NAB Reflections: Blackmagic Design’s Bob Caniglia on New ATEM Switcher, Plans for 4K, HDR, and IP

ATEM TV Studio Pro 4K switcher is well-suited for sports production

Although the new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K stole much of the spotlight at Blackmagic Design’s NAB 2018 booth, the company’s new ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K live-production switcher was the biggest announcement related to sports production. The all-in-one switcher (available now, priced at $2,995) features eight independent 12G-SDI inputs, a built-in Fairlight audio mixer, and an ATEM advanced chroma keyer. Other big Blackmagic news at the show included the new Blackmagic MultiView 4 HD multiviewer, the DaVinci Resolve 15 software update, and a range of updates to several converters.

During the show, SVG sat down with Bob Caniglia, director, sales operations, North America, to discuss the new products that debuted in Vegas, how Blackmagic has evolved as a company, the company’s roadmap for HDR and IP, and more.

Bob Caniglia, Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic always arrives at the NAB Show with a parade of new products, but what would you say is the biggest announcement here specific to live sports production?
The new ATEM TV Studio Pro 4K is a big one for us. It’s our most powerful switcher but not our largest switcher. It has eight inputs, but they’re dynamic inputs: no matter what you plug in, you can get whatever standard you want out. In a mobile situation, where sometimes you pull into places and they have camera feeds that may or may not match what you want to do, it’s a great way to avoid having to do other conversions. I think that product has been well-received by that [sports market], and it’s one that people have been asking for.

Combine that with the Ursa broadcast [camera] that we brought out a couple months ago but are showing at NAB for the first time. It has the camera fiber back for SMPTE fiber, and it’s very similar [to] other offerings in that space and how they perform. It’s just at our lower price point, which opens it up for more people.

We have a camera controller for that, too. That hasn’t started shipping, but we announced because we wanted people to know that we understand we need a physical, tactile CCU. The camera with a B4-mount lens and the camera fiber back [is priced around] $9,500; it’s without the lens, but that’s a price point that’s very aggressive. Multiply that by three or four cameras, and you see a really sophisticated [production] at a very reasonable price point. I think people in the college-sports area and those kinds of [customers] are going to be very impressed.

In that vein, Blackmagic has always been known for extremely aggressive pricing. How do you think your reputation has evolved over the years in the broadcast market?
I think, at this point, we have proved ourselves to make high-quality products in addition to their being cost-effective. Cost-effective is our middle name, but I think that trust increases every year, as people rely on us more and more and we continue to deliver the goods.

We continue to evolve. We bring in other companies and technology, like Fairlight Audio and Ultimat. We spin them up, and we [use] their technology throughout our products: there’s a Fairlight Audio engine in the new ATEM switcher, for example.

Are you seeing more demand for HDR-capable tools, and, if so, how is that reflected in your latest products?
We are definitely seeing interest. We added HDR playback on our HyperDeck Studio 12G recently. We have new HDR tools in Resolve for Dolby Vision as well as HDR10. Our cameras are all high dynamic range by design. And our new Cintel Scanner is going to do HDR passes for film. We’ve been early adopters.

As people are producing 4K content, we believe, they are going to want HDR, too. We have a lot of tools for HDR right now. Obviously, the big one is in Resolve because that’s where the processing gets done.

What about 4K? have you seen interest plateau recently or continue to grow?
People are realizing that 4K production doesn’t have to be transmitted in 4K, but it’s still worth it for many reasons. If you’re hitting large displays like a stadium or Times Square, you have to do 4K. A lot of people are also buying the 4K products because they feel like they’re future-proofing themselves: they’re doing HD today, but they are ready for 4K when it’s time. And, even though our price points are pretty aggressive, it’s not so much about the money as it is about not wanting to disrupt your infrastructure to move up to 4K in a few years. They can have 4K now or later.

One of the biggest themes at NAB 2018 has been the rise of IP now that the initial suite of SMPTE 2110 standards has been approved. What is Blackmagic’s IP roadmap moving forward?
We have the Teranex IP product that converts SDI to IP and vice versa, and we sell those already. But most of our live-production [products] work great in SDI. Early on in 4K, it didn’t look like you could get very far with SDI, but, as they build better cables, we’re getting the same lengths that we were in HD. Between that and SMPTE fiber and things like that, the length issue isn’t really there anymore. But we do sell those boxes for organizations trying to leverage IP and still use our [products].

But have you seen much customer demand for IP-enabled products yet?
Not really. I think that’s because the cost of some of that IP equipment is really [prohibitive] to our customers. But, as I said, we did build a couple IP products to see how the market reacted, and that is where we are right now. But that’s not really our space right now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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