MAY 27

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

The “Bloom Mobile” Covers Tornado Alley

Broadcast engineer Andy Fowler in Bloom Mobile
Mike Bettes interviews Kevin Parrish with Bloom Mobile
Satellite antenna inside Bloom Mobile dome

In 2003 an agreement between broadcast networks to share live video of the Iraq war also challenged them to out-do each other to get their own video scoops. NBC’s “Bloom Mobile” was a full-resolution satellite uplink truck that received live video from cameras on a tank recovery vehicle containing the late correspondent David Bloom’s reports. The communications ability of the Bloom Mobile was so successful that NBC reported that even the U.S. military used the truck’s satellite phones because they worked so well.

Although the Bloom Mobile was designed and built for Iraq live coverage, says Kevin Parrish, an NBC electronic news gathering veteran for 23 years, the vehicle was brought back to the U.S. to facilitate live coverage of hurricanes, when normal channels of communication had failed. “We’ve had it to all the major hurricanes, Katrina, Ike, Wilma,” says Parrish. Following the hurricanes, the Bloom Mobile followed around the presidential candidates. Recently it was shipped around the world to broadcast episodes of “Where in the World is Matt Lauer.”

This May the Bloom Mobile has been following the VORTEX2 project enabling The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes and other correspondents to do live stories at the storms. “Broadcasting live usually is all based on public networks, like the internet and telephone systems. But in a natural disaster, power lines go down and those systems fail,” says Parrish. “We are able to operate independently of those systems with the Bloom Mobile.” Should a tornado knock out power in the sparsely populated plains, viewers will still be able see live coverage of the tornado. The importance of that, Parrish explains, is the ability to deliver warnings to residents, too.

Under the dome on the back of the heavy-duty cab chassis truck is a satellite transceiver that can send live images while moving. Although the images are more compressed than a stationary system’s, they are far better than slower internet-based live video. The operating team consists of two broadcast engineers, one who drives, and the other who sits in a rear-facing passenger seat to operate the equipment stacks.

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