Embracing new technologies and production techniques with the right supportMarch 13, 2017
By Drago Flores
The past decade has witnessed astonishing advances in camera and data transfer technology, in turn bringing competition into a space traditionally reserved exclusively for larger broadcasters.
Super-high-quality 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) and 8K video cameras and television sets, once novelties, are becoming not only viable, but also mainstream. Personal video cameras, once analogue and recording in SD, now offer full HD recording in formats ready for immediate upload to any number of video hosting websites.
Streaming online video, once slow and unorganised, now offers more choices and more novel content to more people than ever before. This surge in entertaining and novel content has led many consumers to cut the cord completely, throwing away their cable box.
In such turbulent times, how can traditional broadcasters adapt to re-gain their foothold and bring back their audiences? Novel and creative content, and a trusted partner who understands your team’s aspirations are key.
Gone are the days when the sunk costs to creating content and broadcasting it to the world were barriers to entry. Today, all it takes is a small investment for anyone to create their own channel, broadcast it around the world, and gain hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fans. Advances in online data transfer technology has only added fuel to the flame as providers of streaming video-on-demand services announce record numbers of subscribers year-on-year.
Being able to watch what you want, when you want, has been one of the greatest strengths of this trend, but there are several areas where new entrants may have difficulty competing in. While the content may be novel, a lack of funding and knowledge may be evident in the quality of the video, and remains one of the greatest weaknesses of these new entrants.
Traditional broadcasters, on the other hand, have a long history and knowledge of industry filming techniques. The studios, camera operators, and the entire broadcast teams are refined, professional, and dedicated to the creation of great content around-the-clock. However, while this may sound like they are poised to have the upper hand, the competition seems to have struck precisely on broadcasters’ Achilles heel: the slow integration of novel and creative filming techniques and content trends.
One technique which may be unavailable to new entrants is virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR and AR studios are gaining popularity among larger broadcasters in South-east Asia and around the world for their ability to produce stunning images and previously impossible shots. Newscasters are now able to interact with virtual representations of athletes, politicians, and any other graphic data seamlessly and professionally, creating captivating and novel content in real time.
Vital to any virtual studio is the ability to track the exact position of the camera. The key is to invest in equipment capable of accurately tracking pan, tilt, zoom, focus, height and floor XY movement, and correctly outputting that data to a graphic engine, jitter-free. The problem is many such systems either suffer from data “jitters”, are overly complicated, or just plain too expensive.
Shotoku Broadcast Systems has been proud to offer high-accuracy position tracking equipment for VR and AR studios which offers jitter-free data output and is easy to use. Set-and-forget calibration and a patented touch-screen serial position interface (SPI-Touch) mean calibration takes less than 30 seconds, allowing camera operators more time to focus on setting up their shots.
Shotoku’s top model, the TK-53L VR crane/TI-04 VR dolly system (pictured, right) , has been adopted by some of the most renowned studios in the world, with great success. Hand-built from the ground up, these systems have been a staple of the VR/AR community for years, but there was always something missing in the range.
In response to this, Shotoku’s position tracking technology has been joined with the rigidity and servo performance of CamMate cranes to create Graphica, a new range of VR cranes purpose-built for VR and AR applications.
Launching this month, Graphica has been jointly developed from the ground up and provides much improved tracking accuracy over competing and existing retrofit products, at a price point which many studios should find very attractive.
As Tony Hanada, Shotoku Broadcast Systems’ managing director, said: “This fills a gap in our VR range and will now allow customers and integrators to source any kind of VR tracking solution from Shotoku.”
This April’s NAB Show 2017 will see the launch of seven product variants with arm lengths of 2.5m-12.4m, along with Graphica 770 (7.7m), to be revealed at Shotoku’s booth C6015.
Implications of 4K/UHD on camera support
4K/UHD and even 8K are already being exploited by creators to create stunning images in creative ways, demanding systems that provide consistency and inspire confidence. No matter how good the quality of the camera and lens, the image produced will be poor if the support system is inadequate or unstable. Thus, it is of upmost importance to provide robust, reliable, high-performance camera support with smooth, intuitive and quiet on-shot, on-air movement at any payload.
In fact, such requirements are expected to become even more critical as image quality and demands to create novel and creative content increase. Camera support design has always been rooted in these same basic principles; finding a manufacturer who understands this right now is a sure sign of the quality of the products and services one can expect, decades into the future.
Beating the competition
New pressure from increased competition has traditional broadcasters seeking creative ways to re-gain their foothold in the market and build up their viewer base. Utilising cameras and lenses that offer better-than-ever quality is undoubtedly important, but taking advantage of cutting-edge high-performance VR technology to fabricate novel and creative content may be the key to getting an edge over the new kids in town.
Traditional broadcasters have a wealth of technical expertise and ideas. The next step for them is to pair those ideas with the most suitable, preferred support equipment for the job. It is about trust. Innovating for the future begins with fostering that relationship today.