SVG Sit-Down: Ikegami’s Kashimura on New 4K Unicam, the Promise of 8K

As interest in live-4K-production tools builds, Ikegami is looking to position itself with the development of several products, including the Unicam UHD 4K-native three-CMOS -in. camera unveiled at NAB 2015 and highlighted at IBC2015. The company also moves toward a live-8K-production ecosystem by developing tools for Japanese broadcaster NHK’s Super-Hi Vision format, including the SHK-810 8K camera. In addition, Ikegami recently completed a new 8K mobile unit for 8K Super-Hi Vision productions of sports and entertainment content.

SVG sat down with Naoki Kashimura, director of the board/division director of R&D, Ikegami Tsushinki, to discuss the company’s commitment to 4K, the evolution of the live-8K-production market, and how the maturation of IP-based technologies can drive both ecosystems forward.

Naoki Kashimura shows off Ikegami’s awards.

Naoki Kashimura shows off Ikegami’s awards.

How has the live-sports-production market reacted to the release of the Unicam?
Europe has been conservative so far [regarding] 4K, but some customers, especially OB-van companies for sports or music, are very excited about this 4K camera. And also, they are keen to have a ⅔ version because a cinema 4K camera is not very good for sports because of the shallow depth of field.

[Several] OB-production companies for live sports [reacted] positively, but, for the studio environment, there has not been much interest so far. OB-production companies need a ⅔-in. solution. It [allows them to] use conventional lenses as well as the new 4K lenses. Plus, form factor is the same, and they can use it as an HD camera if they wish.

How has Ikegami contributed to the evolution of live 8K production in recent years?
We developed the first HD TV camera in 1983 as a joint development with NHK. Twenty years later, in 2003, all cameras were HD in this country. We developed the first 8K camera in 2001. Twenty years later [will] almost be 2020, which is when the Tokyo Olympic Games take place. So this is our target: 8K mass production in 2020 when NHK [launches 8K Super-Hi Vision broadcasting].

We have developed several 8K cameras. The first generation was 80 kg, second generation was 40 kg, and third generation was 20 kg, which was used for the London Olympic Games, World Cup soccer in Brazil, and many other sports events. Then we launched the fourth generation, [which is the SHK-810] handheld.

We continue to develop 8K cameras only for NHK so far. But, at IBC, some customers were interested in 8K, especially wealthy [customers] in the Middle East.

Do you foresee a market for 8K beyond NHK in the next few years?
Yes. The [SHK-810] will be in Rio [for the 2016 Summer Olympics], and it will be used for the Ikegami 8K OB van. We are targeting 2018 for real 8K production. We hope to have more demand and more quantity from NHK.

Honestly, most of the demand will be coming from NHK in [the short term]. But, if the 8K technologies are more compact and have lower power consumption, then some customers will be using this camera as a solution for high-end 4K. They will use the 8K camera and downconvert to 4K. This is our main target so far. The three-chip ⅔-in., full-function, full-resolution camera is usable for 2K, 4K, and, in the future, super-resolution technology [that is the equivalent of] 6K.

Can 4K and 8K coexist in the coming years, or will one take over the other?
Our technical target is 8K because, if we are targeting 8K technology, then we can improve the 4K camera. In fact, we developed 8K faster than 4K. We launched the 8K camera before the 4K camera. We believe, by 2022, all formats will still exist. The 8K camera will be using a bigger image sensor, meaning it can’t use ⅔-in. lenses without getting shallow depths of field. Even an 8K production in many cases is still using a 4K camera and upconverting. They use the 4K and 8K in combination because our current 8K camera also has a 4K output.

The NAC/Ikegami Hi-Motion II ultra-slo-mo camera system has been extremely successful in the sports market. What is planned for the next Hi-Motion ultra-slo-mo camera?
We are working on it, and it should be 4K-capable, but there is no timeline yet. Next NAB, we won’t announce the next generation; it will be after that.

How is Ikegami looking to embrace HDR in future camera releases?
Currently, we are targeting a 4K camera, so we will be launching a new 4K camera at [NAB 2016]. And, hopefully, it is capable of HDR. The last few years, we have been working with Dolby [on HDR]. We made some demonstrations with [Dolby] because, at the time, only Dolby had announced HDR. And now several standards exist, and, at IBC, NHK and BBC announced a new system. So we will probably [adopt] that system instead of Dolby.

HDR on the camera side can is not so difficult; it is just a matter of a quick update and also the capability of the sensor. And we are actually developing HDR monitors.

But, for the system [as a whole], HDR is much more complicated.

How do IP-based systems play into all this?
There are several interfaces we are discussing for the 4K interface. Using a quad link with four cables is not attractive. In the future, we will likely use 12-Gbps [connectivity] for the baseband systems. But much of the European market and maybe some U.S. customers prefer IP. So we have a slot inside so that you can choose IP or 12 Gbps for baseband. And, if the customer needs 8K, then, in the future, you can use an 8K super-resolution converter. Of course, you can choose a 2K downconverter.

Are you seeing more interest in IP-based tools for OB production?
There are two cases for IP. One is just [that] the interface is IP. Another one is remote production, where a CCU to the system is far away. We are very excited about this type of production. So far, Japanese broadcasters have not liked IP; they don’t trust IP right now. But, maybe in two to three years, they will be testing that. [I expect there to be] some trials for IP remote production in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Since there will be so many venues, remote production would be a nice way to connect them. 2020 is a big year for the broadcasting of 8K, and some of the venues might have 4K and HDR as well.

Does Ikegami plan to adopt the 4K/high-speed licensing model for its cameras that Sony and Grass Valley have introduced on their recent camera releases?
We are not sure yet about the licensing. If you can get the 4K camera, then maybe we can work with you on some software licensing. It’s a big marketing issue. All Japanese domestic customers will be using cameras for 2K for the time being, so the license strategy will be attractive to them. We are looking at it but have no plans right now.

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