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All Mobile Video: New Media Spurs Zurich’s 4K Success

Zurich, All Mobile Video’s latest production unit, hit the street last summer as a result of demand from the entertainment community for 4K-production capabilities. Already, the AMV team is finding that 4K production is, increasingly, a reality.

“New-media outlets, such as Netflix and Amazon, are dictating that their content be produced in 4K,” says All Mobile Video President Eric Duke. “That is right up our alley, having extensive prior experience with multicamera production utilizing both standard ⅔-in. and large-sensor cameras in a television workflow. Now that AMV has incorporated Sony PMW-F55 large-sensor cameras with full SMPTE fiber-optic CCU functionality, along with the Sony HDC-4300 ⅔-in.–format cameras, we can offer the cinematic esthetics of large-sensor capture with the efficiencies of multicamera live-switch and live-shaded production workflows.”

Zurich comprises two trailers: an A unit that can expand to be 59 ft. long and nearly 16 ft. wide and a B unit that is 58 ft. long and 8.5 ft. wide. The A unit houses the main production area, audio control, a record/ingest, and video control. The B unit is capable of housing additional recording/playback options as well as other support services.

Among the technical highlights is a Sony XVS-8000 3G switcher with 5M/E, a Studer Vista X audio console with 72 faders, 12 Sony HDC-4300 and six Sony F55 fiber/CCU 4K cameras, up to four eight-channel Sony PWS-4500 servers, an RTS Adam OMNEO intercom, extensive MADI audio routing, and 128 channels of Dante I/O.

“The online-streaming entities and forward-thinking cable/broadcast outlets want the highest possible quality images, and they are driving the demand for 4K, which is already more pronounced than the demand for 3D ever was,” says Duke. “Over the web, the 4K images look better, and the clients are banking on the higher quality giving them a better return on their upfront investment.”

One of the challenges of 4K production for entertainment is image capture. Over the years, AMV has worked with Cinedeck, Sony, and other manufacturers to provide various options capable of multiple codecs as well as format-record capabilities.

“We have worked with Cinedeck to enhance their new series of ZX servers. These recorders have proved quite reliable and can be used for both 4K or HD recording,” Duke explains. “The Sony PWS-4500 server can also record 4K content or HD, which we can back up using the Cinedeck ZX recorders or provide our clients with a walkaway system in the form of a Smalltree NAS [network attached storage].

Zurich hit the road in response to rising demand for 4K production.

“The downside to 4K,” he continues, “is the amount of storage required. Our PWS-4500 HD servers can record eight sources, but, when recording 4K content, we can record only three or four sources per DDR. The Sony PWS-4500 DDRs also give us playback and edit functions in multiple record formats, similar to an EVS but with greater format versatility.”

For example, the production at Yankee Stadium for a Garth Brooks concert required 27 cameras to be recorded for two three-hour shows. That required a lot of storage and also some new workflows to ensure that clients had all the options they needed in the codec of their choosing. Specifically, the servers offer the kind of flexibility required, because each client tends to have a favorite format or “look.”

“The Sony server bridges those worlds, as it can record multiple formats and codecs,” says Duke. “The key with 4K is having an end-to-end workflow solution including redundant copies of the deliverables for the client as required.”

When the truck first hit the road, only about 20% of the shows were in 4K. In just a few months, that has risen to 50% as clients rethink their plans and decide to make the leap.

“There is a 4K market, and it is new media that is driving it, rather than old media,” says Duke. “And now, as HDR is adopted, it’s becoming the Holy Grail, offering viewers at home a more engaging experience whether they are viewing in 1080 or Ultra HD resolutions. We see HDR as another arrow in our quiver for those who want these expanded visual technical capabilities brought to their audiences.”