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Switched on

by Roger Field on Aug 5, 2017

The Experts

John Carter, senior production manager, production switchers, SAM

Stuart Ashton, director, Blackmagic Design, EMEA

Fahad Hasan, broadcast engineer, Advanced  Media Trading

How is the market for production switchers, globally and in the Middle East?

John Carter: The Middle East market is witnessing significant growth due to a rise in the usage of broadcast switchers in studio production; a major driver of this is the increasing adoption of HD. SAM’s Middle East team are experiencing huge demand for our Kula 1-3M/E switcher for small studio production and flyaway kits.

What kind of trends are you seeing? Is there a noticeable preference for certain types of switchers and certain functionalities?

Stuart Ashton: A key trend that we’ve seen is the boom in online broadcasting, with more and more people looking to create high-quality content for video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. The evolution of easy to use, mainstream social services such as Facebook, YouTube and Periscope Live has almost certainly created a huge opportunity for web broadcasters to reach millions of people with their message.

As a result, we’ve seen huge successes with our live streaming trio of products - the ATEM Television Studio HD, Web Presenter and HyperDeck Mini - launched at the beginning of this year, which only serves to reflect the demand for professional quality video production from a new generation of content creators.

This has been the case throughout the Middle East and Europe as a whole, so it’s clear that online broadcasting will play a huge part in how the television industry evolves over the next few years. Traditional broadcasters are already beginning to consider how they adapt so that their content remains accessible, and that in turn, they remain relevant to future audiences.

Fahad Hasan: It’s fair to say during the last three to four years the video production switcher/vision mixer industry has seen an overwhelming introduction of a flexible range of switchers not only in terms of features and ease-of-use but also price-wise.

It’s obvious that a major trend from the manufacturers’ side has been the 4K production switchers, largely due to the fact that they will be future proof, keeping in mind a video production switcher is a one-time investment and in general lasts for years to come.

Carter: UHD is one of the biggest trends that we are seeing in the market; the format is making headway in taking over from HD as the default standard for sports production.

What has really made an impact is a shift in the way live UHD content is now produced. Previously, you used to have to have one truck doing the HD, and one the UHD. Now at a sporting event you can simultaneously produce HD and UHD with one truck or facility and one crew when Kahuna is at the heart of the OB unit. This is a considerable saving when you eliminate the cost and time associated with having a whole truck and production crew on location. This multi-format workflow is enabled by SAM’s FormatFusion3 technology which can seamlessly handle simultaneous HD and UHD and can convert down from 4K/UHD to HD.

SAM is all about creating efficiencies within the workflow – whether that is HD, UHD or any other format. The Kahuna production switcher has native UHD/4K internal clipstore capability; this eliminates the need for external equipment when holding replay wipes etcetera and saves both time and resources. SAM’s more compact Kula switcher can be delivered as a 2M/E unit and then be converted to a 1M/E UHD unit at no extra cost. This is very typical of our approach as a vendor. We are focused on delivering solutions to our customers that are flexible and robust. We develop technology solutions that simplify rather than complicate workflows.

How are production switchers evolving? What are the latest advanced in technology, and “must have” features that end users expect?

Hasan: The manufacturers have come with the idea of hybrid multipurpose production switchers so that in one switcher there is baseband (Quad-SDI), 12G and IP options. Of course the end- user shall be required to do some minor hardware or software upgrades which are almost negligible compared to the cost of a switcher itself, thereby also allowing the end-user the freedom to choose what they want. Supposedly they want to use HD only for now and later they want to upgrade to 4K. With the current batch of production switchers this is truly possible.

Ashton: Alongside portability and flexibility, an important feature is the capability to control multiple parts of the production, be it cameras, recorders or other devices, directly from the switcher. 
As well as enabling production companies to deliver a multi-camera shoot with fewer people, it also helps to minimise your overall footprint while reducing the amount of disruption on set when setting up. This is particularly useful for music videos and commercials, as well as live production in the house of worship or corporate markets.


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