NAB Perspectives: Sony’s Shapiro on OLED’s Potential for Dominance and 3D Advances

Sony’s NAB booth is dominated with new camcorders, 3D gear, and advances in 4K and HDCAM-SR recording options but it is the thinnest of products, reference-grade OLED monitors, that Alec Shapiro, Sony Professional Solutions of America senior vice president, points to as the biggest game changer today. And for good reason: it’s the first flat-panel monitor that can truly lay claim to the CRT monitor crown for reference work.

“We’re really pleased that, for the first time in a long time, a professional monitor is the hit of our show,” says Shapiro. “It’s only the first month of the fiscal year and we are already close to making budget for the year based on the number of OLED monitor order we have taken. It’s been a resounding success.”

For remote production service providers the new OLED monitors could be a viable replacement for tube-based monitors. “The new monitors have great color reproduction, accurate color matching, and incredible blacks and contrast,” adds Shapiro. “The whole world is excited about monitors again.”

The popularity of the OLED monitors could be a strong sign of the popularity of other future products like high-quality cameras.

“In a world that moves beyond HD what is the point of higher-quality cameras if you can’t accurately see what is being produced?” he says. “And the size is great for trucks,” he says of the 17- and 25-inch form factors

Also important for the sports community, says Shapiro, will be the 3D camcorder based on two ½-inch CMOS sensors that will be available later this year for $33,000.

“It gives the ability to replace two cameras in a rig for certain shots in a live shoot with a high quality that will be the equivalent of two Sony P1 cameras in a 3D rig,” he explains. “But it’s much more portable so it will find a very happy home in 3D production.”

The new camcorder won’t mean an end to seeing Sony cameras in 3D rigs from other manufacturers. It is simply another step in helping the production side of the industry become comfortable working with 3D, something Shapiro says could take three or four years if current comfort levels with HD production are the goal. For example, current HD productions allow freelancers and crew members to show up hours before the show and set, shoot, and strike. That will not be a reality in 3D for a while although progress is made on a weekly basis courtesy of one company.

“Frankly, not enough credit is paid to ESPN for the refinements that they have made in 3D sports [since last June],” says Shapiro. “Even between three holes of The Masters coverage there was a world of difference between last year and this year. It’s significantly better and ESPN deserves the credit for a phenomenal amount of time and energy to try and figure out to replicate the type of coverage they do in 2D in 3D.”

Another tool that is impacting 3D (and beyond) is the MPE200 processing unit. Not only will it help with calibration of 3D cameras and conversion of 2D signals into 3D but it also, in about a year, will have a stitching feature that Shapiro says could find a sweet spot in college and high-school sports. The system will allow for two or three unmanned cameras to be placed along the sideline or baseline of an event and then have the different images stitched together to give the appearance of being one single image.

“There are two trains of thought for stitching,” says Shapiro. “One is using 4K cameras for 3D and the other return on investment is using it for college and high-school sports for streaming video coverage of virtually any kind of event. It’s still a good year away and needs some further development depending on the application but there is a lot of interest in stitching.”