SVG Europe Sit-Down: Broadcast Solutions’ Peter Jakobsson discusses OB van landmarks and integration challenges
One of Europe’s largest broadcast systems integrators, Broadcast Solutions GmbH has steadily evolved an impressive and diverse portfolio encompassing OB vehicles, SNG, broadcast centre infrastructure projects, stadium installations and more.
As the number of major OB van announcements to have been made in the last 12 months would suggest, Broadcast Solutions is in robust form right now. Inevitably, this one of the topics of SVG Europe’s latest discussion with business development director Peter Jakobsson, although the conversation also touched on subjects including 4K and IP ‘readiness’, the challenges inherent to broadcast centre modernisation, and the current state of the systems integration market in Europe.
How would you characterise 2016 so far in terms of overall activity levels for Broadcast Solutions?
So far 2016 has been a very successful year with lots of new projects in our stronghold, [involving] the OB van building business as well as video referee solutions and sports production support. Last year ended in December with our biggest-ever Broadcast Innovation Day at our headquarters, and by delivering 16 OB vans and support vehicles in one week, and this year seems to be continuing in the same spirit. Besides strengthening our activities in our core markets we have emphasised our efforts in Asia with trade fairs and the discussion of promising projects with customers. Moreover, we have expanded our portfolio by adding sports broadcast production services for our customers, helping them during productions with know-how and manpower, as well as technology.
Can you talk us through some of the company’s recent highlights in terms of new OB truck projects?
Starting this year we delivered a high-end 31 camera OB van to Qatari broadcaster Al Kass, which was truly a milestone for the company. With all its cameras and an overall impressive technological set-up, this OB van is one of the biggest and most advanced trucks we have ever built. Further deliveries include OB vans from our Streamline family for Polish broadcaster Livepark and O2 in the Czech Republic. We have also developed a special variant of the Streamline concept named Alphaline, which was completely developed to meet the requirements of our South East Asian customers. The Alphaline family is essentially compact versions of our S12 and S16 OB Vans – of course without any restrictions or compromises for the production.
Other examples include one OB to KBS in Korea and a fleet of six vehicles to Turkmenistan.
To what extent is readiness for 4K and IP now informing OB van design?
For us 4K and IP are already daily work and now we just focus on what variant of 4K and IP best fits our customers’ needs. At last year’s IBC Show we presented a Streamline S8-4K – a 4K version of our streamline OB Vans. This year we are building two new 4K/UHD OB Vans for South Korean broadcaster SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) and NEP Switzerland, respectively. Both OB vans are based on our Streamline OB van philosophy. The OB van ordered by NEP Switzerland can handle productions with up to 10 4K/UHD cameras working with Quad Link 2 Sample Interleave (2SI) standard or 16 HD cameras, respectively, while the OB van for South Korean broadcaster SBS works with up to 12 4K/UHD cameras on the basis of 12G-SDI UHD Single Link in combination with Quad Link 3G-SDI as well as hybrid IP-systems. The Korean OB van is the first realisation of the new compact Alphaline concept, which Broadcast Solutions developed on the basis of the Streamline Family concept.
What steps are you taking to ‘futureproof’ new OB vans given the fluid nature of the solutions and standards around 4K and HDR?
Our technology specialists are very familiar with the implications of 4K and HDR for developing OB vans. Since we are a hardware-independent system integrator we can serve our customers the best possible way by offering them the solutions that best fit their ideas and production requirements. For instance, regarding HDR, the camera manufacturers each have their own approach, which gives us even more choices [to be made in order to determine] which system is of benefit to our customers.
What kind of demand are you seeing for ‘fixed’ broadcast facility projects, be they ‘new builds’ or refurbishments?
Regarding Broadcast facilities we experience the demand for consultancy and advise to be the most urgent one. A lot of our projects begin with customers asking for advice on how to manage this technical paradigm shift related to HD, 4K, UHD, cloud solutions and IP workflows. Customers often have to choose between modernising an existing facility and moving in a completely newly built one. That is where we come in to play. We analyse their existing and future workflows and can give advice on the technology and workflows needed to accomplish their goals for the future. Is it about software or hardware, should they go for a full IP approach or is a new facility a hybrid SDI/IP workspace – these are the questions we answer regularly.
How would you describe the current level of competitiveness within the broadcast systems integration sector? And what can Broadcast Solutions do to ensure it retains its competitive edge?
Competition is always good for the industry and we always try to stay ahead of the development and to offer our customers future-proof solutions they can rely on – which seems to work quite well. Another major driver in the business, of course, is cost-pressure. With our pre-engineered Streamline OB van family we offer exactly what customers with smaller budgets are looking for: cost-effective OB vans that can be delivered quickly – without any restrictions on technology and durability. Another key factor for our success is a close relationship with customers in offering them the production tools they are looking for. And our services don’t stop with delivering the OB van, SNG or studio.
We intend to stay competitive by sharing the customer’s reality. This means for instance that we are active in offering special camera equipment including crews for live productions, or we can help customers by supporting or acting as host broadcaster for large productions.