Authored by Hitomi Hamaba, Product and Marketing Lead Cloud Solutions, Sony
Camera connectivity might just be the number one priority for time-stretched journalists in the field. Hitomi Hamaba from Sony argues that integrating camcorders directly into modern cloud-based news workflows, can make planning and execution faster and easier when the pressure’s on to get stories to air.
In today’s multiplatform world where viewers have a virtually limitless choice of round-the-clock news outlets on offer, any delay getting to air isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s likely to mean losing viewing figures.
From phones and fitness trackers to drones and smart speakers, connected devices are everywhere. But despite this, there are still few professional camcorders that can fit the job for news teams that include wireless connectivity as an integral feature.
An exception to this rule is the popular Sony Z280 that can stream broadcast-quality Full HD or 4K video over wired or wireless networks. Otherwise, most pro cameras remain stubbornly unconnected without the addition of accessories – something that feels like an anomaly in today’s always-on IoT (Internet of Things) era.
So why should wireless connectivity matter to news crews today? The most obvious answer is speed.
When a reporter grabs their camera and rushes to the scene of a breaking story, they’re already facing a challenge: getting that footage back to base so editing teams can start building the story. And if the studio is a lengthy car ride from where the action’s happening, or even in another country, there’s going to be a long wait getting those precious shots stored on the memory card to where they’re needed.
Contribution of live or recorded content via a dedicated satellite link has been around for decades, but it’s a costly and technically cumbersome exercise that rules it out for most everyday journalistic purposes. With the advent of Wi-Fi and high-speed mobile broadband networks, however, there’s now a far more practical and cost-effective option for transferring content from camera to studio.
Getting those shots wirelessly to the studio in real time – or close to it – gives news teams a massive advantage, helping them complete a story and get it on air in just minutes rather than hours. Better still, if each camera clip is already married up with planning metadata from the Newsroom Computer System, editors can shave even more time off building the story ready to air.
Many broadcasters and news agencies rely for wireless connectivity on specialist backpacks worn by a camera operator or ‘solo shooter’ journalists. Heavy, bulky and often costing more than the camera itself, the pack enables connectivity from the field via either Wi-Fi or mobile cellular connection.
Of course, more hardware means larger capital expenditure and a larger fleet of assets to store, manage and maintain. And for a large broadcaster or agency that’s operating dozens or hundreds of cameras, it adds up to a very significant additional cost overhead.
US-based media group Sinclair Broadcast is deploying Sony’s C3 platform in an innovative cloud-based solution for news gathering and production. Working with Sony, Avid and broadcast workflow specialist Marquis Broadcast, Sinclair has slashed turnaround times with content delivery from the field over 5G cellular networks using Z280 handy camcorders.
Integrating connectivity into a portable camcorder means speed, convenience, and less kit to carry around – welcome benefits that any content creator can relate to. And while connectivity makes life easier for reporters and crews out in the field, its full potential is appreciated even more by planning and editorial teams back at base.
The value of a connected camera really blossoms when it’s fully integrated in today’s collaborative production workflows, as exemplified by Sony’s C3 Portal ‘Camera-Connect-Cloud’ platform.
As our article on the power of metadata explains, C3 Portal supports news teams through all phases of creating a story. This workflow extends from initial planning and preparation to orchestration camera resources in the field and managing the smooth delivery of content assets – together with their associated metadata – through to a broadcaster’s editing platform, Newsroom Computer System (NRCS), Content Delivery Network (CDN) or Media Asset Management (MAM) system.
In particular C3 Portal is a perfect foil for the Sony Z280 – the world’s first fully professional handheld camcorder that’s been designed around wireless news production workflows.
Arriving at the scene of a breaking story, all the reporter needs to do is switch on their Z280 and connect to the Internet. Mirroring the planned editorial list in the newsroom computer, the shot list and metadata relevant to that story – and to that particular camera – are automatically loaded from the cloud into the Z280, ready for action.
After shooting, clips are securely uploaded from camera to the cloud, all ready for ingest back at base. At this point much of the preparatory work for editing teams has already been done, with clips neatly tagged and dropped into appropriate folders. Low-resolution proxies are added to the editor’s timeline, allowing them to start crafting the story while high-res content is still making its way back to base. And when editing’s done, high-res material is relinked with the edited proxies – and the completed story’s ready for air.
While great looking content is always front of mind, camera connectivity is gaining traction as the pivotal tool for global news teams, amplified by the rapid advancements in cloud and SaaS solutions, such as the metadata planning tool C3 Portal. This progress brings a new, exciting era in journalism, one which is changing the very way broadcasters report and break the news.
A genuine innovation on its debut – and hugely popular today with news crews and content creators – Sony’s PXW-Z280 camcorder is a gamechanger in the race to be first to air. Light and compact yet lavishly featured, it’s a go-to option for journalists rushing to be wherever a story’s breaking. With a sensitive ½-type 3CMOS sensor that assures fantastic 4K HDR image quality, the Z280 stands toe-to-toe with much bigger, heavier handheld and shoulder mounting cameras. Complementing broadcast-quality pictures with the flexibility and convenience of wireless working, its presence at many top-tier live events is a reminder that the Z280’s talents extend beyond run-and-gun newsgathering.
The Z280 saves precious time for news teams and journalists in the field, streaming broadcast-quality pictures live over Ethernet, Wi-Fi or via a 4G/5G cellular dongle. Proxies and high-res files – including rich metadata associated with each clip – can also be transferred via secure FTP connection to servers at a broadcaster’s premises or in the cloud, allowing editors to start their work back at base while shooting continues. What’s more, the camera’s powerful QoS (quality of service) features can work miracles with spotty Internet connections, achieving the best possible pictures even when network bitrates are low.