SVG Sit-Down: Sony’s Mikio Kita on Transformative Technologies and a Cloud-Based Future

Acquisition of Nevion enhances remote-production solutions

Mikio Kita, VP, media solutions, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions, and the Sony team around the globe had an eventful 2020 and 2021. There was the acquisition of Nevion in September, which brought in transformative technologies, continued developments around cloud-based services, and, of course, the use of digital cinema cameras in live sports broadcasts. Kita recently sat down with SVG to discuss the changing production environment, Sony’s evolution, and more.

Sony’s Mikio Kita: “Gradually, the HD type of [live sports] production is going to be on the cloud.”

Looking back at 2020, what were some of the big changes that impacted the media industry the most?
First, there was the increased need for remote solutions. Due to the influence of the COVID-19, the need for remote and distributed production is increasing at production sites across the globe. Many large-scale events took place remotely, without or with a limited audience, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, and this is where Sony’s remote-production solution has shown its strength and effectiveness.

Sony’s solutions offer a way to collaborate, share resources, minimize travel and contact, and have fewer personnel onsite for greater efficiency and effectiveness, while still offering a high-quality production. This transition and mentality will have a lasting impact on the way productions are achieved moving forward.

Additionally, we’ve seen a growing need for fast, efficient, and effective workflows that leverage cloud-based solutions. More than ever, having productive discussions with our customers and partners is helping us all to support one another and overcome these unprecedented circumstances. We firmly believe our solutions inspire professionals’ creativity, and we always want to hear their voice and feedback, which encourages us to keep innovating.

What are some of the core strengths and key areas that you’ll be focusing on in 2021?
The key area is, of course, the strength of our cameras, switchers, and hardware, but I would like to emphasize that the key focus is IP technology. And Sony’s IP-based solution offers integrated optimal experience for the customers. We continue to bring to market new offerings for every type of broadcast production, allowing producers and companies to work effectively and safely in tighter space or remote. They can share resources — such as equipment, facilities, and even staff — across locations in real time, getting the best of the team’s experience and creativity.

And then there is the cloud as well. So it’s a combination of hardware, IP, software, the cloud. And we have also been working on integrating AI technologies for advanced remote solutions and more-efficient workflow.

It’s all part of our corporate technology theme this year, which is 3R technology: reality, real time, and remote. We will continue development of the camera technology and switchers, but, on top of that, we acquired Nevion, and the entire wide-range network-architecture design is now ready from Sony Nevion.

What does Nevion mean for your workflows and technology?
Nevion is a Norwegian technology company that is providing media-network infrastructure solutions to broadcasters, telecommunication-service providers, government agencies, and, of course, other industries. Their solutions are [increasingly] based on ST-2110 IP and cloud technology, and they enable transport, processing, monitoring, and management of professional-quality video, audio, data in real time, reliably and securely.

Nevion’s solutions are used to power major sporting and live events across the globe, and we have been working very closely with them for several years. Last September, we acquired 100% of the company. And now, as venues and facilities are connected via WAN or LAN, we can control them, share resources, and make remote-production concepts happen.

We fully understood that the last important technology piece is SDN, software-defined–network technologies. And Nevion’s SDN technology fully controls the COTS IP suite, regardless of which manufacturer it is.

So, the acquisition ties directly to our 3R technology and further solidifies Sony’s commitment to IP and leadership in the space.

How do you see your remote-production solutions creating new business opportunities for you?
As our solutions move to the cloud and data-center type of resource-sharing, our customers can move from capex model to opex and pay-as-you go type of model. In the case of the very high-end sports [coverage], like 4K or UHD, where very large bit streams are necessary, we will still need a hardware-based and on-premises type of solution. But, gradually, the HD type of production is going to be on the cloud.

Sony cinema cameras are being used in sports. Are you surprised to see those cameras deployed in those sorts of applications?
Yeah. Sony has been at the forefront of a new trend in live sports production, in which broadcast companies are keen to utilize cinema camera, like our VENICE, in handheld gimbals and capable of shallow depths of field shooting on the field during the game. It’s also about after the big play: [the shot of] the player’s expression in shallow-depth-of-field pictures is very impressive.

That trend will continue, and the larger sensor and the great auto-focus technology of our camera gives the content a great cinematic look, which viewers are appreciating now. We are really enjoying the new trend and offering our cinema cameras.

Do you think there’s a new opportunity for a new type of digital cinema camera, which has more live features, if you will?
Yes, I think so. The customer must be satisfied by the operational side of the cinema workflow.

Sony has such a great reputation for hardware. Is it hard getting the message out about Sony’s software and cloud efforts without an NAB Show or an IBC?
That’s true. We are very strong hardware company. But I believe the combination of hardware and software has been gaining currency from the industry over the years. For instance, Sony has delivered an IP-based production system to more than 120 customers, and the solution contains many hardware products, like cameras and vision mixers as well as many software layers with the Real Live Element Orchestrator or LSM software-based solution. It’s controlling all the equipment, orchestrating by the software.

That is another reason the Nevion acquisition has a big positive effect. We think camera connectivity to the cloud is very important, and we are starting to show that type of solution as well and receiving a good reaction.

We are selling both hardware and software, and I strongly agree that combination provides an end-to-end solution. And we will continue to update our software/cloud technology and capabilities.

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