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Mobile production providers and sports venues share a need for rugged, high-performance and flexible cameras. HITACHI has answered the need for triax or SMPTE fiber with our new CU-HD1300FT, a dual-cable CCU and a new digital triax head adapter that has extended cable range. High speed cameras for replay have previously been expensive. HITACHI has broken the price barrier with the new SK-HD1300HS. This is a lower-cost, high-speed camera that simultaneously outputs high speed and normal frame rates.
Sports venues and mobile production understand the high price/performance value of HITACHI cameras. Our cameras deliver quiet, high resolution pictures for venue scoreboards, broadcast, cable and OTT sports events around the world.
See how HITACHI live event cameras work for our customers and why they trust HITACHI for their sports acquisition needs. If you want more information, we’d be happy to have one of our camera technology experts connect with you.
Named for its new home city’s association with the aerospace industry and the determined ingenuity of raccoons, the Rocket City Trash Pandas are the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) Double-A Affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels. When the team relocated from Mobile, Alabama to the newly built, 7500-seat Toyota Field in Madison, Alabama, it selected Z HD5000 HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to create superior in-venue, online, and televised fan experiences.
MiLB requires all of its franchises to offer games on its MiLB.tv streaming service, but the Trash Pandas had even loftier goals for their video productions. “We also want to put on what we consider to be a major league atmosphere in a minor league ballpark for fans attending the games,” said Rob Sternberg, Senior Director, Production & Entertainment. “As such, we wanted our productions to be on par at least with the tippy-top of minor league stadiums, if not major league ballparks. Plus, I came to the Trash Pandas from the only MiLB team that had all its home games available on cable television, so I wanted to accomplish that here too.”
Sternberg’s team had discerning criteria for the cameras and other equipment that would power their production operations, and even switched systems integrators during the project to ensure their goals would be met. “We wanted a professional-grade product that was going to look great on television, and also provide high quality for archival purposes. The equipment list from our initial integrator didn’t seem to align with our objectives, so Conference Technologies Inc. (CTI) in Atlanta took over the project. CTI recommended Hitachi cameras, and after doing our own research, we agreed they were our best bet.”
The Trash Pandas ordered five Z-HD5000 cameras in early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the entire 2020 minor league baseball season. As a result, the team played its first home game in front of the new cameras in May 2021. Four of the cameras are stationed in fixed positions: behind home plate, center field, and near first base and third base at the ends of each dugout. The fifth is equipped with an ABonAir AB512 wireless transmitter and operated handheld for promotions, capturing footage of fans in the stands, and scenic shots for the broadcast.
The Trash Pandas video team produces two shows simultaneously with the same crew and equipment. The first is for in-venue fan engagement through Toyota Field’s 65-foot by 25-foot Daktronics HD main display and 30-foot by 4-foot ribbon display, while the second production is for broadcast. In addition to the live streams on MiLB.tv, the Trash Pandas achieved Sternberg’s goal by becoming only the second minor league baseball team – and only Double-A team – to have all of its home games on TV. Games are broadcast over the air on WAAY 31.6 “This TV” and carried by local cable providers including area leaders Xfinity and WOW! (WideOpenWest).
Sternberg notes that the Hitachi cameras’ ease of use has been beneficial in allowing the team to rapidly achieve its production goals. “This is not our camera operators’ full-time job, but they quickly got up to speed with using the Hitachi cameras quite well, even while juggling two shows at once,” he said. “I’m not sure other solutions would have had such an easy learning curve.”
Just as importantly, the cameras’ outstanding visual quality enables the team to impress even the most critical viewers among its fanbase. “Quality is definitely very important, as we live in an area where many people are technology-savvy and in tune with the technical aspects of putting on a production,” Sternberg explained. “We need to live up to their expectations, and to this point, our General Manager Garrett Fahrman, Vice President Lindsey Knupp and I believe we have done so.”
While Sternberg has plans to continue enhancing the team’s in-stadium experiences, the Z-HD5000s have already been key contributors to the Trash Pandas’ successful inaugural season. “Our experience with the Hitachi cameras has been very good, from the value they offer to the ease of use and the quality of the content we’re achieving with them,” Sternberg summarized. “We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
At Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Department of Athletics is relentlessly committed to providing great experiences for both fans and student-athletes. When the university upgraded its football venue with a massive new scoreboard in 2019, it purchased four Z HD5000 HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to enhance fan engagement while meeting the challenge of shooting high-quality video on the stadium’s distinctive playing surface.
The centerpiece of the technology refresh at the 30,200-seat Rynearson Stadium is a new 53-foot high by 29-foot wide Daktronics LED video display screen. The display overhaul was accompanied by control room and camera upgrades as EMU Athletics began producing in-venue football programming for the first time. Supplied by systems integrator AVI-SPL, three of the Hitachi cameras are deployed in fixed positions on tripods. The fourth Z-HD5000 is equipped with a Teradek wireless transmitter, enabling the camera operator to go into the stands and roam the venue.
“With the old video board, we just took an analog signal from the broadcast feed, and cut in occasional footage from older cameras,” said Greg Steiner, Associate Athletic Director, Media Relations at EMU. “We needed to enhance the in-venue experience, as when fans come into the stadium and watch our video board, their expectations have been set by what they see on television. We strive to provide unique on-site opportunities that fans can’t get at home, while also delivering what they already expect to see from TV.”
Steiner notes that the Hitachi cameras do an exceptional job capturing games in EMU’s unusual football environment. “We’re one of only three FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools that don’t play on a green field, and the only grey field at the Division I level,” he explained. “Getting a good picture against it can be tough with other cameras. Grey can get washed out really fast if you don’t have high-quality cameras and the ability to dial in directly to the true colors. The Z-HD5000s handle it very well.”
The newly-acquired cameras are EMU’s second Z-HD5000 purchase, joining four units acquired in 2013 – and still going strong – that are dedicated to the university’s 8,000-seat Convocation Center. In addition to driving in-venue video board shows for the EMU Eagles’ basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics events in that arena, the earlier cameras have been used on more than 185 live broadcast productions for the ESPN+ streaming service as well as university events such as graduations.
Together, the new and earlier Hitachi cameras also provide valuable, hands-on video production experience for students in the school’s Communication, Media & Theater Arts (CMTA) department, as well as students enrolled in other programs but interested in sports production. “We have higher-end equipment in Athletics than they may use in their own courses,” said Steiner. “Working on our productions lets them earn internship credit while getting experience on broadcast-class equipment that they may eventually use professionally, and they get to put on their resume that they worked on productions for ESPN+. That helps them get work for the major networks once they graduate.”
EMU has been very satisfied with the visual quality provided by the Z-HD5000 cameras, as well as their durability in students’ hands. “You know what you’re going to get every time you turn them on – great clarity, accurate color reproduction, and the ability to dial them in from the control room exactly as you need,” praised Steiner. “To know that they are forgiving enough with students is also a big selling point. Some of our college counterparts use more prosumer-level equipment and it breaks down much faster, so their turnover of gear is much faster than ours.”
Beyond the technical benefits of the cameras, Steiner lauds the possibilities they have enabled for the school and its students. “I cannot say enough great things about the opportunity that working with Hitachi cameras has presented us as a university and as an athletic department,” he said. “Putting these cameras in students’ hands lets us deliver an opportunity for their personal development while creating a program that lets us showcase our student-athletes to our fans. Hitachi Kokusai has been a great partner throughout the process to deliver exactly what we needed in terms of video.”
Virginia-based Boitnott Visual Communications (BVC) provides turnkey design, staging and live production services for corporate meetings and special events across the United States. When the company upgraded its camera technology last year to meet increasing client expectations, they chose Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to deliver the visual quality gains and operational benefits they sought.
BVC serves clients ranging from small businesses to large Fortune 50 corporations and organizations such as the Richmond Forum, which hosts high-profile events featuring speakers including past U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state, and leaders from the sciences, arts, and business. The premium nature of many of its projects makes the quality of its productions extremely important.
“Clients like the Richmond Forum are very particular about the quality of their events and related video productions, as they should be since their attendees are paying for the experience,” said A. Keith Sturtevant, video department head at BVC. “Another of our clients, a financial services company, is also well known as a technology leader, so they want top-notch quality for their live event video even if it’s only for their own internal use.”
“We were using LED walls not only as a main source of IMAG display, but also for backgrounds,” said Sturtevant. “The Z-HD5500 was able to handle that setup, so the LED wall wouldn’t play havoc in the background of the video. Hitachi Kokusai is also a well-known player in the live event space with a great reputation, and you get a great camera with a lot of features for the price. It became pretty much a ‘no-brainer’ at that point.”
BVC purchased three Z-HD5500s from DVG alongside upgraded flypacks that also feature a Ross Video main switcher; a Blackmagic Design secondary switcher for streaming; AJA distribution routers and recorders; and Behringer audio mixers. BVC typically deploys the Hitachi cameras and flypacks for larger live events with audiences ranging from 2000 to 5000 attendees, where the equipment powers large IMAG (image magnification) displays and recording for archival purposes.
The Z-HD5500s immediately delivered the quality boost that BVC was aiming for. “The Hitachi cameras have performed wonderfully,” said Sturtevant. “They provide nice, clean, crisp, bright images and great color reproduction even with just the default settings, and regardless of which video walls we’re shooting against.”
Sturtevant also noted that the Z-HD5500’s SMPTE fiber connectivity has simplified setup compared to the multi-cable requirements of BVC’s previous cameras. This combines with the cameras’ ease of use to speed on-site setup. “The new cameras have reduced our setup time, and we can now go into larger venues without cable length challenges,” he explained.
The improved visual results have also been noticed by BVC’s clients, which ultimately is the most important benefit. “Our large clients were very excited to see us step up our game, and they are impressed with the picture quality compared to our old cameras,” Sturtevant concluded.
Hollywood Sign Trust collaborates with Council District 4 and the City of Los Angeles to bring Hitachi high definition camera images of the iconic Hollywood Sign to viewers.
The Hollywood Sign Trust today announced that new high definition cameras have been installed to provide viewers with enhanced images of the Hollywood Sign when they log onto the Sign’s official website, HollywoodSign.org. The Trust worked with Council District 4, CD4 Councilmember David Ryu and the City of Los Angeles to install the newly developed Hitachi DK-H200 HD cameras, which are designed to ensure quality images in a wide range of lighting conditions.
Engineered to provide an excellent user experience, the Hitachi DK-H200 is not a typical webcam. The DK-H200 cameras feature 2.6 million-pixel, native 1080p60 CMOS imagers, with greater than 1100 TV Lines of resolution, to provide quality performance especially in remote observation applications like the Hollywood Sign. Skylight Media, which supplies a range of systems integration, production and engineering services to the entertainment industry, installed the new cameras.
Hollywood Sign Trust Chair Mark Panatier noted, “It’s often said that some things get better with age. As the historic Hollywood Sign approaches its 100th birthday, the Hollywood Sign Trust is upgrading its website cameras to ensure that the Sign is always ready for a close-up.”
The Hollywood Sign was originally installed as a giant billboard for a real estate development (Hollywoodland) in 1923. Today, the Sign is a universal metaphor for the place, industry, lifestyle and aspiration known as Hollywood –and stands as one of the world’s best-known monuments. Panatier added, “Many visitors see the Sign in person while hiking the trail to Mt. Lee. The Hollywood Sign Trust wants to be sure that the view of the Sign on the Internet is just as good for visitors thousands of miles away. Now everyone can see the historic Hollywood Sign more clearly than ever.”
“Hitachi is pleased to partner with the Hollywood Sign Trust and supply an exceptional visual experience for its fans around the globe,” said Kenneth Cyr, sales manager. “Few landmarks are as well-known as the Hollywood Sign and by partnering with the Trust, Hitachi has gained a new audience for our technology.”
About the Hollywood Sign Trust
The Hollywood Sign Trust is a 501(c)3 nonprofit trust responsible for physically maintaining, repairing and securing the Hollywood Sign; providing capital improvements for the benefit of the public at large; and educating the world about the Sign’s historical and cultural importance. More information about the Sign's history and the Trust can be found at: www.hollywoodsign.org.
Nā Leo TV (NLTV) is the Hilo Hawaii Public, Education and Government (PEG) broadcaster. NLTV expanded its coverage to include more sporting events, it chose Hitachi SK-HD1800 cameras to elevate the quality of its productions and meet the rigorous demands of live sports.
NLTV delivers programming to citizens across the island through three cable channels, its website, and a mobile app. “We wanted to start producing more live events such as high school sports…” said Matt Cordero, production manager at NLTV. “Our president wanted a higher quality standard, and we needed cameras that would respond well in low light and could zoom all the way down a football field.
“Our previous cameras also required tons of cabling – including separate video, communications, and power – that was cumbersome for field use,” he continued. “I wanted the simplicity of a single SMPTE fiber cable for each camera, the higher quality of 2/3-inch sensors, and the ability to use longer, B4-mount lenses.”
Oahu-based Da Crew Production and Engineering Group arranged a side-by-side comparison between three major camera brands. “I liked what I saw with the SK-HD1800,” Cordero recalled. “Watching on broadcast monitors and multi-viewers, some people couldn’t see the difference between it and more expensive competitors, and the rest of us pointed to the Hitachi camera as having the best quality.”
NLTV purchased four SK-HD1800s and started using them in their studio and field productions in late summer of 2019. The cameras travel around the island in the station’s 24-foot production trailer, which is stored next to the 18-foot high, 50x25 foot main studio. This lets them use the trailer as the control room when shooting in the studio. NLTV purchased five Fujinon lenses – three 22x, one 14x super-wide, and one 99x box lens for sports productions.
In addition to being pleased with the SK-HD1800’s overall visual quality, Cordero has been impressed by the camera’s performance in poor lighting conditions. “The Hitachi cameras’ low-light handling has been awesome,” he said. “A lot of our high school stadiums aren’t very well lit, but we’re able to run the cameras at 6dB gain or less and get very good-looking results.”
The setup simplicity and ease of use of the SK-HD1800 has also proven beneficial for NLTV. “As a public access station, we utilize a lot of volunteers – including high school and college students – who may not understand all the technology,” explained Cordero. “I also like how the structure and language of the menus are essentially common sense, rather than needing to dive into too many different buttons and submenus to get at the features I’m looking for.”
While social distancing cut short NLTV’s spring sports season and temporarily reduced the number of productions in its studio, station staff are enjoying the improvements the SK-HD1800 cameras have delivered. “They have enabled us to take on more types of production projects and have enhanced the quality of our programs,” Cordero concluded. “Everything looks much better with these cameras, and people have noticed the difference in our broadcasts.”
Cameras’ “wonderful picture quality” and easy operation continue to shine as live event specialists shift to remote productions amidst physical distancing restrictions
When Los Angeles based Don’t Wonder Productions purchased its own broadcast cameras to minimize rentals just over a year ago, they chose four Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to meet the rigorous quality and turnaround demands of live events. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause the cancelation of in-person gatherings, the versatile cameras have helped Don’t Wonder pivot to new business opportunities producing high-caliber remote event streams.
Specializing 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.
“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 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 color 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 studio with only a couple of people in the building. The video switcher and sound console are all remotely controlled.
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 summarized. “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.”
The University of North Alabama (UNA) is home to the NCAA Division I North Alabama Lions. When the university’s Athletics department needed to upgrade and expand its video production capabilities in preparation for ESPN+ streaming broadcasts, it purchased four Z-HD5000 HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to meet its goals.
After competing in NCAA Division II, the school accepted an invitation from the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) Conference to transition to Division I. With the move came the requirement for the school to begin broadcasting their games on ESPN+, which necessitated a significant overhaul of the Athletics department’s production operations.
Eddy Forsythe, athletics broadcast/video coordinator at UNA said “We needed to upgrade all of our production equipment, from the cameras to the switcher and graphics system to properly represent our Athletics program on EPSN+.”
“I had used Hitachi cameras many times throughout my 33 years in the broadcast industry before coming to UNA,” he explained. “They were always very good products, and very durable. I knew I could count on Hitachi cameras whenever I needed them. I just fire a Hitachi camera up, and it works.”
UNA’s four Z-HD5000 cameras are now used to cover baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball matches. In addition to ESPN+ broadcasts, the cameras feed large video boards within Flowers Hall to drive fan engagement, as well as recording footage for highlight reels and melts that are sent to the ASUN conference office.
Forsythe praises the Z-HD5000s’ exceptional ease of use as valuable, particularly with his frequently changing crew of student volunteers. “Most of our volunteers are not in a related program, but just kids who want to learn the business,” he explained. “The learning curve on these cameras is next to nothing. I can take a new student volunteer, and within five to ten minutes I can turn them into a camera operator.”
Further aiding that ease are the cameras’ consistency and minimal maintenance requirements. “Once you sent them up, you don’t need to keep adjusting them; just turn them on, and they’re ready to go,” described Forsythe. “I don’t even remember the last time I had to adjust the white balance except when we move them between venues.”
“We’re very pleased with the quality of our resulting productions – it’s second to none,” he said. “Of course, with cameras, the picture quality always comes back to lighting. For a daylight football game or in our LED-lit gym, the quality is just beautiful, and the Hitachi cameras handle low-light situations such as evening softball games”.
Overall, the department’s equipment upgrade and new streaming outlet have elevated both their production results and the university’s public exposure. “Using the Hitachi cameras in our mobile production trailer has improved the quality of our productions, while broadcasting our games on ESPN+ has given us nationwide recognition,” summarized Forsythe. “We’ve always had a very good athletics program here at the University of North Alabama, but when we put our product out there on ESPN+, now we’ve got folks all across the country watching. That’s pretty sweet, and the Hitachi cameras are a key part of it.”
Chelmsford TeleMedia (CTM) provides public access television for the town of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, located 24 miles northwest of Boston. In addition to serving its own government and educational channels, CTM’s 35-foot, Gerling-built OB truck is also used for Minor League Baseball games for the Lowell Spinners, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. When the station upgraded its cameras late last year to improve its mobile productions, it selected Hitachi Z-HD5500s to deliver the quality and features it sought.
When CTM first built its mobile production truck three years ago, the budget restrictions common to non-profit organizations forced them to start with older equipment and upgrade it in phases. While their existing cameras were already HD, CTM was unhappy with the video quality they produced. Because the older cameras were not studio grade, they lacked many features the team wanted such as return video and tally. In December, CTM purchased four Z-HD5500s.
CTM chose the Z-HD5500 model out of Hitachi Kokusai’s extensive broadcast camera offerings because of its native 1080p support. While the truck’s current Broadcast Pix switcher is only 1080i, CTM has plans to replace it, and they are already feeding 1080p60 video into their Ross Mira instant replay system. The Z-HD5500’s compatibility with standard 2/3” lenses was also a significant benefit over the 1/3” limitation of their previous cameras, allowing them to rent or borrow additional lenses as projects require without needing adapters.
“We wanted to get the best bang for our buck, while future-proofing ourselves to get a long lifecycle out of the cameras,” said Tom Peterson, production engineer at Chelmsford TeleMedia. “Going with a well-known industry standard like Hitachi Kokusai also helps our ability to earn revenue by renting the truck to external clients. “We love the quality of the image the Z-HD5500 produces, and as a true studio camera, its rich feature set offers us a lot of flexibility.”
The Hitachi cameras’ superior visual quality proved immediately evident in CTM’s productions. “The picture quality we get from the Z-HD5500s is incredible,” praised Peterson. “The color reproduction is far better than our old cameras, and the skin tones are amazing. Ironically, the first time we shot a basketball game with the new cameras, the flaws in the gym – such as peeling paint – really stood out. Even though our old cameras were HD, they couldn’t see that level of detail. The difference is night and day.”
The Z-HD5500s have also enabled CTM to overcome lighting challenges at both ends of the spectrum. “At concerts, we often have hot spots from student-focused lighting and instruments without diffusion,” Peterson explained. “Being able to remotely shade the Z-HD5500s from the truck has made the complete system work much better. Conversely, our theater productions are often very darkly lit. With the Hitachi cameras, even under dark conditions we get a good-quality image without it getting grainy, and because we don’t need to increase the black level or setup, the picture doesn’t wash out.”
The Z-HD5500s’ ease of use has also been beneficial, as CTM’s productions are primarily crewed by students and volunteers. As studio cameras, operators have found the Z-HD5500s significantly easier to set up than the truck’s old “mix-and-match” approach and very easy to work with. The large, high-quality studio viewfinder has been particularly advantageous for sports production.
“We always tell students that the most important piece of equipment is the camera, as that’s where it all starts,” summarized Peterson. “Bringing in the Hitachi cameras has drastically improved the quality of our productions. We believe the best result is when people react to a change, and viewers have commented on the difference. The Z-HD5500s have been really great for us, and I look forward to the future of our productions with them.”
Event production companies are increasingly embracing the visual clarity of 4K Ultra HD video for creating stunning in-venue displays. When Vista Productions equipped their first mobile truck to support their evolving needs at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) and other locations, they purchased six Hitachi SK-UHD4000 4K UHD cameras to enable the outstanding image quality and versatility they needed.
Founded in 1982 and headquartered just south of Kansas City, Missouri, Vista Productions provides live event and video production services nationwide for clients including Fortune 500 companies, private firms, non-proﬁt institutions and entertainment venues. Now in their fifth year of providing image magnification (IMAG) for the AMP in Rogers, Arkansas, Vista found themselves outgrowing their allocated production space within the 9000-seat outdoor theater. The company purchased and began outfitting a 53-foot production truck – tentatively named Genesis – that would operate from the back lot of the venue for concerts and travel to corporate events between concert series. At the same time, Vista began researching 4K cameras to support their expanding resolution goals. “4K is very practical for us, as our primary focus is not broadcasting,” said Mick Warnock, founder of Vista Productions. “Our goal is getting a live image from a meeting or event onto large local screens, which is much simpler than broadcasting 4K. We wanted to design a purpose-built system that would stay in the 4K domain all the way through to the displays, and could downscale for recording or other HD needs.”
Vista’s transition to 4K was further motivated by the AMP’s new 14.5 foot wide by 26 foot high LED screens. The resolution advantages of 4K acquisition are ideal for supporting the displays’ vertical orientation, allowing video to be center-cut for the screens while preserving visual fidelity. Warnock found the SK-UHD4000s to fit the bill perfectly.
“The HITACHI 4K cameras had all of the features we wanted, and were also affordable,” explained Warnock. “The AMP’s new displays support high dynamic range (HDR), so with the SK-UHD4000s we can have a 10-bit, 4K, HDR signal path all the way through the production and output chain. Besides their inherent 4K capabilities, we were also attracted to the cameras’ ability to simultaneously output HD signals, allowing us to do switching and IMAG in 4K while recording HD for other applications.”
While all six SK-UHD4000s are available as needed for corporate events, Vista typically deploys a trio of cameras for concerts at the AMP. Two fixed-position cameras with long lenses are stationed in the audience roughly 200 feet from the stage, providing coverage of the entire performance while enabling a variety of wide and close-up shots. The third camera is deployed hand-held on or in front of the stage, depending on the preferences of the entertainers. For events such as symphony performances, a fourth camera shoots from behind the orchestra towards the audience, capturing the conductor.
Since first deploying the SK-UHD4000s in June, Vista Productions has used them for both 4K concert productions and high-definition corporate events, and has been very impressed in both scenarios. “The image quality of the cameras is just amazing, even in HD mode,” said Warnock.
Bolstering this stellar quality is the cameras’ exceptionally low visual noise, which is particularly significant for the dramatic and varying lighting often used during concerts. “At a corporate event, I can control the lighting and what the camera is going to see,” Warnock elaborated. “In a concert environment, the tour staff sets up the lighting, and it’s often designed more for audience effect than to be camera-friendly. I need to create a great picture even when it’s dark on stage, which may mean increasing the gain. Unlike our old cameras, I can now turn the gain up significantly and still see no noise.”
Warnock also lauds the focus-assist capabilities of the cameras’ nine-inch studio viewfinders as being very beneficial – noting that focus is even more critical in 4K productions – along with features such as the SK-UHD4000’s intercom integration support and remote motorized filter wheel control. “It’s obvious that Hitachi Kokusai has thought everything through, and understands the issues production crews face,” he said.
Of course, the most important measure of the cameras is the resulting video, and again, the SK-UHD4000s deliver on their promises. “With the combination of the HITACHI cameras and the new LED screens at the AMP, people 300 feet away at the back of the audience can see tight shots as vividly as if they were looking at a TV set in their living room,” Warnock praised. “It’s that clean and that clear, and an absolutely beautiful picture. That was our goal, and the SK-UHD4000s enable us to achieve it.”
At the University of Toledo in Ohio, the Department of Communication provides students with practical, hands-on video production learning experiences while creating live in-venue programming and ESPN3 streaming broadcasts for the school’s Athletics department. The department relies on HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to provide high-quality image acquisition for its productions, most recently adding four Z-HD6000 studio and field cameras for the university’s football stadium. The University of Toledo is a student-centered, public metropolitan research university with over 23,000 students. The school’s Toledo Rockets compete across 15 NCAA Division I sports in the Mid-American Conference.
“I like the HITACHI cameras because they’re reliable, they make great images, and they’re very competitively priced,” said John Eidemiller, executive producer, ESPN3 and athletic video productions at the University of Toledo. “In my experience, to buy a camera in the same class from another major manufacturer costs a lot more money.”
Supplied by systems integrator Duncan Video, the Z-HD6000 cameras provide video for in-house productions on the stadium’s 40-foot wide video board and TVs throughout the venue. Three of the cameras are stationed on tripods, while the fourth is operated handheld on the sidelines. All four are connected via fiber to CU-HD500 camera control units in the control room over cable runs of more than 1000 feet each, with MultiDyne SMPTE-HUT transceivers converting between SMPTE fiber and Tactical fiber for transport over the stadium’s existing single-mode fiber infrastructure.
Between football seasons, the stadium’s handheld Z-HD6000 is also used as a fifth camera on the department’s mobile production truck, complementing four HITACHI Z-HD5000s permanently assigned to the vehicle. The truck’s cameras are used in varying fixed-position and handheld combinations depending on the particular sport or event being covered, which include soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, swimming, and non-athletic activities such as concerts and commencements.
Eidemiller highlights the image quality produced by the HITACHI cameras as exceptional. “I really like the way the HITACHI cameras look right out of the box,” he explained. “The color, saturation and contrast all look great. That superb quality really stands out when we produce ESPN3 broadcasts in our basketball arena.” The durability of the HITACHI cameras has proven similarly impressive.
“The cameras are primarily used by students who have extremely varying levels of competency and experience,” said Eidemiller. “The HITACHI cameras handle abuse very well, and have withstood some pretty severe conditions in the field. Even the decade-old SK-HD1000s we use in our classroom studio are still going as good as the day we bought them.” Eidemiller also touts the valuable educational benefits that the cameras have enabled. “The HITACHI cameras let us expose students to broadcast-quality equipment at a cost that we can afford as a university,” he said. “As a department, our focus is not only getting students successfully through the program, but getting them out with jobs. Last but not least, Eidemiller praises the customer service the university has received. “There are a lot of good products out there, but Hitachi Kokusai has been awesome in terms of taking care of us and going above and beyond,” he explained. “We love the HITACHI cameras, we’ve had great experience with them over the years, and we love the support we get from the company.”
As experts in delivering world-class corporate events and conferences, Sardis Events often works in production environments with dynamic lighting and background conditions that can be challenging for video cameras. When the company expanded its video equipment roster to support rapid business growth, they purchased three Z-HD5500 studio and field production cameras to provide the exceptional image quality they were seeking.
We owned 1080i cameras from a different manufacturer, but as we got busier our jobs started overlapping a lot more,” said Nate Aguilar, technical director at Sardis Events. We found ourselves renting additional cameras and equipment a lot, and it reached the point where it made sense for us to ‘go big’ and build a second camera, switcher and routing system of our own. We wanted fiber connectivity to go longer distances, and we wanted to upgrade to 1080p so it would look great on big screens and for webcasting.”
The ability of the new cameras to handle LED-based backgrounds was also critical to Aguilar. “We do more and more LED video walls as backdrops on stages, and we needed cameras with global shutter sensors to acquire video without the visual artifacts that LED displays can cause,” he explained. “We read that the HITACHI Z-HD5500 was optimized for challenging LED environments and natively 1080p, so it sounded like a great fit. Then we saw it in person in front of an LED wall, and it looked unbelievable. Finally, the cost-effectiveness of the camera was also in the equation, as it lets us be competitive on the price of our services while still offering a great-quality product.”
Sardis deploys the Z-HD5500 cameras on tripods, handheld or on a jib depending on the needs of each project. The cameras are connected via fiber to HITACHI CU-HD1200 CCUs mounted in one of two pre-wired racks. One rack houses the CCUs, camera shading controls, shading monitor, recorders, scopes, and Ross Carbonite Black Plus switcher frame, while the second rack hosts the switcher control surface and primary monitoring.
For Aguilar, the most important benefit of the Z-HD5500s is the quality that they deliver. “My number one thing is how good the cameras look right of the box, without even doing any painting,” he praised. “Plug them in, do an automatic white balance, and they look amazing. You can always fine-tune them with the controller, but in a run-and-gun setup where all you have time for is auto-white, they consistently look great.”
Aguilar also notes the cross-rental opportunities with companies Sardis partners with. “We have vendors who own HITACHI cameras, so it’s easy to cross-rent, and it’s really easy for us to integrate the rentals into our respective projects. I hope to add more to our inventory in the future to further support that aspect of the business.”
“Nobody has to talk me into buying more HITACHI cameras,” concluded Aguilar. “I would love to add more of them, and they’re at the top of our list as we expand or cycle out our other models.”
When the athletics department at New York’s Binghamton University seized the opportunity to stream 30 of its men’s and women’s NCAA Division I basketball games over ESPN3, it deployed four Z-HD5000 cameras to provide the high-quality video acquisition required by the network.
With an agreement between the America East Conference and ESPN bringing live streams of all of the university’s basketball matches to the online service, the athletics department needed to upgrade its production capabilities to meet ESPN3’s guidelines. “Our existing equipment wasn’t up to the task,” said Dave Van Gorder, video production and multimedia coordinator for Binghamton University Athletics. “We needed to create broadcast-quality video, and our earlier cameras were not capable of that. The HITACHI cameras are a huge step up from what we had previously, and the difference has been definitely visible in our productions.”
Two of the Z-HD5000s are deployed on tripods in high-center positions at the Binghamton University Events Center, providing a wide ‘game shot’ and a tight ‘hero shot’. The other two cameras are used in shoulder-mount ENG configurations on the arena floor, most commonly with one below each basket.
With the cameras typically operated by student volunteers, the Z-HD5000’s ease of use has proven very beneficial. “The HITACHI cameras have enabled student operators to get great shots with just minimal instruction,” explained Van Gorder. “We’ve had more than 20 students using them over the course of the season. While we try to provide training in advance, sometimes students have had less than an hour before game time to familiarize themselves with the cameras, yet we still got good results.”
Beyond their operational simplicity, the cameras have also proven quick and straightforward to deploy for each game. “It’s really easy to put everything together, configure them and set them up,” said Van Gorder. “I can have all four cameras set up and ready to go in under an hour.”
“The Z-HD5000s have been great tools for us, and as a department we are very pleased with the results,” summarized Van Gorder. “The cameras are just part of creating the final packages that are our ESPN3 broadcasts, but it’s meant a lot to our department that we can now put out such high quality productions, and ultimately that starts with the HITACHI cameras.”
Hitachi’s SK-UHD4000 cameras represent the first phase of an end-to-end 4K video infrastructure upgrade, along with Christie projectors. New World Symphony (NWS) is an orchestral academy based in Miami Beach. The multi-format capabilities of the Hitachi cameras will allow the NWS production team to operate the cameras in 1080p HD mode until the remaining infrastructure is upgraded to 4K.
The seasonal WALLCAST™ concerts, aim to attract and engage new audiences for classical music. Projected live on a 100x70-foot section of the building façade, spectators enjoy a mix of unique performances from NWS the open air space of the adjoining SoundScape Park. The performances, which take place inside New World Symphony’s performance hall, will be captured by 12) SK-UHD4000 cameras and delivered to the Christie system for live projection. An immersive audio experience powered by more than 100) Meyer Sound loudspeakers complements the stunning video simulcasts.
New World Symphony President and CEO Howard Herring notes that the HITACHI cameras excel in low-light environments. “We bring video, music and theater together in our orchestral presentations,” said Herring. “A major advantage of the HITACHI cameras is the ability to capture all of these elements in low light. This will allow us to make our WALLCAST™ concerts more vivid, theatrical, sophisticated and intriguing for our 3000-plus attendees at every performance. While the moviemakers of the world regularly shoot in low light, this is not yet commonplace in the orchestral world. The ability of these cameras to pristinely capture images of the performances in the theater as they happen will make these events that much more powerful.”
“When we started down this 4K path, we were not only looking for machines or products; we were looking for partners,” Hitachi Kokusai has been especially smart and creative in helping us achieve our goals. We now have a partner to help us build on our technical foundation.”
Enlighten Digital of Orlando worked closely with New World Symphony to test, evaluate and design the system. Rob Ross, president of Enlighten Digital, notes that the HITACHI SK-UHD4000 was selected after three intense shootouts with several competitive cameras. “The SK-UHD4000 is a whisper-quiet camera—extremely important when capturing live orchestral performances, and this camera excelled against the competition,” said Ross. “In a concert hall with dramatic performances, it often comes down to one pinpoint light in a pitch-dark hall. Upon testing a recorded 4K signal magnified to 400 percent in a very dimly lit room, the Hitachi SK-UHD4000’s still looked impressively pristine, with no noise in the blacks. That was a big deal. And to me, one of the most amazing things you’ll see.”
FlipTV Mobile provides outside broadcasting truck rentals as well as full production, graphics and post services. FlipTV Mobile fills a market need for smaller OB vehicles that deliver the same production quality as large trucks, but are cost-effective for regional networks and lower-division college sports.
FlipTV Mobile’s first OB vehicle is a 30-foot truck named “Captain.” In selecting equipment for the truck, the top priority was quality followed by cost-effectiveness, as our goals required building the truck without breaking the bank. Having worked with Hitachi Kokusai cameras with one of their clients, FlipTV knew they would meet their objectives perfectly, delivering stellar image quality with no compromises at an affordable price point.
FlipTV Managing Partner, Marcelo Capuchinho said, “We equipped Captain with six Hitachi SK-HD1300 studio/EFP cameras connected via either SMPTE fiber or single-mode fiber. The Hitachi cameras’ 2/3-inch, 2.6 megapixel MOS sensors and digital signal processing give us a fantastic-looking picture, while their native 1080p/60 signal handling gives us the flexibility to shoot in 1080p, 1080i or 720p. The quality isn’t just great for their price point—it’s great quality, period. At a recent event, a larger OB company could not see a difference between the video acquired by the SK-HD1300s and that from more expensive cameras.
The SK-HD1300’s design and form factor also offer operational versatility, from handheld shooting to studio applications with robotics. It’s a great feeling when you always know that you just connect the cameras, and everything works. Hitachi Kokusai customer service has also been outstanding. While the cameras haven’t required any service, their support team has always been easily accessible when we’ve had any questions.” Marcelo went on to say; “As FlipTV Mobile grows, we will expand our use of Hitachi cameras. We are currently building our second truck, the larger and expandable Major, and plan to equip it with another array of SK-HD1300s. For small companies like FlipTV Mobile to be competitive against larger, incumbent competitors, we need affordable equipment that delivers results equivalent or superior to the highest-end solutions. Hitachi SK-HD1300 cameras give us exactly that.”
With their newest mobile truck, “Exclamation”, TNDV has stepped up its commitment to large-scale UHD/4K production.
TNDV is located in Nashville and has six fly-packs, a production studio and post-production suites. TNDV’s eight mobile trucks deliver major live events using up to 22) Hitachi cameras. The top-of-the-line SK-HD1300 cameras were added to their fleet of over 40) Hitachi cameras for shooting high-action sports and entertainment events. Exclamation’s infrastructure and equipment systems are fully capable of future UHD/4K productions with up to 20 cameras. It currently carries 12) SK-HD1300s on board at all times. Exclamation is the first to offer full 1080p production and monitoring support with 24 fps (frames per second) capability and the ability to support 4K productions upon request.
TNDV owner Nic Dugger, says he can rely on the ruggedness and reliability of Hitachi cameras. “One comment I continually hear is the superiority and accuracy of the black levels which are rendered naturally without any further video enhancement functions. Hitachi never sacrifices when it comes to the engineering side. All system components and performance on Hitachi HD cameras are on par with any other competitor’s camera with a far more attractive price point. We do broadcast events seen on multiple networks virtually every night and the Hitachi cameras give us another powerful production tool for stunning image acquisition.”