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Exotic vehicles for post production

4 minute read

EC3Video vans

Hot on the wheels of this week’s revelations about modified Piaggio Ape 50 vans being used as OB vehicles Red Shark News has discovered that 3-wheel pick-ups are not the only consumer road vehicles now being used for professional media production

 By Will Strauss

A quick scour of the TV and film facilities market in the US and UK shows that modified Mercedes Sprinters, Nissan NV 2500 High Roofs and Vauxhall Movanos are all being put to work as mobile suites for on-set media management, dailies, grading, editing and transcoding.

Here are four such examples:

The ‘Streetside’




What does it do? On-set deliverables, transcoding, grading, editing, media management

What type of vehicle is it? A Mercedes Sprinter

Where is it? Los Angeles, CA

Who owns it? EC3

Tell me more:

Company 3 and Efilm Digital Laboratories, two Deluxe group companies working under the guise of EC3, have modified a 15 foot-long Mercedes Sprinter so that it can handle on-set deliverables for small feature films or commercials being shot digitally

In essence this means ingesting and transcoding footage on location so that same-day dailies can be viewed on a desktop or tablet computer. At the same time the Streetside allows its pilot to perform basic LUTs, Best Light colour grades, instant quality control, data management and media back-up and other types of colour correction.

 The van is configurable so users can choose the hardware and software inside. Options include a Hewlett Packard Z820 workstation, a Mac Pro or a MacBook Pro loaded with NVIDIA-bolstered software like Colorfront’s On-Set Dailies or Blackmagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve.

EC3 say that Street Side can handle “any camera type” and can ingest and sync camera material of any format.

Fact: EC3 also has a mobile dailies trailer that was used on Universal Pictures' Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor and X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox)





The 'DIT Van'




What does it do? On-set deliverables, transcoding, media management, grading and assembly editing

What type of vehicle is it? There are two. One is a medium wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter High Roof. The other is a long wheelbase Vauxhall Movano High Roof

Where are they? London, England

Who owns them? Coach House Studios

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Coach House Studios operates two ‘DIT Vans’, both designed for use by a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) on a digitally shot TV drama or independent feature.

Having a consistent power supply is all-important for a van like this so these mobile marvels can be powered from the mains or make use of on-board generators. Importantly, they also have large battery packs attached to the UPS that stabilises the supply. This means the vans can run for several hours on battery power alone, which is crucial if silent operation is required, as it often is on set.

As befits a mobile digital lab, their main purpose is reviewing, copying, storing, backing up and transcoding footage but because each van comes complete with a full version of Avid Symphony they can also be used for colour correction and assembly editing.

Highly specced workstations form the backbone of what is a customizable technical set-up with Hewlett Packard Z820s and Z800s the norm. If the DIT is required to do a first grade on footage there and then on set, they can be fitted with Da Vinci Resolve or Assimilate Scratch.

A colour accurate Sony Trimaster monitor can also be included plus RAID storage connected by 10Gb Ethernet. Various communications options are available as is air-con and heating.

Fact: Coach House Studios’ DIT Van was used during production of the Shane Meadows documentary Made of Stone and the upcoming BBC drama The Thirteenth Tale






The ‘Mobile Unit’




What does it do? On-set deliverables, data wrangling, editing, transcoding and grading

Who owns it? PrePost Data

What type of vehicle is it? Nissan NV 2500 High Roof

Where is it? Los Angeles, CA

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Much like the vans on the previous pages, the PrePost Data Mobile Unit is ideal for on-set daily creation, data wrangling, logging, colour correction, transcoding and sound syncing on digital film productions.

And it’s all done from the comfort of a modified Nissan NV 2500 High Roof.

In the company’s own words, this is how their mobile service works:

“The PrePost Data Mobile Unit shows up to your set and swaps your data card with the camera department every 45 minutes or until the card is full. Our technicians then copy, backup, and verify the checksum of your footage.  The footage is logged by scene and take while maintaining all of the camera’s original metadata for your post house. Next, we apply a first light pass using DaVinci Resolve 8 and transcode the footage for editing in your application of choice.  Finally, we sync your sound files and footage then make your dailies wirelessly accessible on our secure network.”

Clearly, various meetings with heads of department – the DP, the sound mixer et al – are required ahead of the shoot but once that’s dealt with, off you go.

Most camera types - including RED, Alexa and DSLR - are handled as are most acquisition formats. Software options include Final Cut Pro, Avid and Adobe Premier for editing and Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve or Apple Color for grading.

Fact: The PrePost Data Mobile Unit travels with 16 TBs of server grade drives complete with redundant backup.






The 'DIT Van Lab'




What does it do? Data Wrangling, transcoding, editing and grading

What type of vehicle is it? A Volkswagen long wheelbase Transporter 2.5 TDI

Where is it? Bristol, England

Tell me more:

The DIT Van Lab is, as the name suggests, a mobile lab for a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). A custom-built VW Transporter it contains “everything you need to data manage, edit and grade on the move.” Non-Linear Evolution quite correctly also make a big deal about it being a good way to keep rushes secure.

As with the Coach House DIT Van mentioned earlier, power supply is crucial. The DIT Van Lab has two 110amp deep cycle batteries and a split relay charging system plus 1400w pure sine inverter for 230v internal power supply and 230v external hook up and power management system.

Essentially, this means that it can power a laptop and external hard drives for a full day - or a Mac Pro and display and several external hard drives for up to four hours - without having to use external power.

Inside it is equipped with Genelec 8020 near-field speakers, a 37” Sony Bravia LCD/LED monitor and an Apple 23” Cinema Display amongst other things.

Fact: The DIT Van Lab includes a four feet wide director’s viewing seat and a quick release folding edit table.

By Will Strauss

Tags: Post & VFX