Live From the ATP World Tour Finals: Gearhouse deploys new Hitachi cameras for 4K trial

Inside the 4K edit suite at the ATP World Tour Finals 2014

Inside the 4K edit suite at the ATP World Tour Finals 2014

Two months after announcing its purchase of 50 of Hitachi’s new SK-UHD4000 4K cameras, Gearhouse has been deploying four of the units to capture the action at the ATP World Tour Finals in London – the culmination of the annual ATP event series featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams according to the ATP rankings.

Gearhouse is now in its 15th year of providing professional broadcast solutions to the ATP Masters tour, and since 2009 the Finals have taken place at the O2, London. On a day that saw current World Number 1 Novak Djokovic power through to the semi-finals in little more than an hour, SVG Europe caught up with Gearhouse head of projects and engineering Peter Newton to hear about the latest evolution in the broadcast production of the ATP World Tour Finals – not least the debut deployment of 4K capture.

The relationship between Gearhouse and Hitachi has continued to strengthen since the broadcast services company purchased 22 SK-HD 1200 high-end multi-format 1080p/3G production cameras, along with three SK-HD 1500 HD Supermotion system cameras, in 2012. Some of these units again saw service at the O2 this week (along with three Q-Ball remote camera systems from Camera Corps and a single Ikegami ultra-slow motion camera), but there was a notable new addition in the form of four SK-UHD4000 4K cameras.

“The zoom in/out focus capabilities and the ability to use existing lenses” were among the features that recommended the SK-UHD4000s to Gearhouse.

During the tournament itself, 4K content was viewable only on a 65” Sony Bravia screen in one of the O2’s VIP bars, but in the weeks and months ahead “the ATP and ourselves will be going through the footage, making comments and assessments that can feed into [future trials],” says Newton – although he emphasises that there are no current plans to reprise the trial at any ATP events in 2015.

The ATP is “keen and endorses the test, although there is a general acceptance that this [set-up for 4K] is not going to be what it will be eventually. It’s more about the process of capture and what the evolution will mean for OB services,” says Newton.

All matches from the 8-day O2 run were captured in 4K and edited in a room built around two EVS XT3 servers, a Vizrt Engine rendering engine and real-time graphics and video compositor, and a Ross Video Acuity vision mixer.

“We were looking for a Level A 4K mixer as opposed to a Level B solution,” explains Newton of the Acuity specification. “Plus Ross Video were very enthusiastic about helping us on the project. They have been down to help us with production support and we’ve been very pleased with the performance of the mixer.”

Stalwart audio, replay gear

One of Gearhouse's newly purchased Hitachi SK-UHD4000 4K cameras

One of Gearhouse’s newly purchased Hitachi SK-UHD4000 4K cameras in action

A tour of the Gearhouse compound reveals that much equipment is returning from previous ATP World Tour Final duties. The audio suite is built around a Lawo mc256 console (with Yamaha LS9 as backup), with monitoring courtesy of Genelec 1830s and, for the director’s reference, a single 1090. Audio is brought up from courtside as uninterrupted MADI streams.

Ingest and content sharing are handled by a formidable, EVS-dominated inventory and featuring 12 XT3 servers, seven EVS IPDirectors, five EVS XTAccess and one XFile stations, three Cisco switches and 40TB of NeuLion storage.

But there’s no denying that the 4K element is the cause of the greatest excitement production-wise at the 2014 Finals – and Newton expects there will be plenty of lessons to be learned once the post-match analysis has been concluded.

“Getting 4 x 3G or 12G down a single cable is not possible, so it’s been necessary for us to find other another – more direct – route,” he says, pointing at overhead cable runs. “In other arenas, with larger compound areas, I think we would look to eliminate the use of copper. It is clear that [the further roll-out of 4K] will have a definite impact on the layout of the production area.”

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