How important is camera support in the new age of 4K/8K, VR/AR?
The astonishing advances in camera and data transfer technology have leveled the playing field for content providers of all sizes and types, raising the stakes for those larger broadcasters unaccustomed to competing with legions of smartphone owners and personal video cameras. Super high-quality 4K and 8K video cameras and televisions, once only for the select few, are becoming not only viable, but mainstream. Devices that were once analog 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 unorganized, offers more choice and more original content to more people than ever before. This surge in available options has led many consumers to cut the cord completely, throwing away their cable box. In such evolving times, what can traditional broadcasters do to re-gain their foothold and bring back their audience?
THE FIELD IS GETTING CROWDED
Prohibitive costs to create content and broadcast it to the world are no longer barriers to entry. Today, armed with a small investment and some technical know-how, anyone can create their own channel, broadcast around the world, and gain hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of viewers. Advances in online data transfer technology, too, has only fanned the flames as streaming video-on-demand providers announce record numbers of subscribers year-after-year. Being able to watch what you want, when you want it has reinforced this trend, but there are several areas where new entrants may have difficulty competing. While the strength may lie in brilliant content, the undermining weakness is a lack of knowledge regarding the elements necessary to produce quality video.
Traditional broadcasters have a long history and knowledge of industry filming techniques. The studios, camera operators, and entire broadcast team are refined, professional, and dedicated to producing 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 the Achilles heel: Slow integration of original and creative filming techniques and content trends.
One such technique is virtual and augmented reality which is gaining popularity among larger broadcasters around the world for giving them the 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 programming 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 is an example of a camera support manufacturer that aims to address these issues head on. Incorporating features such as full calibration in less than 30 seconds, a set-and-forget system requiring no re-calibration, and its patented touch-screen serial position interface (SPI-Touch), active measures to develop products which allow camera operators more time to focus on setting up their shots have been given high-priority.
NAB will see the launch of one such product. Graphica, a new range of VR cranes purposely built for virtual and augmented reality applications, was jointly developed from the ground up with crane manufacturer CamMate. It provides much improved tracking accuracy over competing existing retro fit products, at a price point which many studios should find very attractive. Graphica is comprised of 7 product variants with arm lengths of 2.5m to 12.4m and will be on display at Shotoku booth C6015.
WHAT DOES 4K DEMAND FROM CAMERA SUPPORT?
4K—and even 8K—are already being utilized to create stunning images in imaginative ways as they demand systems which provide consistency and inspire confidence. No matter how good the quality of the camera and lens, the image produced suffers from an inadequate or unstable support system. Thus, it is critical to employ robust, reliable, high-performance camera support with smooth, intuitive, and quiet on-shot on-air movement at any payload. In fact, such requirements will increase as demands for superior image quality grows. Camera support design has always been rooted in these same basic principles, and manufacturers who understand support the market with quality products and service that address customers’ needs now, and will for decades into the future.
THE COMPETITIVE EDGE
New pressure from competition has traditional broadcasters seeking creative ways to re-gain their foothold in the market and build their viewer base. Utilizing cameras and lenses which offer better-than-ever quality is undoubtedly important, but taking advantage of cutting-edge high-performance VR technology to produce and distribute inspired 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 is pairing those ideas with the most suitable, preferred support equipment for the job.