When Crewed caught up with Barnaby earlier this year, he’d just returned from the NAB Show in Las Vegas and DVT had just shifted into new premises. “Some years what’s at NAB is evolutionary, some years it’s revolutionary,” Barnaby said. “This year it was definitely revolutionary.”
Two things stood out for Barnaby – the arrival of HDR and IP video.
“Whether we’ve been looking at something on a cathode ray tube or an LCD screen, standards haven’t changed the quality of the pixel,” he says. “The brightness and the amount of colours we can pack into a pixel have remained constant.”
There are more pixels – four times as many to make the jump from SD to HD and four times more again as many to jump to 4K – but that’s just more. HDR delivers more and better pixels. “It puts a lot more information into those pixels,” Barnaby says, “so the reds and blues and greens are much closer to what the human eye sees, and it’s also about making those pixels much brighter and with a much greater contrast ratio than we’ve had in the past.”
But it’s not another fourfold leap in data, so HDR doesn’t require a lot of investment in more storage, faster storage, faster processors. What’s also good about it is that it isn’t a complete startover on gear. The major camera guys, ARRI, Canon, Sony, their software upgrades for several models have covered HDR.
It’s the same with the software you’ll use in post. The major systems – Adobe Premiere, Autodesk Flame, Da Vinci Resolve – all support HDR today.
The final part of the puzzle – now we can shoot 4K HDR and edit it and deliver it – is how do to get people to see it?
That’s not really the industry’s problem, that’s a challenge for consumer-facing hardware suppliers – and they’re all over it. If you’ve bought a high-end TV from a major manufacturer in the last six months, it’s probably HDR-ready. YouTube has introduced HDR support for its uploaders. The major online platforms, like Netflix, are also there. People can watch HDR content.
One day the free-to-air broadcasters will catch up.
IP video, delivering video across a wifi network, is another game-changer this year that’s having a major impact on production capability and cost. Until now, Barnaby says, you’ve had a camera and that camera has connected with a device, usually via a cable. If you’ve needed the feed from the camera to go to two devices that’s required more hardware, routers or splitters. If you’ve wanted two cameras to feed to one screen, same deal.
With IP video, any device that displays video can look at video from any source on a network. Having to deal with a lot less less cables, routers, splitters produces a far more flexible way to manage resources. It replaces all the hardware with a garden variety computer network,
Unless your job is selling that hardware, it’s a big win.
“We did some work in the Cook Islands recently, providing a broadcast solution for their national auditorium. The brief was the capacity to record, vision-mix from multiple camera feeds and to broadcast and live-stream. DVT created a studio, plus some fixed and remote control pan-tilt-zoom cameras.
There was also a requirement for some higher-end gear, which they’re using documentary style to capture people’s stories and create an archive of AV material. “It’s really important for communities to be able to do that,” Barnaby believes.
The reduction in hardware delivers a lot of flexibility – laptop-based solutions that allow for recording and playback across a range of formats over a network. On top of that there are software solutions for vision-splitting, mixing, streaming to services like Skype, converting formats, resolutions, frame ratios.
“One of our strengths at DVT is that we understand the process from end to end,” Barnaby says – from cameras and lenses through capture and DIT into post and out through encoding and delivery. “We understand the implications a decision in one part of the process will have elsewhere.”
Shoot on a iPhone if you wish, and DVT will help you understand the implications of doing that. (Crap sound, in layman’s terms.)
“We’re about solutions, helping clients create a workflow that’s efficient, productive and produces the quality of outcome they need. That’s important, especially for our corporate clients who’ll do soup-to-nuts jobs in-house.”
The internet offers choice – sometimes too much choice. You can find the good, the bad and the ugly of reviews for any piece of content and any model of any product. Which is another place DVT can be helpful, according to Barnaby. “We’ve got the experience to help you find the best solution for your needs – and to future-proof while you’re doing it.”
More video content is now being watched online via VOD services than via traditional broadcast. Free-to-air channels might have the largest single numbers of viewers but internationally the majority of people are viewing on their own timetables not the broadcasters’. NZ is lagging a bit behind that change, partly because of its limited high-speed internet infrastructure, although NZ On Air-commissioned research published earlier this year showed that TV is no longer the platform of choice for younger viewers.
“We’ve been around for a while, but we’re still constantly fascinated by what our customers do and want to do. It’s a constant joy to see what they’re coming up with.
“Honestly, they’re often trying to put square pegs into round holes, but we’ve got the resources and experience to be able to say, ‘Well, if you did it like this…’ and help them to achieve what they’re aiming for.”