SVG Europe Sit-Down: Vitec Videocom’s Dave Dougall discusses camera support design evolution and ‘flexibility’ focus
Based in the UK but with offices in Germany, the US and Japan, Vitec Videocom brings together some of the most sought-after camera-related brands in the industry, namely: Anton/Bauer, Autocue, Autoscript, Bexel, Camera Corps, Litepanels, OConnor, Sachtler, SmallHD, Teradek, Paralinx, The Camera Store and Vinten. Across the portfolio, lighting, tripod, support, teleprompt and rental equipment and services are among those on offer to the film, broadcast and video communities.
SVG Europe’s recent conversation with senior vice-president of sales, Dave Dougall, took a far-reaching perpsective on the ever-expanding Vitec product portfolio, as well as touching on the impact of 4K and HDR, and the sports production community’s need for flexible solutions.
How would you describe overall activity levels so far in 2016?
Business levels have been very good to date, and have picked up a bit on last year. It is an Olympic year, of course, although we have not seen as much [related] activity as in the past – perhaps due to the fact that a lot of people have got rental equipment already. Of course, this is determined in part by the investment cycle in the industry.
In more general terms, the overall Vitec Group is growing. We have a strong product range – one that is solid, reliable and well-known – and we are the de facto ‘go to’ company for many people in terms of camera supports and other related products.
What kind of impact is 4K having on product development?
It is having a positive impact. As we move into the 4K world, everything [to do with 4K production] needs to be more precise and so we are seeing a lot of people focus on balance and smooth operation. Having the shot in focus and being able to pan easily is a big part of the [requirement]. With camera supports needing more features, but at the same time the glass not getting any lighter, the challenge is to develop supports that offer this capability – whilst ensuring that the unit remains light-in-weight.
We are seeing a great deal of interest in the Vinten Vector 750 pan and tilt head from the 4K sports production environment. Our premium sports head, the Vector 750 features a unique counterbalance mechanism that does not use springs or cams, and delivers smooth operation in both pan and tilt movements with infinite adjustability for the Perfect Balance and TF drag system. Key features include: wide centre of gravity range, 75kg maximum payload, higher output drag modules for control of heavier payloads, optional side-mounted monitor bracket, and extensive operating temperature range from -40° to +60°C.
Among recent product launches, is there one in particular that you would highlight?
At NAB 2016 Vinten introduced the new Hegaxon Track System, which fully integrates the Vinten Control System with technology from dolly system brand Tecnopoint to create an advanced new robotic dolly system on tracks. One of the primary aims of the system was to make it fast and easy to set-up, and that is possible thanks to there being no cables outside of the track – making it suitable for high-end news studios and OB rental set-ups, such as sporting events and concerts. I am glad to report that the system has already received a great deal of interest from OB companies since its launch in Las Vegas.
What’s your view on how long it will take 4K / 4K HDR to achieve mass adoption?
Certainly a lot of broadcasters are beginning to look at 4K, and I think in the next 2-3 years it will become pretty standard. At present a lot of the activity we are seeing is around ‘4K for 2K’, by which I mean the product is in 4K but only 2K resolution is due. The more 4K systems out there, the more I think they will be used [for 4K production], so it’s really only a matter of time.
In terms of 4K HDR, I think that is the real nirvana that people are looking for, and that when the consumer sees HDR and [the industry puts in place a system where] it can pass through the production chain, we will really see it take-off. And of course it will be great for sports coverage.
Would it be fair to say that making camera supports and other related products as light-in-weight and transportable as possible is one of the major parts of the R&D process?
Without a doubt. We are continually looking at ways of improving supports to make them simpler and more stable, as well as well ensuring they are portable. For example, easier methods of setting up the clasps and catches… all these things make it easier and simpler for people. The sports environment is stressful enough without having to worry about bits and pieces of equipment falling off!
The Sachtler range of fluid heads, tripods and pedestal is a case in point. A lot of investment has gone on there to allow users to carry more weight and achieve greater flexibility [without adding significantly] to the overall weight or complexity. And we continue to get great feedback on the range as a result.