Sony is predicating the future of Ultra-HD broadcasts on IT and IP networking, rather than the traditional broadcast engineering protocols, the latest of which is 6G-SDI.
“The question we are tackling is how do you develop and integrate 4K into the workflow of an IP domain,” said Olivier Bovis, Sony's head of AV Media. “We have the IP55. We are the only company doing this.”
The NXL-IP55 is a shipping video network unit that can transfer multiple HD image signals, audio signals and control signals over a single network cable. It has been tested by ITN in the UK and TV2 in Norway (pictures are from the production). It has also been tested over a 300km distance between Sarajevo and Belgrade, according to the company.
“We are reaching a stage when you could cover, for example, a basketball game in 4K without any physical outside broadcast infrastructure on location,” said Bovis. “You could position a pair of F65 or F55 cameras centrally above the court, plug in a studio adaptor and transfer the feed over an NXL-IP55-style of technology to a remote studio. There the operator would see an 8K x 2K picture and could remotely control the tally and CCU on a tablet device and, for example, zoom into that picture and make intelligent HD cut outs.”
This is a technology demonstration at this stage but it is becoming possible, he added. “The core technology of the NXL-IP55 is fundamentally 4K ready. Today we can take one HD feed in and deliver three HD feeds downstream. A future version of the product could take in and output 4K over IP.”
He maintains that the routing of 4K transport signals over IP is a superior infrastructure for an emergent Ultra-HD broadcast environment than 6G-SDI, which works over BNC cable.
The F55's can be made suitable for outside broadcast by adding a B4 mount, which would be able to optically convert standard OB lenses.
Sony's NAB is themed Beyond Definition, to highlight the range of equipment from cameras to consumer displays it has to produce and present 4K content.
“We're not bragging when we say Sony owns 4K just like we did with SD and HD,” declared Phil Molyneux, president Sony Electronics in an NAB press conference remarkably light on fresh product or sales announcements.
Highlighted product included the F5 and F55 4K cameras, of which 2,000 sets have shipped to dealers since February, and a technical exhibit of a 3840x2160 56-inch and a 4096x2160 30-inch 4K OLED panel for professional monitoring. There was no indication of timing for release or pricing.
Phil Squyres, SVP-Technical Operations at Sony Pictures TV was on hand at the conference to run down the list of programmes the studio is producing in the 4K format on F55 or F65 cameras. These include half-hour comedy Save Me for NBC and one-hour drama Masters of Sex for Showtime, as well as Michael J. Fox’s half-hour comedy pilot for NBC. All three are also being posted in 4K at Sony Pictures’ post facility Colorworks, which is based on its Culver City lot.
Previewed at the press conference and not being shown on the floor here was what seemed to be a prototype camera and range of complementary lenses loosely described as marrying high-end motion picture requirements with the design of a DSLR.
It represented, explained Sony, the embodiment of the company's future development “and a statement about our commitment and innovation” but teased with no more detail attached.
“Fundamentally the market is changing from a product design standpoint,” Bovis clarified. “From new DSLR products to cameras from GoPro, everything is up for grabs in terms of customers wanting to use them. We wanted to make sure that everyone is aware that Sony is thinking from every angle. We may be the largest camcorder manufacturer but we wanted to make sure that we are at the head of discussions about where the market is evolving. These products were illustrations only of that intent.”