The Strongest Link in the Chain

The Strongest Link in the Chain

Published 7/1/2021

Whether you’re producing a live UHD or HD show for a premium broadcast or media stream, the quality of the source video directly impacts the viewer experience. Theatrical lighting, multiple camera angles, and a pristine picture are marks of a dynamic, high-value TV show.

In our previous blogs, we discussed how modular broadcast camera systems—from Hitachi Kokusai—promote the capture of pristine, uncompressed picture quality and a highly efficient acquisition workflow. The main camera components, such as the camera head, camera head adapter, and lens are typically mounted onto a tripod in the production studio or venue, while the camera control unit (CCU) is situated in the control room or truck.

Something has to connect camera head components with the CCUs, and that something is SMPTE Fiber. As a unified solution, SMPTE Fiber is the standard of broadcast professionals worldwide as the crucial link in the “camera chain” because it preserves signal quality with minimal latency. And its bandwidth enables the following mission critical elements to travel bidirectionally over a single lightweight cable:

Program video Tally signals
Program audio Remote control commands
Return video Power
Intercom communications Data

So, what does all this mean to folks working on the frontlines of broadcast production? With SMPTE Fiber linking components in the camera chain, video pros realize many operational advantages that distinguish TV productions as high-end.

For example, when multiple cameras are in use, they can move wherever they need to go to get that perfect angle or shot. No need to worry about whether there’ll be an external power source nearby because SMPTE Fiber carries plenty of power over long distances. Camera operators can focus on getting the shots the director wants because SMPTE Fiber gives production personnel integrated intercom communications. And techs in the control room or truck can remotely adjust and match the cameras to ensure that the images they’re capturing look consistent when intercut.

Unlike other types of cameras that plug directly into production switchers, this camera system model works differently. SMPTE Fiber carries signals from the camera head system—and peripherals like the teleprompter—to the CCU. The CCUs provide the SDI video and XLR audio inputs and outputs that unify the acquisition gear with the rest of the live production, including the switcher, graphics system, and storage systems.

Once known as Hybrid Fiber Optic Cable (HFOC), the SMPTE Fiber name caught on among broadcast professionals worldwide when it was adopted as the SMPTE 311M standard. Compared with other networking modes, such as HDMI, SDI, or triax, SMPTE Fiber supports much longer cable runs, using standard cable lengths ranging from 82 feet to 1640 feet.

And when the cable’s SMPTE 304M connectors are mated end-to-end, this further extends the usable cable lengths up to 12,000 feet. Without SMPTE Fiber, video crews would have to use cumbersome, multi-cable bundles to carry all the signals that a single SMPTE Fiber cable can carry over its inherent mix of fiber optic strands and copper conductors.

Learn more about the operational benefits that result when Hitachi camera systems and CCUs are joined by SMPTE Fiber by accessing our SMPTE Fiber white paper. And be sure to check out our website and Video Gallery where you’ll find many helpful tech tips that can raise the bar on your next production.