China’s Shiyan Daily Builds 4K OB Van with Blackmagic
Based in China’s northwestern Hubei province, the Shiyan Daily Media Group has built a new 4K OB van using URSA Broadcast and URSA Mini Pro cameras, as well as a number of other Blackmagic Design products to provide a 12G-SDI 4K workflow. The new van continues the Shiyan Media Group’s move from traditional print coverage to becoming a full digital media organisation.
Designed by Wuhan Vijita Technology, the OB van uses a number of different Blackmagic Design cameras, including URSA Broadcast cameras, URSA Mini Pro and Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K. For switching, routing and conversions, they use Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K, Smart Videohub 20 x 20 and a variety of Mini Converters.
Shiyan Daily Media Group is one of the first print newspapers in China to have transferred to digital media. Its Shiyan Evening News won the “China’s Leading Digital Media Brand” award in 2012 and has more than one million followers on WeChat. The majority of whom are from Shiyan, a prefectural level city with a population of less than four million. According to new media big data analytics platform GS Data, Shiyan Evening News’ WeChat holds first place position among WeChat accounts of prefectural newspapers in China and has been one of the top 10 popular newspaper WeChat accounts in the country for many years.
“We have been doing well with new media because we started it off very early. Now that the time for commercial use of 5G has been confirmed and it will be much easier to get Ultra HD sources from the mobile Internet, we set our ‘mobile and video first’ strategy and founded a dedicated video team in 2017,” said Zhiguo Gan, deputy managing editor, multimedia division, Shiyan Daily Media Group.
At first, the video team created streaming content for Shiyan Daily’s new media platforms with smartphones and other simple devices, but these tools were not suitable for critical events that required multicam production, so they decided to procure equipment for professional live productions.
Speaking of their standard of choosing new solutions, Gan said: “The new solution must be reliable, have advantages over what our competitors are using, be future proof, able to get new functionalities with updates and be easy to use and maintain. Also, its supplier should provide professional support in a timely manner.”
The six-camera 4K OB van designed by Wuhan Vijita Technology around Blackmagic Design’s 12G-SDI products won the contract. It includes two URSA Broadcast cameras and one URSA Mini Pro, each equipped with a Blackmagic Camera Fiber Converter, which is connected to a Studio Fiber Camera Converter housed in the van using a SMPTE fiber cable that supports bidirectional transmission of video, audio, talkback, Tally and camera control.
Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K is directly connected to the van with the fiber connection. All four camera feeds and two wireless feeds go into the Smart Videohub 20 x 20 router, which assigns and distributes the feeds to the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K switcher and a backup switcher, monitors and a streaming device.
Looking back on the process of choosing products, the head of the video team Zhenyu Zhang said: “We saw how Blackmagic Design’s 4K OB van live streamed an intangible culture heritage event in Jingzhou. Also we visited Wuhan TV’s first HD broadcast studio, which was completely built with Blackmagic Design products, where most of Wuhan TV’s live shows are produced. This gave us confidence in the reliability of Blackmagic Design’s products.”
“In terms of advantages, when most new media and even broadcasters are still using HD products, every Blackmagic product in the van, including the camera, video router and switcher, supports 4K. But the costs are still lower than that of other HD solutions. Even compared with other 4K products, Blackmagic Design could save by one third, which can be used for future upgrades, such as adding 5G transmission devices.”
Zhang noted that the versatility of each Blackmagic product brings an overall advantage to the system.
“It reduces the complexity of the system, making the van smaller, easy to use and maintain. For example, on the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K, each input includes a re-synchronizer and format converter, so we don’t need extra devices because the switcher can take in any feed in any format, be it 720p from a drone, a non broadcast standard output from a computer, or any frame rate,” he said. “Also, both the URSA Broadcast and URSA Mini Pro can be used as a studio camera with a B4 mount or as a film camera with an EF or PL mount, which eliminates the need for more cameras.”
“This allows us to keep the crew small and that means lower operation costs. There are seven members in the crew, so there’d be profit if our van goes to some small or medium events; a common large OB van has to be taken care of by a much larger crew, which means much higher costs and there’d be no profit if it goes to these small or medium events.
“The smaller van gives us more flexibility. Our van is a Mercedes Sprinter, enough to house all the equipment. So we can go to many places that large OB vans can’t go to, making us more competitive. Plus, all the products in the van are from Blackmagic Design, meaning the compatibility between each component is better than that of solutions consisting of various brands,” he said.
Before the van, most of the video team members had only used small video cameras and DSLRs and had rarely used broadcast equipment for multicam productions. Just a few days after the van was delivered, they started streaming with it.
“Blackmagic products offer intuitive UIs and are easy to master. We can find the functions very easily and quickly without scouring through menus. Less than a week after the first training, we did our first multicam live streaming for a high school military training with the van and went on live producing many other more complex events in the following two months, such as the China (Shiyan) Auto Products Expo, where there were separate venues and more screens for IMAG,“ he revealed.
It took less than three months to design, build up and deliver the OB van to Shiyan Daily Media Group. Gan pointed out that this not only proved Shiyan Daily’s efficiency but also their resolution to develop the video business.
“This also means Blackmagic Design’s products and service are both reliable. Besides efficient van modification and delivery, Blackmagic Design’s authorized reseller Wuhan Vijita Technology always responds immediately when we need service and technical support and even sends experts to Shiyan to help and train our crew.”
Gan also shared his thoughts of the value of the OB van for new media development.
“To adapt to media convergence trends, new media are actively exploring ways of increasing production value. Shiyan Daily Media Group started early and acted quickly and this has brought us a dramatic increase in advertising income, making us a model for many counterparts to learn from. In the past, we shared our experience in doing new media. Now that we have had our own 4K OB van, we will also share professional multicam production how-tos with our counterparts. We believe Blackmagic Design’s products will help more media like us, leading to a healthy and prosperous media industry,” he concluded.