When Worlds Collide

At first glance, it seems an incongruous pairing. Imagine shooting a live worldwide broadcast with a dozen RED EPICs, perhaps two handheld Canon EOS C500s and an ARRI ALEXA on a jib arm. Why would you attempt such a thing? The production parameters of live television are generally about as far away from digital cinema production as you can get. Shooting in a digital cinema camera style, even with multiple cameras, generally means photographing multiple takes of the same scene, covering a scene from multiple angles, with the actors or talent repeating the actions and dialogue, so the scenes can be seamlessly cut together.

Live television generally takes the opposite approach, covering a single scene with as many as 50 or 100 cameras for huge live events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, or more commonly, with five to 10 cameras for a typical live show shot on a soundstage. The two approaches are pretty much diametrically opposed to each other—live television generally involves covering an event as it occurs, trying to cover as many angles at one time as your budget allows.

Walking the floor at NAB 2014, RED displayed two of their new DRAGON cameras utilizing the Nipros LS 4K system. But why? Regardless of the logic, 4K seems to be a unifying force between the two different production styles when it comes to camera systems. Traditional television gear, while evolving, generally changes at a much slower pace than digital cinema cameras. While there are existing 4K studio camera systems offered from various manufacturers, the systems have a tendency to be quite expensive, and the product life cycles tend to be slow so that customers can amortize their considerable investment in studio camera systems, camera control units, switchers and other gear without having to upgrade to the latest and greatest each year. Digital cinema gear isn’t constrained by these factors. New 4K digital cinema cameras are hitting the market on an almost monthly basis, driving down costs, size and weight, and increasing new features and innovations in sensors in a bid to gain market share. There are also new lenses and lens technologies that are making it possible for single operators to keep their shots in sharp focus at all times.

The LS-850 Base Station provides essential inputs and outputs needed to support 4K cameras.

THE DIGITAL CINEMA LIVE TV CAMERA

In case you’re not familiar with Nipros (www.niprosam.com), it’s the product brand of Nippon Video Systems Co., Ltd., of Japan. Nipros is a company that has jumped into the 4K cinema camera-to-television business headfirst. Their LS 4K system basically turns a freestanding 4K digital cinema camera, like a RED, ARRI ALEXA, Sony F55 or Canon EOS C500, into a fully integrated live television camera. There’s much more involved in this process than you might think, so let’s break it down.

A digital cinema camera usually needs a power supply, usually an onboard battery, and a way to record its signal, usually onboard, but sometimes tethered to an outboard recorder. The camera operator and/or first camera assistant pulling focus usually have one or two small onboard monitors, and the camera usually sends a monitor signal to a DIT who may or may not be adjusting image settings as the shoot progresses. The camera typically supplies a feed to the director’s monitor. Usually, audio is recorded to an outboard recorder and synced to picture in post. This is generally the extent of the connections required in a digital cinema production workflow.

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