In 2011, the next big thing was 3D television. When 3D fizzled out, the manufacturers latched onto 4K. But some are now betting their R&D funds on 8K, skipping the prospects of 4K before it even happens. What’s a mobile truck vendor to do with all the uncertainty about formats?
Nic Dugger, owner of TNDV in Nashville, learned his lesson in 2011 when he rolled out Aspiration, a new SD/HD/3D mobile unit. It didn’t take him long to see that the 3D element would at best play a nominal role in his future productions.
So how is an industry player like Dugger approaching 4K? By creating customized a la carte technologies within temporary, cost-effective packages. Essentially, he waiting out the format war.
“The 4K message was inescapable at NAB, and for good reason as the technology itself has arrived,” said Dugger. “However, with 3D we learned that nothing is assured. In reality, we are still in a lull between HD and what’s next. We think it is 4K, but from deeper conversations with vendors it’s clear that the research and development dollars are moving into 8K. And there remains the possibility that 1080p production could pick up the slack in the meantime.”
Based on this uncertainty, TNDV is betting on custom-built flypacks while also remaining fluid infrastructure-wise across their five mobile production trucks. The need for mobile systems is growing, but the ability to customize flypacks and trucks means lower costs and more options for clients, Dugger said. His strategy is to keep his own company’s investment costs manageable until a clear next-generation format emerges.
This approach is most noticeable to clients through TNDV’s increasing integration of 4K cameras into productions, whether for custom flypacks or the company’s mobile trucks.
Recent examples include a live shoot for the ABC Television program “Nashville,” which incorporated Red Epic 4K digital cinema cameras for concert performances that were a central part of an April episode’s storyline.
TNDV also recently incorporated Canon C300 digital cinema cameras into several live event productions, including Madonna and Amnesty International concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Dugger kept his costs low by renting these and other 4K cameras as required, and integrated them within traditional 1080p HD production architectures to maintain reliability, redundancy and flexibility.
“We’re giving our clients that want the advanced capabilities of 4K acquisition the creature comforts they deserve across the rest of the workflow,” said Dugger. “By bringing in multiviewers, the director of photography realizes how powerful their productions are when they can monitor all 10 of their cameras.
We’re providing a high-end matrix intercom system akin to what would be found in a top-of-the-line HD production truck structure. And we’re providing a rack of Aja KiPros for backup recording, timecode-locked with audio, in the event of issues with the 4K media.”
The ability to remain flexible through trucks and flypacks also allows TNDV to scale for each show, designing each system around camera counts, switching inputs and other varying technical specifications.
“We’re quickly moving away from the days of relying on a fixed list of components and specifications, especially as we await the true arrival of the next big thing,” said Dugger. “I would rather my clients express their needs and allow TNDV to make it happen, presenting custom working solutions tailored for each show. This is really about a la carte TV production.”