Omega Broadcast Group, a sales, equipment rental and production service provider in Austin, Texas, like most broadcasters and other TV professionals, is well aware that today is a time of transition between the well-established, dominant format of HD and the up-and-coming format of 4K.
So when the company decided to build its new 40-foot live production vehicle, it knew it would have to provide all of the HD production capabilities expected in a sports and entertainment truck and the backbone to make 4K production support possible as demand grows.
“Right now we are in transition,” says Omega VP David Fry. “We can do all 4K, but we don’t have customers right now who want all 4K using studio-type cameras.”
From the outset, one of the primary goals Omega set for the truck was to build a mobile production unit with the ability to attract ESPN and other sports producers around Texas. To do that the new truck would have to support 4K but also meet the HD production requirements that are the bread-and-butter of a successful mobile facilities business.
With that in mind, Omega based the truck on a solid digital routing infrastructure that can handle both 4K and HD signals. It chose 12G-SDI cabling to move those signals throughout the truck and the Utah Scientific UHD-12G for digital routing. “The Utah routing switcher takes HD cards and 4K cards that can live in the same frame,” says Fry.
Omega decided to take this baseband approach to signal routing rather than rely on IP routing because 12G-SDI “is ready and works with a lot of the equipment we have,” says Fry. “I don’t see a lot of product out there for IP-based 4K.”
The truck’s FOR-A HVS-2000 production switcher, which can be configured for both HD and 4K switching, can communicate with the UHD-12G routing switcher to control some of the signal routing directly from the switcher panel, he says.
“The HVS-2000 switcher uses four channels of HD for every 4K channel, [requiring] a little bit different type of wiring,” says Fry. “But it definitely leaves us room to grow into it as we add more 4K cameras and more 4K recording and playback sources.”
At least during this early stage of the transition from HD to 4K, Fry says many potential customers are interested in using 4K for so-called HD “cutout,” which makes it possible to zoom in on an area of video shot with a 4K camera and extract an HD cutout to integrate into an HD production. That’s a major boon to live sports productions.
“With 4K cutout, you can essentially extend your lens by four times whatever it is rated,” says Fry. “So a 22x lens with an HD cutout is the shot equivalent of an 88x lens.”
The Omega truck is equipped with AJA Video Systems’ TruZoom software and Corvid Ultra video I/O platform that allows an operator to identify a 16:9 region of interest from a 4K source and scale it to HD in real time. The truck also uses AJA Ki Pro Ultra video recorder/players, he says.
For 4K pickup, the Omega truck is outfitted with Panasonic AK-UC3000 single MOS sensor cameras. Typically, they are equipped with HD lenses, which “give very acceptable rendering of 4K,” he says. “However, in critical situations, we will bring in a 4K lens, but it’s not in our inventory right now.”
As a rental house that stocks broadcast equipment from various vendors, including cameras from Sony and RED, Omega can add other 4K and HD cameras to the truck as needed, says Fry.
The truck is also equipped with native HD ChyronHego and Ross Xpression graphics, which can be upgraded to 4K in the future, he says.
Monitoring is mostly done in HD although there is some 4K monitoring onboard as well, says Fry.
During the telephone interview with Fry, the Omega executive seemed unfazed by the fact that 4K is a moving target that over time will incorporate new capabilities, such as high dynamic range, high frame rate, wider color gamut and immersive audio as it evolves.
The Panasonic AK-UC3000 supports HDR today, he says. And if the final standard for high dynamic range is different than the implementation in the camera, Fry says he is certain Panasonic will provide a software update to bring it into step with the settled standard.
Similarly, the prospect of supporting immersive audio in a live 4K production –if that becomes a requirement at some point- will likely be done by a companion audio truck rolled in to an event specifically for that purpose, he says. For everyday audio production needs, the onboard 32-channel Yamaha LS9-32 is sufficient.
For the past decade, Omega has been providing mobile production services and facilities for a variety of shows and events, including Austin City Limits, the Circuit of the Americas’ Formula One Grand Prix race in Austin and the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festivals, where its latest truck made its debut in March, says Fry.
Omega’s new production truck will help the company meet today’s requirements while positioning it for tomorrow’s growing 4K production demands. “The driving force behind this truck is customer demand. Sports is asking for 4K, and we are positioning ourselves to meet that requirement.”