SVG Europe Sit-Down: Hitachi Kokusai Turkey GM Cemal Yilmaz discusses OB-BOX potential, UHD production roadmaps

Cemal Yılmaz - Hitachi Kokusai Electric Turkey

Hitachi Kokusai Turkey general manager Cemal Yilmaz

The OB-BOX modular OB facility concept arguably dominated Hitachi’s presence at IBC2015, but with new developments in 4K and 8K technologies it was hardly the manufacturer’s only focal point at the show. Collectively, they underlined another buoyant year for Hitachi, which reports robust growth in both its ‘core’ broadcast system camera and newer OB vehicle businesses this year.

Hitachi Kokusai Turkey general manager Cemal Yilmaz sat down with SVG Europe to reflect on the appeal and potential of OB-BOX, the workflow implications of IP and HDR, and the outlook for the adoption of 4K and 8K…

How would you characterise overall activity levels for Hitachi’s broadcast technology business in 2015 compared to 2014?

2015 has been a very good year for Hitachi Kokusai Electric characterised by strong growth in both our core broadcast system camera business and also our relatively new Outside Broadcast (OB) vehicle business.

Looking at our camera business first, I think that the key drivers for business growth are the implementation of some of the market’s leading camera technologies and also the diversity of camera system that Hitachi Kokusai Electric offers.

These camera systems include the company’s market-leading SK-UHD4000 4K Ultra-HDTV camera, SK-HD1500 Super Slow Motion camera, new version wireless camera systems together, with the company’s latest 3 MOS sensor series Production cameras – the SK-HD1300 (1080p) and Z-HD6000 (1080i) – as well as the DK-H100 (1080i) and newly developed DK-H200 1080p POV Box camera with robotic pan-tilt system.

Product-wise, what has been the most important development of the year – and why?

In terms of our total global business, that would be the SK-UHD4000 4K Ultra-HDTV camera. Our first 4K camera was first introduced in the middle of 2014 and what we see now is a number of significant sales that have been secured by broadcasters seeking to become early adopters of this advanced 4K technology. Worldwide, numerous broadcasters are rolling out 4K services so there is a growing appetite for native 4K content – we see this as being a key growth market in the future.

What is the significance of the OB Box concept showcased at IBC, and what is the latest news in terms of interest and sales?

2015 has been the year of OB Box – first introduced at CABSAT, and more recently given its European debut at IBC, this innovative concept has the ability to create new levels of outside broadcast (OB) operational flexibility, cost-efficiency and technical performance right up to ultra-HDTV capabilities.

OB-BOX is a fully featured modular OB facility, which is delivered to the customer and then mounted onto a vehicle’s chassis using a proprietary fixing kit. This approach significantly reduces the manufacture and delivery time in any market worldwide since it removes the need to source and ship an appropriate vehicle for each customer.

Each OB-BOX is specified, designed and manufactured at our Istanbul facility to meet the customer’s specific OB needs. The unit provides all of the video, audio, transmission and infrastructure capabilities needed to create a standalone outside broadcast facility. The technical specification of the unit is such that it will support any broadcast signal from serial digital to HD and even 4K. Alongside satellite and fiber connectivity, the units integrate powerful Ethernet connectivity, which provides the production team with internet facilities on site. At the same time, OB-BOX features sophisticated cloud capabilities, which enable the users to send 4K content back to the broadcaster’s production centre quickly and easily.

Already, we have received several orders for OB-BOX units worldwide; our Istanbul manufacturing facility is working around the clock to fulfil these orders and we’re actively seeking to expand our facilities and staff there.

Durıng IBC we saw our OB BOX concept and finishing quality well accepted by European customers as well as European coach manufacturers and SI companies.

During and after IBC we received several inquiries and co-operation requests, not only from well-known European customers, but also from Latin America and USA, which we are working on now.

HDR and IP seemed to be the defining themes of IBC. How do you see these playing out over the next six months?

HDR and IP are key issues which are flavour of the month at the moment. However, just as HD and SDI were in their day, the challenge facing us and our customers is how to harness and exploit these new technologies within their day-to-day business operations in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way.

Take IP, for example. Whilst some technology vendors talk about it in revolutionary terms, in fact IP in a broadcast context has been around for a significant number of years. Our development teams have been working with IP for many years and it is a key enabling technology used across our product ranges. OB-BOX harnesses IP technology to help the unit communicate with the broadcaster’s HQ. Our message is that Hitachi will always ensure that the most appropriate technologies will be integrated to help our customers remain ahead of the game.

Opinion varies on the extent and speed of 4K adoption. What is Hitachi’s view on the trend, and how soon do you think it will be a default for sports production in particular?

As previously discussed, 4K is proving to be an appealing technology for broadcasters and is catching on with broadcasters in way that other visual technologies (such as Stereoscopic 3D) have failed to do. Especially in Asia, but increasingly on a worldwide basis, we see the demand for 4K production technologies increasing. In the coming 12 months, we predict a strong demand for 4K acquisition systems.

However, 4K isn’t the end of the story. At IBC this year, we showcased an 8K camera. We have been working closely with Japanese broadcaster NHK in the field of UHD. The Olympic Games come to Japan in 2020 and by this time we may well see 8K established as a mainstream production technology – in short, we live in interesting times.

If you had to nominate one recent sports project that exemplifies the strengths of the Hitachi product range, what would it be – and why?

At Hitachi Kokusai Electric, we enjoy close working relationships with many leading content production companies. One relationship that we’re very proud of is with UK-based Gearhouse Broadcast. For many years, Gearhouse has been televising the world’s biggest sporting events – from the Commonwealth Games to F1 motorsports. Two of their events this year that caught our eyes were the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia and the AFC Asian Cup soccer tournament, once again in Australia.

I think that both of these events demonstrate what is achievable when you put advanced production tools in the hands of truly creative teams.

Finally, please give a few hints about forthcoming product plans as we go into 2016…

Our product development engineer teams are working on a number of initiatives that will produce new products in the coming year. We believe that IP-Streaming is the most important development point for 4K production. We are working hard to make this possible – not just Hitachi alone, but also in co-operation with other technology vendors.

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