SVG Sit-Down: New FOR-A America President Satoshi Kanemura on Company’s Role in Sports Production
He looks to build strong relationships with U.S. broadcasters
Earlier this month, FOR-A America appointed Satoshi Kanemura president of the company. In 35 years at Sony, Kanemura was a key part of the advance of technologies like 1080p, 4K/8K, and cloud-based production both within Sony and among its customer base. SVG’s Ken Kerschbaumer caught up with Kanemura via Zoom to discuss his new role and FOR-A’s position in the U.S. sports-production landscape.What attracted you to the position?
Even during my Sony days, we cooperated a lot with FOR-A as the two companies complement each other well. FOR-A has unique technology and is very much a technology-oriented company. And FOR-A also has the same philosophy as Sony, which is to grow their business alongside their customers. By the way, FOR-A is a Japanese name for the company, but FOR-A is also a Chinese character that stands for “grow a business together.”
FOR-A is not simply a manufacturer that produces a product, gives it to the customer, and says, “Please use it.” At FOR-A, they listen to the customer directly and then try to understand their workflow. From there, they determine the customer’s pain points so that the technology provides a true solution. Often, that pain point is cost reduction. As long as we can provide a solution that grows their business, they will come back to us. Also, by developing our relationships in this way, we receive candid opinions from our customers that enable us to produce a unique solution.
I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Interbee, the Japanese version of the NAB Show, the past couple of years. The FOR-A stand was very big, and the company has a strong reputation in Japan. Can you explain how that came to be?
FOR-A has a very good connection to Japanese broadcasters, such as NHK. NHK is a long-time customer of FOR-A’s and has been an invaluable partner, providing feedback as we develop new technology and new market initiatives. They describe to us, in detail, the main challenges that exist for live broadcasters and for sports producers in particular. In my new role at FOR-A, my challenge is to translate this progressive technology born in Japan to meet the current and future needs of our American clientele and also to build strong relationships with U.S. customers as we’ve done with NHK in Japan.
FOR-A is also very forward thinking, getting involved with things like 8K and UHD. What do you see as the opportunities those formats can create for FOR-A?
We haven’t yet defined where 8K technology will fit and contribute to our customers. We have the technology ready to go, but, currently, a bigger priority for us are things like IP, cloud APIs, and IP-based remote production. The SMPTE ST-2110 is a good standard, but there are still many other areas to be defined. And broadcasters need to be prepared for not only video and audio but need a working knowledge of networking, how to avoid hacking, and how to do things like software upgrades and patches. Our current priority is providing IP-based solutions for a step-by-step migration and even hybrid workflows.
How does the move to IP give you a chance to re-energize FOR-A here in the U.S.?
Major broadcasters like CBS, NBC, ABC, or Fox are starting to adopt IP. We’re well-known for our frame synchronizers and the type of technology that can be used to convert IP signals. So that is a good opportunity for us to get involved with major broadcasters and support their productions by solving the issues they face in terms of whole conversion and synchronization, as a first step.
What are some of the key technologies that you think people should know about?
We have an unbelievable camera that I saw in Japan, which is a 4K 1,000-fps ultra-slow-motion camera. I need to bring it to the U.S. and start doing evaluations with several customers to verify the application and any necessary fine-tuning. It has tremendous potential for creating a “new look” for creators. Another is the FA-9600 multipurpose signal processor that can do all the conversions, color corrections, and formats, so it combines everything into one unit.
And for college or high school sports, our switcher lineup is very cost-effective and easy to use: the operator can have the control panel at home and connect via IP to the processor located elsewhere. The switchers are also available with a web-browser panel that is easy to access and use. We also have an instant-replay system, which will be a good gateway for social-media streaming directly into Facebook or Twitter.