SVG Sit-Down: Panasonic Connect Execs Discuss Evolution of KAIROS, Moving to the Cloud, Latest Studio and PTZ Cameras

Customers’ specific needs drive development — particularly in live sports production

NAB 2023 was especially busy for Panasonic Connect, which unveiled a studio camera, outdoor PTZ camera, touchscreen controller for its KAIROS live-video-production platform, and low-cost switcher — just to name a few. In addition, Panasonic expanded cloud capabilities for KAIROS through the Global Live Control Room, developed in partnership with LiveX.

SVG sat down with three key leaders from Panasonic Connect: Michael Bergeron, senior category manager, advanced technology, video production; Jim Jensen, senior category owner, PTZ and remote systems; and Chris Merrill, group manager, KAIROS; to discuss how Panasonic is reacting to a rapidly changing M&E market, where the company is headed in the future, and several of its key announcements at NAB:

How has the KAIROS platform evolved in recent years, and how does this evolution represent Panasonic’s embrace of the cloud?

Michael Bergeron

Bergeron: It’s a capstone to a lot of major changes that we’ve made — both in the way we’re approaching technology and in the spaces in the market that we’re entering.

[When introduced,] the KAIROS platform was primarily a full-function production switcher that shifted from an all-hardware approach to a product that was more software-driven. [KAIROS] was also going after markets that we hadn’t approached before. [Previously], we had some small 1M/E switchers, but we hadn’t provided a full-function switcher in the U.S. before, so we were [pursuing] some bigger projects, especially in sports.

Over the past couple of years, because we now had a software-driven platform, we got a lot of requests asking [whether] this can run on the cloud. We quickly learned that what people needed in the cloud was not a switcher; what they needed was an entire control room. We worked with some key partners, like Virtual Video Control Room and LiveX, to be able to deliver a full production-control–room solution. Today, we can deliver a full end-to-end control room In the cloud with our Global Live Control Room. We’ve done some proof of concepts, and we’re seeing where the advantages are and where the applications are.



How do you see the next-gen KAIROS platform and Global Live Control Room impacting the live-sports-production market specifically?

Chris Merrill

Merrill: I think we all recognize that there are some specific use cases where pure cloud [solutions] work well in sports, but, for the most part, what [customers] want is a hybrid scenario. [KAIROS] is a very flexible production platform that can be used in a variety of ways. It has the capability to give you distributed access to users, but its strength is really its ability to adapt — whether that’s SDI, IP, or cloud. You have the capability to flex between those or use them all at the same time.

In a venue today, there are three shows happening at the same time: the venue show, the broadcast show, and the digital show. Typically, those are three separate teams. KAIROS allows you to do those all at once from the same equipment. Because of the way KAIROS is built, it doesn’t have a typical M/E, constrained bus setup. You don’t have to do a lot of stacking and reentry and those kinds of things. You can use its resources in multiple ways and divide them between different people and teams. It gives you a lot more flexibility, especially for live sports.

One of the most exciting things for me personally as a new arrival at Panasonic has been seeing the power and versatility of the platform in action. Can it be a screen manager? Yes. Can it be a broadcast switcher? Yes. Can I talk to a professional TD and have it meet their requirements? Yes. Can I talk to an intern and have them just do certain low-level functions? Absolutely. That level of flexibility is unique in my experience and allows us to better match solutions specifically to needs.



What’s the latest in terms of real-world deployments for these new cloud-based workflows?
Bergeron: We’ve done several proof of concepts where everything is 100% in the cloud as part of our “begin with the ending in mind” [philosophy]. In introducing that to the wider market, one of the first things we’re doing is offering VVCR, which has the ability to bring in, route, and orchestrate SRT streams from other cloud sources and from remote cameras. You can bring those up and down with all the SRT inputs and outputs that KAIROS has always had. So our first step is a hybrid approach, which we think we can do this year.

Once everything is in the cloud, that’s when you can put the switcher there for some applications. We certainly can do that today, but we don’t think that’s going to be the use case that people need right away.

One of the biggest announcements from Panasonic this year has been the AK-PLV100GSJ 4K studio camera. Tell us a bit about its development and the market’s reaction.
Bergeron: It’s a 4K studio camera with a PL lens mount and 5.7K Super 35mm sensor that has ST 2110 connectivity.

We are responding to holes in the market and creating new tools that people need. In this case, the use of a Super 35mm PL mount for all kinds of applications has become pretty much universal — everywhere from sports to churches. I think one thing that holds it back is the difficulty with configuring these rigs. A lot of small shops have even made a cottage industry out of hooking everything together. But, in my view, we already know how to make these cameras and already know how to use them; we just need to put the imaging on the front. That’s the idea with the PLV100.

OK, let’s shift gears and talk PTZ cameras. Can you provide an overview of the new AW-UR100 outdoor-ready 4K-integrated camera?

Jim Jensen

Jensen: Customers look to Panasonic to lead the way with PTZ innovation, and I think we deliver. In this case, our customers kept asking when we were going to come out with a new outdoor PTZ. Although our AW-HR140 has enjoyed a lot of success, the needs of the sports market have changed over the years. We started talking to our key customers, particularly in sports, and asked what they wanted to see in this new outdoor PTZ. We did a lot of focus groups, and the UR100 was born out of those conversations.

Most important, we transitioned to a newly developed 4K sensor that allows 4K/60fps, which was a big request from our customers, [who] always want the highest quality possible. No matter where the stadium is or what the weather conditions are, you don’t want to compromise quality, so UR100 has a very rugged design that can handle the elements, including extreme temperatures, rain and snow, and wind.

Our customers also demand the most advanced image stabilization possible. Even though a PTZ may be ruggedized, if it’s mounted where there’s vibration and movement, we need to mitigate that as much as possible. This PTZ features three types of image stabilization: optical image stabilization (OIS), electronic roll correction (EIS), and pan-tilt image stabilization (Dynamic Image Stabilizing System, or DISS). Basically, we took all three technologies and developed some impressive magic sauce so that the anti-vibration is second to none.

Customers told us that they wanted to be able to set the PTZ and forget about it: when the elements change, it automatically makes the necessary adjustments. It has this specialized full-auto mode, so that it automatically changes the gain, the iris, the shutter, the filter, and the white balance. It can be set and ready to go even as conditions change throughout the day. [For example,] if a kickoff is at 11:00 a.m. and the game ends at 3:00 p.m., the position of the sun changes dramatically, so full-auto mode is a game-changer.

Another request from the industry was a very wide angle of view. With a 74.1-degree horizontal wide-angle lens for panoramic pullbacks and 4K/60p-compatibility for 24X optical zoom and 10X digital zoom, it can capture the full essence of the scene, no matter what the circumstances are.

How are you seeing the use of PTZ cameras changing for live sports coverage?
The quality of the PTZs has come such a long way, to the point where they are being used in multiple key positions for live games. From a budget standpoint, a lot of people are finding that the picture quality of our PTZs is more than acceptable for broadcast and are using them at more positions for their primary coverage — whether that’s for TV or streaming.

Coaches and referees are always asking for more camera positions for their analysis, and we are seeing more PTZs used for that as well. With multiple PTZs around the stadium, you’re getting a lot more angles without blocking any of the attendees. We are definitely finding many different applications within the sports market today.

Any other big new announcements that pertain to sports production?
Merrill: One of the other things that we introduced at NAB 2023 is a very small ruggedized, compact switcher called the AV-HSW10, which has been a big hit for us.

In previous years, we made a compact switcher that fit the niche for smaller live events, where one operator has to do everything. That did very well for us. But the market is changing, and the workflows are changing with it. This new compact switcher bridges the gap between IP and baseband workflows. Whether you’re using SRT or NDI, you can use this switcher in conjunction with baseband video and then just stream to your favorite platform.

How is Panasonic evolving as a company, and what is your philosophy toward the live-production market moving forward?
Bergeron: The big change for our company is, we’re doing a more iterative process for development with our customers. We’re getting out there, prototyping, going fast, and breaking things, which is not historically the Panasonic way. This is a big change for all of us, and, on a personal level, it has been exciting to get deeper into the production process with our customers. It’s great because we are interacting more with customers and having direct conversations with the production crews about specific challenges they are having. We can take that directly to the developers and help them problem-solve while also enhancing [the platform].

I think we’re also going to take a more holistic approach as a company. We have a cinema-camera business and a PTZ-camera business and all kinds of amazing technology. All of that innovation and technology is getting pushed into the live-production market. All of this is getting connected into streaming both SRT and ST 2110 workflows. We want to make sure that we can provide that whole ecosystem. It puts us in a good position to answer a lot of questions for people trying IP for the first time.

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