The switch to file delivery, growing demand for 4K and the launch of local TV kept demand high for kit suppliers this year.
It has been a diverse year for kit suppliers and resellers, with not just the intro duction of new cameras and codecs to contend with, but also high-profile sporting events like the Commonwealth Games and Wimbledon. The adoption of fi le-based delivery was the icing on the cake.
One constant and familiar driver for sales, especially in cameras, is the rising pixel count. “Clearly, the rise of 4K has had a huge impact on the industry and a lot of purchasing decisions continue to be based around that,” says CVP group managing director Mark Forth.
“Supporting that, we have enhanced codecs – Sony’s XAVC is rolling out pretty much across the whole range, and Panasonic has AVC-Ultra. There’s a massive move to provide 4K in one guise or another at every level from prosumer right up to high-end broadcast, and across a wide budget spectrum.”
“Because of the impending explosion of 4K broadcasting, people have been reluctant to invest in something that might need to be upgraded in the next 18 months,” says Gearhouse Broadcast sales manager Kevin Fitzgerald. “Over the past year, a lot of people have been continuing to use established cameras such as the Hitachi SK-1200.
“No one is quite sure how UHD is going to play out. The Hitachi SK-UHD 4000 has both 4K and HD outputs, so when the time comes, you can start outputting 4K. This is massively important for anyone investing in a camera.”
According to CVP group managing director Mark Forth, small-formfactor camcorder units such as Sony’s PMW-200 and JVC’s dual-codec GY-HM650E have become popular in the run-and-gun arena.
“So too have more modular offerings such as the C100/300/500 from Canon,” he adds. “DSLR remains strong, with the Canon 5D MkIII making an impact.
“For drama and high-end feature production, Alexa and documentary unit Amira are popular, along with the Sony F55,” he adds. “In the middle, there’s been a lot of stuff in the pipeline, and I think people have been hedging their bets to see where the best value versus specification lies.”
Visual Impact sales director Tim Sparrock feels that many products have been overshadowed this year by the launch of the Sony PXW-FS7, partly due to its facility to support the XAVC codec. As a result, the FS7 has been one of the most popular cameras among Visual Impact customers.
“XAVC allows acquisition of 4K images with manageable data rates,” Sparrock explains. “The FS7 offers on-board 4K recording, good ergonomic design and a great price point compared with the Canon C300.”
During a year that was dominated by ITV and Channel 4’s shift to file based delivery, Sony hammered the final nail in tape’s coffin when the manufacturer announced in October that it would stop selling its 1/2-inch VTRs and camcorders in 2016 owing to what it described as “the global trend of migration towards file based operation”.
Production & Post
“There have been more new broadcast set-ups this year with the launch of the local TV initiative,” says Jamie Allan, solutions & business development manager, media & entertainment, at Jigsaw24.
“This has led to a requirement for cost-effective TV studios that can stand up to the quality of output of the major players. Many local TV outfits, including Notts TV, have opted for the NewTek TriCaster system, coupled with Avid’s iNews system. The TriCaster provides a huge amount of features in one box that would normally require multiple high-value systems, such as virtual studios, social media integration and an integrated Skype platform called TalkShow.”
On the audio post side, one big success story has been Avid’s S6 console. Reseller Digital Garage has stacked up the orders. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest in the Avid S6 [right] after we made its first sale in Europe to Films at 59 in Bristol,” says managing director Michael Whelan. “Films at 59 has gone on to roll out a number of S6 consoles over the year. In fact, our Avid business as a whole has continued to grow and we’ve been incredibly busy.
“Over the past year, we’ve also seen many more third-party vendors embrace the Avid ecosystem and start offering integration for the first time.
“The Avid Everywhere vision is really starting to bear fruit, with new collaborative workflows that enable our clients to deploy best-of-breed complementary third-party tools in their organisations.”
Whelan has observed a greater focus on media asset management and LTO tape archive solutions within the Digital Garage client base: “Products such as Strongbox from Crossroads and StorageDNA are helping them manage and protect their media through the production process, and by proving incredibly secure deep archives of material.”
The passing of the file-based delivery deadline set by the Digital ProductionPartnership (DPP) also provided a boost for resellers, and Jigsaw24’sAllan says most major facilities are now geared up with multiple systems to provide the digital master formats now being accepted for broadcast.
“Even ahead of October’s DPP deadline, there still wasn’t much cohesion on software and hardware that would pass broadcasters’ acceptance,” he says. “There has been a lot of expensive trial and error for a lot of these guys to get their workflows 100% compatible.”
VFX and finishing
There’s a different focus for resellers of VFX and finishing kit, which deal with facilities working on high-quality, high-budget broadcast projects.
“It’s a case of getting more efficient, adopting 4K and being able to cope with multiple camera formats in the most cost-effective way,” says XTFX sales director Jim Totman. “Flame Premium sales are going well, with a number of companies replacing their Avid DS kit with Flame Premium – Molinare, Big Bang, LipSync to name a few. Films at 59 has bought a second Flame in Bristol, essentially to do 4K work.
“We are also seeing Quantel Pablo Rio making an impact. Both Coach House and Dragon DI have invested in Pablo Rio 4KO, which fits in well with an Avid workflow.”
Totman observes that, after being on the backburner for a few years, there is more investment in infrastructure with a major move to 10GbE networking.
Escape Technology marketing director Neil Kalsi also says business is booming: “We are selling a lot of storage solutions from Pixit media and working very closely with HP on Haswell [Z Series Workstations]. We’re working closely with Nvidia on its GRID solution and we are starting to sell quite a few really meaty bespoke machines for GPU rendering.”
Clients are scaling up, fitting out entire studios, rather than selling kit and software piecemeal. “People are coming to us more and more as a one-stop shop,” says Kalsi.
One success story has been Milk VFX, which soon after its launch brought in Escape to build a VFX pipeline in preparation for its work on Doctor Who. This comprised kit including Quantum Scalar i40 libraries, HP Z Series workstations, a Supermicro render farm and VFX software licences from the likes of The Foundry, Side Effects and Autodesk. Escape has subsequently been used this year on Hercules, 24 and Sherlock series three.