NAB 2018: Sony’s plans highlight cloud-based workflows and IP HDR in SR range

Sony’s NAB 2018 plans are rounding into shape, and, more than ever, the company’s exhibition efforts will highlight the ways in which its efforts around cloud-based workflows and IP redefine Sony’s traditional reputation as primarily a provider of top-notch production equipment.

“We’ve been working closely with our customers to push out the boundaries as they change their workflows and face new business challenges,” says Katsunori Yamanouchi, president, Sony Electronics Professional Solutions America. “Content production is one focus. The other is workflow efficiency as the media industry faces massive changes as consumers are changing their viewing behavior. And there are two key elements to the sea change that is happening: first, content is always king, and, second, our customers are transforming their operations to become more efficient.”

Sony’s efforts around IP will be front and centre, and, according to Deon LeCointe, marketing manager, production switchers, Sony Electronics, the move to the SMPTE ST 2110 standards will be a major focus, with the company continuing to work with standards bodies on finalising standards around features like device discovery (identifying what model or type of equipment is being connected via IP) and connection management for things like redundant failover.

“Our legacy product lines are getting SMPTE 2110 built into the existing camera-control units or baseband processors,” says LeCointe. “And, by the end of April, the XVS production switchers will support 2110 by virtue of the availability of 40-Gbps board upgrades. Our goal is to have an upgrade from 2110 HD to 2110 4K operations and, for those who need to do 4K today, to deploy a system that is a hybrid of our own NMI standard and 2110, with 2110 handling the HD and NMI the 4K.

“In parallel to our IP message,” he continues, “is the development of 12-Gbps SDI products. The market came to us and said that IPF is great for some facilities but SDI could play a role for a 4K production out of a flypack or a production that does not have top-tier personnel. They want to be able to just plug in the cable and be ready to go, and 12-Gbps SDI can be used for entry-level 4K productions.”

At NAB 2018, Sony’s booth will offer a demonstration of the use of ST 2110 for long-distance remote production, which is increasingly of interest to sports-production teams at networks around the globe. In a recent Sony test, a production-switcher control surface was in London, and the core equipment was in New York.

The new XVS-9000 production switcher has up to 80 inputs and outputs for 4K production needs and 160 and 80, respectively, for HD demands. Up to four newly developed 4K/HD DME boards can be installed into one XVS-9000 switcher, enabling configuration of up to four channels of 4K 3D DME for live 4K production with a variety of video effects. It also inherits the functionality and operability of the current XVS series, including the well-known operation through the ICP-X7000 modular panel with OLED display. It will be available in October.

“The need for 4K production is increasing across the globe,” notes LeCointe. “We are committed to enabling our customers to build brands and audiences through engaging content, and XVS-9000 will join a strong portfolio of solutions to meet the needs of 4K production and IP live transmission with a choice of the latest interface.”

Embracing the cloud
According to John Studdert, VP, U.S. sales and marketing, Sony Electronics, Sony’s Media Solutions Division is responding to the need for more end-to-end workflows and applications and leveraging the long-lasting relationships that have been built around hardware like cameras, production switchers, and monitors. For example, wireless capabilities built into Sony cameras now allow low-resolution proxies to be streamed to the Sony Ci cloud platform and transcoded into whatever format is needed for editing and content creation. If someone wants to import a file to Avid in the DNX HD format (or to another editing system or format), the file is transcoded on the fly as it is played out of the camera and into the cloud.

“There is no longer the need to wait for the shoot to be done and then transfer the hard drive back to the facility,” says Studdert. “That process required the drive to be handcuffed to a production assistant, flown back to the facility, then offloaded and transcoded.”

Users of Ci are already asking for new features, such as the ability to automatically transcribe the content based on the low-resolution files as they come in, a move that saves time in the production chain. And enhanced integration with the Sony Navigator X media backbone provides additional synchronization between on-premises storage systems and the Ci cloud platform.

Sony is also rolling out a cloud-based service for disaster recovery of master-control operations. With the unprecedented number of natural disasters occurring in the U.S. and beyond, more and more TV stations are at risk of being knocked off-air. The master-control efforts are a result of Sony’s acquisition of Crispin Automation and combine Crispin’s expertise in master-control automation with Sony’s Ci platform.

“The cloud-based master-control system can take live streams, from ENG cameras or the production-switcher outputs, and combine them with file-based content on the Sony Ci platform,” Studdert explains. “We are working with three broadcast-station groups on the solution, and we are very excited about what this will do for the broadcast community.”

Other new cloud-based features include the ability to help clients launch cloud-based OTT services or manage global streaming rights. And a new Live Session feature provides real-time synchronized playback of content so that an executive producer or another member of the production team can review and approve it from anywhere in the world.

“We believe it is a game changer,” says Studdert, “and an example of how we have sped up every point in the production chain and made it more efficient.”

HDR comes into focus
HDR will also be a major emphasis at the Sony booth, with content creators committing in a big way to having original programming created in UHD and HDR. There will be three areas of focus for HDR: SR (Scene Referred) Live, which is useful for productions that do not have the time or staffing to handle color correction; File-Based HDR; and Instant HDR.

Netflix, Apple iTunes, and Amazon, for example, have already made a major commitment to HDR, and, in many respects, Netflix is driving much of the demand for HDR for live event production. For at least the past year, it has committed to HDR not only for original comedies and dramas but also for events like comedy concerts.

SR Live is a complete line of HDR equipment designed to provide production tools that can be deployed for both traditional HD needs and next-gen UHD demands. The SR Live line is complemented by the Instant HDR workflow, which can do HDR without the need for color grading.

“HDR is secondary, as the money is still related to the HD production, which needs to be sacrosanct,” says Rob Willox, director, marketing, Sony Professional Solutions. “The HDR production cannot impact the main broadcast, and it also needs to use the same equipment and technicians so that there is less additional workflow and two broadcasts can be done without increasing the budget.”

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