Ultra high definition has been the news in broadcast cameras for several years, with continued introductions of 4K and 8K models up and down the product lines. But heading into the 2019 NAB Show, camera, lens and robotics vendors are seeing a number of other industry trends as well.
HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE
HDR is among the most popular, according to Craig Yanagi, national marketing manager at JVC Professional Video Products. “It’s something that’s being requested, somewhat demanded by broadcasters in their production,” he said. “This has been in the early stages of our product development, and we’re implementing that technology in our introductions.”
Yanagi said the HDR feature on JVC’s cameras can be toggled on or off, and that video shot in HDR and archived today will intercut with footage shot years down the pike. “Buying an HDR camera today is a matter of futureproofing,” he said.
Rob Willox, director of product marketing for Sony Products and Solutions America concurs. “The most often asked question when dealing with our customers right now is centered around high dynamic range, both imaging and then subsequent workflow,” he said. “And what’s important about that workflow is being able to do single camera HDR and SDR production.”
Willox remembers the debacle of 3D, which doubled workload and costs when forced to produce content in both standard and 3D, adding that that can’t be the case if HDR is to succeed. “When the camera is being optimized for HDR, there may be some differences in the conversion of that camera to standard dynamic range that might impair the performance of that camera,” he said. “We need to teach operators how to cope with this. How do we streamline that process and make it as transparent as possible and not add a lot of costs to the broadcast?”
Alan Keil, vice president, director of engineering for Ikegami, noted that HDR versions of existing cameras—HD and the higher resolution 4K and 8K cameras—can be built, but not all cameras are candidates for HDR. “It’s basically a gamma characteristic,” he said. “It is important that the front end of the camera has sufficient dynamic range to support that gamma curve you generate. So we can’t go back to some of the early HD cameras where we had a fairly modest dynamic range capability.”
John Humphrey, vice president, business development at Hitachi Kokusai Electric America Ltd said, “I know from talking with my mobile buddies, most notably NEP, they are looking at 1080, 60P, HDR as the future format for mobile sports acquisition. Will they do 4K? Of course. But for the present, that is the exception. I think through full HD is sort of standard now, and although the broadcasters can’t do it, it is the archive and production format of today.”
He sees a great value in cameras simultaneously outputting SDR and HDR, with individual adjustments for each. “Certainly that is a workflow trend, where we’re trying to deal with HDR in a useful way, and having dual output from a single camera is a good way to do that.”
Customers are also requesting more IP connectivity for their cameras, according to Klaus Weber, principal camera solutions & technology at Grass Valley. “More new projects will be built around an IP infrastructure,” he said. “It started about three years back with the first IP OB van that we built with a customer in the U.K., followed by other OB vans.”
The lack of a formal standard slowed the uptake for IP connectivity in the professional broadcast world but the adoption of SMPTE 2110 has changed things, Weber added. “Since SMPTE finalized the standard, more people now see that IP is ready to be used in their future infrastructures,” he said.
IP offers customers many more options, Keil added. “I think it’s affording a degree of flexibility as far as the signal distribution is concerned, getting away from point-to-point into a more flexible situation,” he said. But Keil cautioned that today’s customers aren’t interested in IP-only camera systems. “We’re including baseband outputs on our optional interface, and I think that is what customers are looking toward, to be able to go both ways,” he said. One reason customers still want baseband connectivity built into IP camera equipment is that not all the IP interfaces needed have been developed yet, Keil adds. “It’s still kind of the early days for it.”
Bob Caniglia, director of Sales Operations, North America at Blackmagic Design, said he’s seeing demand for cameras for a variety of uses. “People tend to be using them to do live stuff, broadcast, those kind of things, but also shooting more narrative stuff,” he said. “Or you’ll get people doing documentaries, and then also trying to do podcasts.”
Such flexibility requires different features to make that hybrid connection, he added. “You want to be able to give them the ability to shoot a wide range of codecs, for recording, and then also different frame rates. You want to be able to put in things like neutral density filters, which are good for field work.” Caniglia said a choice of lens mounts is also important, so the customer can switch between B4, PL and EF lenses.
Large, single sensors are on the mind of Michael Bergeron, senior product manager for camera systems at Panasonic. “In fact we’re even using larger sensors in places where you might not have used them before,” Bergeron said. “That’s because now that the single sensors have gotten so good, because of the [developments for] cinema cameras, the cost has come down.
“You can put those single sensors in spots where you might have used the 1/3-or 1/4-inch sensor in a three-chip block,” he added. “And when it’s an integrated lens, of course you’re building your own optics, so it’s possible to make it all in one camera. To the user it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make the camera look any different or work any different. And it also makes it much easier to go to higher resolution, like 4K, and manage that without having to break the rules of physics or spend far too much money on the imaging.”
Cliff Quiroga, vice president of new business development at Sharp, sees a market with demand for 8K video. “8K is a trend that we are driving as a major display manufacturer,” he said. “But 8K video and content is not readily available in the market, certainly in the U.S. today.”
A major hang-up he sees to the lack of 8K material is that there’s no convenient and affordable 8K acquisition tools. Additionally, “how do I manage and handle all of that data in 8K?” Quiroga mused. “You’re obviously going to be dealing with a tremendous amount of data and that will be challenging.”
Last year, Sharp debuted an 8K monitor and this year, the company will introduce a DSLR-form-factor 8K camcorder for between $3,000-$4,000, Quiroga said.
WHAT’S NEW IN LENSES
Lens makers are always paying close attention to developments in cameras so they can provide optical products with specifications to match.
“There’s tremendous activity in 2/3-inch three-sensor cameras,” said Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive at Canon USA. “This is especially true in sports, but also in studios. And flanking the high-resolution camera introductions, we on the optical side are creating quite a portfolio of lenses.”
This has led to recordbreaking zoom ratio lenses that are not only stretching for more telephoto. “Our customers say ‘give me more telephoto, but give me wide angle because I want to exploit all that detail,’” he said. “So we came up with some pretty aggressive developments that allow us to do both, using some of the latest in optical technologies.
“And then the other thing we had to do with those lenses—because we’re pushing for long telephoto, and it’s 4K—our image stability becomes crucial,” Thorpe added. “So we’ve got image stabilization that’s pretty spectacular. That was very important.”
HDR across the production chain is an important trend, according to Gordon Tubbs, vice president, Broadcast and Cinema Products for FUJIFILM North America Corp. “From the standpoint of broadcast, the advent of HDR is becoming very important in the industry, and cameras and monitors and [everything else that is] capable of transmitting an HDR signal,” he said. “Almost every broadcaster we talk to, whether it’s a TV network, a TV station, production company or OB van company, everybody’s interested in producing HDR images.”
This has led to the development of 4K lenses designed from the very beginning to transmit a high-contrast, low-flare, low-veiling glare image. “The coatings that are used in all of the lenses are critical,” Tubbs noted. “Also important is the internal barrel design that absorbs errant light, which doesn’t then allow it to bounce around inside the lens and then cause flares. There are a number of design factors in these 2/3-inch lenses that will improve the HDR image.”
Studio robotic equipment makers are seeing more customers adding PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras to various camera positions. “We have absolutely seen PTZs beginning to creep in to broadcast studios in recent years,” said Neil Gardner, global product manager for Vinten Automation and Robotics, Vitec Production Solutions. “And one of the challenges within typical studios using PTZs is that it is difficult to get a perfect balance of the image being produced on the PTZ compared to a typical studio camera with its greater imaging capability.”
Gardner added that, when it comes to cameras and support gear, most of their broadcast customers tend to stick with one brand. “We don’t generally see a mixture of camera manufacturers at the same facility,” he said. “So a particular studio will typically be a ‘Sony house,’ or a ‘Panasonic house’ or another camera maker. Within that studio they typically keep it to one brand. One of the reasons for that is that when it comes to the infrastructure of the cameras that support control of the cameras, that’s then unified across all the cameras within that studio.”
Mel Medina, direct of product marketing at Telemetrics said that the influx of 4K cameras has not dramatically affected his company’s robotics designs.
“A main design mandate for all of our pan/tilt heads has always been ultra-smooth motion when positioning the camera—smooth enough so that the movement from shot A to shot B can be used on air,” Medina said. “For those applications that may require the camera/head combination to be locatsed in a less than ideal environment, such as sports arenas or concert venues, the system relies on the lens’ (or camera’s) internal stabilization. Basically the same general design parameters apply to 4K, HD and SD camera-based systems.”
Medina says that most of Telemetrics’ systems ship with box cameras, with many of its recent system designs incorporating new 4K box cameras from Sony and Panasonic.
“Typically these cameras are designed for remote control without viewfinders and other features normally needed for ENG/studio cameras,” he said. “We’re not seeing much if any demand for the traditional large studio cameras on robotics.”