications without the need for wearing a headset. Speaking into any one of nine gooseneck-mounted microphones located throughout the van causes the response to be heard on speakers within each of the van's four rooms.

Telephone System

In addition to the Interphone and IFB Systems, there are 15 telephones in the van, each equipped with a 5-line pushbutton selector and earphone jack. These provide a means of keeping in contact with all of the many people involved in doing a live remote network show, including the telephone microwave people and the network production and engineering people.


The front-mounted 8 ton air conditioner provides cool air or heated air as needed. Air is distributed throughout the van in ducts within the false ceiling, with a louver-controlled supply and return air outlet located in each room.