Australia and New Zealand video production company, Big Picture – whose concert and event tours have included the likes of Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Bieber, Guns N’ Roses, Keith Urban and many more – has chosen Panasonic cameras to fit out and upgrade its new 1080p flyaway kits and Outside Broadcast facilities.
Big Picture delivers video production and equipment services for the fast-turnaround, high-pressure demands of concert touring, television, corporate events, live events, sports and outside broadcasts. Its gear list includes LED video walls, large scale projection, media servers, data recorders and rigging as well as camera equipment. Its brand new Panasonic camera suite includes ten AK-HC5000 4X high speed 1080p camera systems as well as two AJ-PX5000G high-end ENG camera recorders. The new cameras capably meet the demands of Big Picture’s booming production business.
Deployed by Big Picture in late 2016, the Panasonic kit has been run up on a wide variety of jobs and environments during the busy events season – including the five-week tour of the theatrical magic show Dynamo ‘Seeing is Believing’, 2CELLOS with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra which was recorded to DVD, the WWE NXT Downunder wrestling event for a US subscription channel, Australia Day celebrations, and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.
Nick Bojdak, Technical Director of Big Picture, said, “Being able to offer a 1080p solution is important for us at this point as a business. Although 1080p is currently a small part of our work, we see it as a key growth area. It is starting to become a mandatory requirement for some jobs that involve capture for DVD Mastering – and even high end web casting is now pushing for 1080p over the 720p format.”
The image quality of the cameras impressed during Big Picture’s own in-house chroma testing, and Nick said that the cameras passed their first real-life test with flying colours when all ten AK-HC5000s were used together at the 2CELLOS shoot. “The 2CELLOS DVD record went really well. Everyone was super impressed with how the cameras look – the sharpness and colour depth they have and their general performance in a primarily theatrical lighting environment. From an engineering point of view the cameras were easy to balance and grade.”
He added: “The gigabit ethernet trunk coupled with the HD-SDI trunking from camera head to CCU is great because we can power, control and send the signal from an AW-HE120 PTZ camera to a AK-HC5000 head and run the AW-HE120 signal back down the same SMPTE fibre. This saves doubling up on cable for wide shot cameras and confidence cameras.”
Meeting the 2CELLOS Challenge
The key challenge of the 2CELLOS job was the separation between the Concert Hall and the control room. The lack of control room space near the Concert Hall and the absence of any SMPTE patch (panels) meant that Big Picture had to set their control system up in the video control room on the other side of the central passage to the concert hall and remote the signals via the in-house single mode fibre tie lines.
“We ended up putting all 10 CCUs in a rack in the Concert Hall with Riedel MicroNs and a TSL Tallyman and remoting the signals back to the Control Room that way. It actually worked pretty well, as it meant we could run SMPTE fibre to the camera heads within the concert hall rather than using single mode fibre with external power back to the video control room. This set up saved us from having to find 10 channels of active SMPTE to SM fibre adaptors.”
Matthew Alexander, Product Marketing Manager, Broadcast and Professional Video, Panasonic, added: “Big concerts and big live events have been the mainstay of production companies for many years. However, we are now seeing growth in the number of small and mid-sized live events that want a professional level of video production – so there is a great deal of interest in our broadcast technology to support this. In particular, the combination of our high end studio cameras and robotic PTZ cameras. make it easy to scale your production kit up or down to suit the project.”
Delivering in Flexibility, Quality and Ergonomics
Big Picture brought in a range of cameras to test before selecting the Panasonic solution, with the Panasonic cameras performing very well and coming out on top in most shootouts.
Nick Bojdak explained: “We did an elaborate and comprehensive in house shootout between a number of the leading cameras currently utilised in the Australian broadcast market. In this process we evaluated a number of tests designed to push the limits of the cameras in light response and colour reproduction – including extreme chroma tests with a custom lighting rig to see what would perform best under the high chroma environments common in theatre and entertainment lighting. We found a lot of cameras struggle with a true representation of blue- Panasonic easily produced the best overall result of all that were tested.”
The Shockless Gain capabilities were also well received. “It is nice to know that if you do need to slot some gain into a camera while on air that the step is so subtle that you reap the benefits of adding the gain without the “in your face” step up in gain.”
The cameras also met Big Picture’s requirements in terms of flexibility, quality and ergonomics; as well as being head and shoulders above the rest when it came to support.
“One of the key things for us is the ease of how quickly we can turn systems around from one job to another- whether that be in trucks or fly away kits – and knowing that the camera side of the job is reliable and straightforward to configure onsite means that prep time can be minimised.”
“There also has to be a certain amount of ruggedness – you need to know that it is not going to shake itself apart and can turn around week in and week out – that’s another thing that impressed us.”
Big Picture was also pleased with the overall design of the camera and CCU and the balance of form and function. “For example, I liked the way that all the connectors on the Panasonic cameras all face towards the back. Every other model of camera has something that you plug in on the side. It just doesn’t fit as well and always seems like a bit of an afterthought. Everything from controls to menus is where you feel where it should be.”
Planning for the Future
The 4X high speed feature was also a factor for Big Picture in the purchase of the cameras and will come into play when Panasonic’s firmware upgrade is available later this year, Nick Bojdak added. “For us it makes sense not to have money tied up in dedicated SlowMo camera chains, instead we will have the flexibility of being able to route different cameras to the SlowMo EVS channels on the fly.”
“Another big plus is that the CCUs are capable of 4K, so when we look at 4K in the future we can simply change to the Panasonic AK-UC3000 camera heads, rather than buying an entire new chain.”
Big Picture needed two RF Link cameras to complement their ten studio cameras so looked at options for ENG style cameras. The key selection criteria – ultimately met by the AJ-PX5000 ENG cameras – was that the RF cameras needed to be as rugged as the AK-HC5000, deliver the same application flexibility and most importantly match the colour of the AK-HC5000 cameras. Big Picture is currently working with third parties to establish a 1080p RF system, and plans to have this up and running in the next financial year.
As well as its existing suite of camera equipment, Big Picture primarily runs Fujinon wide angle, standard ENG lenses as well as 77x, 99x and 101x long lenses. They use Ross and Panasonic vision switchers (from 1 to 3 ME) and EVS SlowMo system to capture and replay as well as KiPro and Hyperdeck HDD recorders.