When Los Angeles based production company Don’t Wonder Productions purchased its own broadcast cameras to minimise rentals just over a year ago, they chose four Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to meet the rigorous quality and turnaround demands of live events. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause the cancellation of in-person gatherings, the versatile cameras have helped Don’t Wonder pivot to new business opportunities producing high-caliber remote event streams.
Specialising in video, sound and lighting for live corporate meetings and events, Don’t Wonder offers everything from pre-production design, engineering, and content creation to complete, multi-camera production services including image magnification and live streaming. Serving clients including mid-sized businesses, Fortune 100 corporations, and professional associations, the company has produced events across the country and around the globe, with typical attendance of between 300 and 2500 participants.
At the end of 2018, Don’t Wonder made the decision to buy its own cameras after many years of renting or borrowing from partner company Touring Video. Having been very impressed with the Hitachi cameras provided by Touring – most often the SK-HD1200 model – Hitachi Kokusai was a natural choice.
“I’ve probably used every camera on the market, and when it was time to buy my own, I chose Hitachi,” said Drew Poley, owner and CEO of Don’t Wonder Productions. “I think they put out a better picture, they’re the easiest to use, and I absolutely love them.”
The flexibility to acquire in either 1080i or 1080p format was very important for the project-based nature of Don’t Wonder’s business, and they needed a camera that could flawlessly capture the varying LED lighting and large-scale LED background displays frequently deployed at their events. “Our local Hitachi Kokusai representative let me try multiple models in our own environments, including seeing how they performed with LED backdrops,” said Poley. “The Z-HD5500 with its global shutter CMOS sensor looked great and fit into our system very easily.”
For on-site events, Don’t Wonder typically deploys two to four cameras, with two on long lenses at the back of the room and any additional cameras operated handheld. Poley praises the Z-HD5500’s stellar picture quality even while handling the limited lighting that many corporate presenters prefer. “The colour reproduction is spectacular, especially with reds, which are generally the toughest for cameras,” he explained. “We also get accurate skin tones, which is hugely important in my world.”
Poley lauds how quickly and easily the Hitachi cameras can be set up on site, which is invaluable for fast-turnaround events. “Our four-camera productions at the Beverly Hilton for the Hollywood Radio and Television Society are great examples of the tight schedules we face,” he explained. “We get in at 7:00am for setup, the event runs from 11:00am to 1:00pm, and we need to be out by 3:00pm.”
With social distancing and stay-at-home mandates currently putting the brakes on live, in-person events, Don’t Wonder has begun offering what Poley calls Remote-Audience Events to help corporations get their message out. This model uses a minimal, physically distanced crew to let presenters such as corporate executives reach remotely located viewers via streaming with significantly higher production values and quality than possible with popular video conferencing software. A one or two-person crew can go the client’s home or office – maintaining six-foot separation – or the presenter can come to Don’t Wonder’s warehouse studio with only a couple of people in the building. The video switcher and sound console are all remotely controlled from Poley’s living room.
“For many of our clients, web conferencing isn’t good enough for their events,” said Poley. “Their image is too important to them, and they feel their audience deserves better.”
While Poley looks forward to the resurgence of his traditional live event business, the Hitachi cameras continue to play a key role in Don’t Wonder’s ‘new normal’. “I love the Hitachi cameras,” he summarised. “We’re a small company, so we don’t buy something unless we love it and we absolutely know it’s the right tool for us. And that’s one hundred percent why we bought the Z-HD5500s – they’re the right tools for us to excel at our jobs.”