SVG Sit-Down: Hitachi’s Katagiri, Nakamura on 4K, 8K, and the OB-Box Concept

Hitachi Kokusai made waves at IBC2014 and at NAB 2015 with the unveiling of the SK-UHD4000 4K camera. Since the camera functions standard with current ⅔-in. B4 broadcast lenses without an adaptor, Hitachi has seen plenty of interest from live-sports producers looking to future-proof for 4K without abandoning their HD infrastructure and investment. Since debuting just over a year ago, the camera has seen plenty of success in the sports market, including a 50-unit purchase by Gearhouse Broadcast, which has deployed the cameras at such events as the US Open and ATP Tour tennis.

In addition to its 4K efforts, Hitachi remains committed to developing 8K technology for Japanese broadcaster NHK’s 8K Super-Hi Vision (set to begin broadcasting in 2018) and introduced the SK-UHD8060 at NAB 2015. At IBC this year, Hitachi Kokusai Electric Turkey’s new OB-Box concept, which Hitachi is billing as a highly cost-efficient and flexible solution for OB production, also garnered plenty of attention.

SVG sat down with Hisashi Katagiri, senior manager, Business Strategy Center, Global Business Management Division, and Mitsuaki Nakamura, GM, Global Business Center, Sales Management Division, to discuss the sports community’s reaction to the SK-UHD4000 4K camera, its plans for 8K, and how the company is thinking outside the box with OB-Box.

How has the live-sports-production community responded to the SHK-UHD8000?
Katagiri:
We have had quite good response from our customers for the 4K camera. We have seen especially positive response from our broadcast end users. Our camera has been used on live sports events, like ATP Tennis and at the US Open and on sports events in Asia and also for live music.

hitachiWe see a great opportunity for 4K in the market. Gradually, since we launched the 4K camera, some companies have been following the method of using 4K [cameras] on standard HD events using B4-mount lenses. That concept is very good for [today’s needs], and we are seeing more broadcasters demanding this type of camera. The key is, this was developed especially for the live event use with B4 lenses. The depth of field is the main [advantage] for this camera.

We are seeing 4K as one of the major parts of production [in order] to cut out [an HD close-up image] for the HD broadcast. Because there is no transmission system for 4K broadcasts yet, there will be many kinds of workflows that need 4K [tools] but do not transmit 4K [to the home].

In addition 4K, Hitachi Kokusai continues to develop 8K-production tools for NHK’s planned Super-Hi Vision broadcasting launch in 2018. Can 4K and 8K co-exist?
Katagiri:
The 4K and the 8K strategies are different matters. We see both as [growth] markets. Also, on the technical side, we believe [broadcasters] will be using 8K technology downconverted to 4K in the future. From a production point of view, we will be moving forward [with both 4K and 8K technologies] in parallel — though I don’t know when they will [converge].

Hitachi highlighted the OB-Box concept at IBC in September? Can you describe it and how it serves live sports production?
Nakamura:
The OB-Box is from our sister company Hitachi Kokusai Turkey. At IBC, we had a very positive response from customers. The OB-Box is an OB van that is delivered to the customer and then [mounted onto a vehicle’s chassis]. This is much faster than [traditionally] building an OB van. European [customers] are very interested in an OB-Box because there are so many OB-van manufacturers in Europe and this is a very different kind of OB van. I think that market [for OB-Box] will expand, especially for smaller sports events.

The demand for middle-class OB vans will increase because the large vans are sometimes difficult to move around in Europe. Also, small or medium-class equipment itself is becoming more powerful, so that means the medium class will behave something like the large OB van: the same power but more compact. So we are expecting much demand for OB-Box.