March 2020 and as lockdown started it was all about getting better and better web cams. We saw how awful the Zoom interviews on the news looked, all blocky backlit shadows and up-nose shots. A simple LED panel light would make a huge difference, and these flew out of the warehouse. The LEDGO LG-E268C has been on my desk ever since, on a tiny light stand which cost me £5.
For video professionals stuck at home with top dollar equipment gathering dust, USB adaptors from Datavideo, Blackmagic, Inogeni and Epiphan could convert SDI and or HDMI into Zoom and Teams friendly webcams in seconds. We sold all our stock of those in a few days and they have kept selling throughout.
Likewise, any camera with a USB output was gold dust. The Panasonic AW-UE4 has this and built-in hardware streaming too. It’s really wide-angle lens means it can sit on your desk like a webcam and post pandemic can be used as a normal PTZ. The rise of Pan Tilt Zoom robotic cameras has tracked the rise of Zoom itself as the pandemic developed.
Later in the year Panasonic’s higher-end Lumix cameras like the GH5 and the Netflix approved S1H were given free software so they could be used as great webcams via USB. I’m using one of the new Lumix BGH1’s as a Webcam and it makes great looking pictures. It’s a box camera based on the GH5 sensor with USB 3, SDI, HDMI and ethernet, straight into any software which uses webcams. But it can also record 10bit 4:2:2 internally. If full frame loveliness is your online bag, then check out the new Lumix S5 with the 20-60 lens. This is the best bang per buck you will see from any manufacturer IMHO.
With one decent 4K camera you can make an entire streamed production with Datavideo’s unique KMU-200. This touch screen driven, portable production centre can stream landscape or portrait for your younger views, (who seem unaware that phones can be held landscape as well as portrait. )
As more and more Universities and Colleges needed to move lectures online our favourite Canadians at Epiphan had the perfect solution in the Pearl Mini and Pearl 2. These touch screen-controlled units record, stream, and automatically upload lectures to a network or online education-favourite platforms like Panopto and Kaltura. They can mix in remote contributions and add graphics. Probably the Pearls strongest feature is the ability to do all this whilst remaining very user friendly. As a result of this they are also selling well into corporate spaces too. Soon a Pearl Nano will join the team to make these clever boxes even more affordable.
Newtek’s NDI video over IP protocol has proved really useful for pumping video around standard IP networks, great for creating break-out rooms when splitting teams to aid social distancing. Initially the free NDI Tools let you use any NDI source as a webcam so it can be used in Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Later Teams added native NDI support so output can be seen as an NDI input, for remote contributions. We already had a number of NDI | HX cameras from Panasonic, Datavideo and Lumens, but the addition of BirdDog converters and PTZ cameras to our portfolio has added broadcast quality NDI with stupidly low latency. The BirdDog P100 covers all the bases with NDI, USB, HDMI and SDI output for the ultimate flexibility.
NDI is a great solution for Local Area Networks, but it’s not suitable for sending video over the internet which of course is what the pandemic requires. BirdDog Cloud comes in here. BirdDog Cloud probably isn’t the best name for what is effectively point to point control and monitoring of a BirdDog PTZ camera or converter over the internet. It works by converting the NDI to SRT. SRT - Secure Reliable Transport (or Satellite Replacement Technology as some wag named it) is perfect for low latency contribution. I tried this out on my laptop, and I could view and control a BirdDog PTZ camera in an office in Texas in the middle of the night, (with permission I hasten to add), I could even route the feed into a production chain. BirdDog have just added really subtle colour shading to their control to give all their cameras much higher-end matching abilities.
SRT is the key to lots of new distance workflows, and Teradek’s Prism is at the top of the pile, capable of sending multiple streams of 10bit 4K HDR SRT which is a hell of a trick! This has made remote postproduction in these Covid times possible. A colourist can send the result of a grade in real-time to a director at another location or even continent in full 4K HDR via the Teradek Core Cloud platform. The output can be seen via Apple TV on a 4K HDR Oled.
What we have seen at Holdan throughout the Pandemic is an acceleration of drift towards remote production. What Pre-Pandemic was cost-cutting is now life-saving. Yes of course I’m hoping for a swift return to ‘normality’ for all the industries Holdan represent, but I can’t help thinking that a little less travel than before might be a good thing for the planet my children will inherit, a portrait planet that is…….
13 Apr 2021
Holdan appointed by Atomos as the new distributor for UK and Ireland
07 Apr 2021
22 Mar 2021
St James's Church, Piccadilly, ready for live streaming
04 Mar 2021
University equips new studio to train next generation as part of major upgrade
4K HEVC encoding / decoding solution for next generation IP video workflows - 1 RU (Chassis Only)
4K HEVC encoding / decoding solution for next generation IP video workflows - 2 RU (Chassis Only)