GAHRENS + BATTERMANN Prepares for the Future with Ultra HD HDR Mobile Control Rooms for Live Event Production
July 28, 2022
For more than three decades, GAHRENS + BATTERMANN (G+B) has helped the German live events industry deliver standout experiences powered by innovative technology solutions. One of the company’s most recent advancements, mobile UltraHD HDR control rooms, are starting to gain favor, and we got a chance to chat with G+B Broadcast Specialist Daniela Böhmer about the kit, her experience in the industry, and more.
Tell us more about GAHRENS + BATTERMANN.
In business since 1983, G+B is one of Germany's leading event technology and service providers. Our team of 230 employees specializes in creating memorable digital, hybrid, and live events that impress. We work closely with every client to deliver tailor-made solutions that meet the needs of their unique event, whether on location, at one of our partner studios, or in a G+B studio. If you want to learn more, check out our website.
What is your role, and how’d you get into the live events business?
I joined G+B as a Media Design Trainee in 2007 and started learning the tools and techniques of the trade. Eventually I became a Broadcast Specialist, a role in which I research and manage the broadcast equipment for our rental fleet. I also help with events as an Image Engineer when needed.
Describe a recent project you’ve worked on.
Last year we completed a massive project for one of Germany’s most well-known automotive brands. We helped them live stream a press conference from the IAA Exhibition in Munich, Germany – complete with key/fill overlays for lower thirds – as well as a separate program. The project required a dedicated live production workflow including a switcher and playback systems, and signal distribution to six large LED screens on the client’s exhibition booth. Considering the nature of the project, audio and video demands, and space restrictions, we relied extensively on a 3G-SDI-equipped mobile UltraHD HDR-capable control room built by our team. It allowed us to fit all the necessary tools – like AJA FS-HDR, FS4, KUMO, Mini-Converters, and Ki Pro Ultra Plus – into a compact rack.
What challenges do you encounter on projects like this?
One of the biggest challenges we face on any project is managing unexpected shifts in production equipment needs. For instance, a customer might request an additional recording of a single camera feed on-site, which needs audio-embedding, or the event director might request a key/fill feed for lower-thirds, requiring signal conversion from HDMI to SDI. We must be ready to address these requests, which is why we built the control rooms to support many different signal types and formats. AJA gear has been helpful in this respect, providing high-performance, reliable, and cost-effective conversion that allows us to adapt.
Tell us more about G+B’s control rooms and how they are used.
Every project is unique in its location and requirements, but across the board, clients expect high quality audio and video. This requires compact, versatile control rooms that we can travel with and that can deliver content that meets client expectations. Every mobile control room includes pre-wired control racks, a professional production switcher, and cameras, with high-quality signal distribution, conversion, analysis, and recording technology backbone.
Why is it important for the control rooms to support UltraHD and HDR?
Modern video technology has always been at the heart of everything G+B does. An early adopter of UltraHD and HDR technology, we recognized their potential for delivering high quality video with brilliant color. Now our team has in-depth knowledge that we can pass on to our customers and we’re able to push new technical boundaries in the live event space.
How would you describe industry demand for UltraHD and HDR?
UltraHD HDR live event production is still nascent, and most of the productions that we work on are HD SDR. However, every year, UltraHD HDR is gaining traction, especially as the industry begins to see its potential. In time, as the cost of equipment comes down and implementation becomes more practical, we expect it to become an industry standard practice, and having already worked with it, we’re better positioned for this future reality.
Tell us more about the signal distribution, conversion, analysis, and recording technology that make up your mobile control rooms.
Conversion is key across projects, especially when working with various HDR standards and camera formats. For this reason, we lean heavily on AJA FS-HDR, which has been part of our fleet since 2019. It’s not our first experience with AJA’s FS line, though, as we still use the FS2. The entire FS line is amazing in that it provides so much flexibility. Whether de-/embedding audio or converting video, we can achieve so many different signals and formats in different ways. FS-HDR has proven especially useful in that it allows us to up/down/cross convert four channels of 2K/HD, and gives us the tools we need to realize 4K productions for our customers in the future. HDR-SDR cross conversions and associated LUT processing is also intuitive with the device.
AJA HDR Image Analyzer is another key component of our control rooms. As an Image Engineer, it’s a great relief to have one, because it allows me to view the important data of the attached video signal in a structured way. It’s useful during camera matching, as I often switch between settings and views of the waveform representation to get the best picture out of the camera. Prefabricated shortcuts also provide quick access to my tool’s display possibilities.
No control room is complete without an SDI router, and we use AJA KUMO 3232-12G. We love the compact, reliable nature of the device, plus it makes it easy to replace defective cables at any time. Also, the web interface and adjustable control panel make on the fly changes quick and simple. We also use a range of AJA Mini-Converters, which despite their compact size, pack a punch; they allow many settings via the USB remote control and provide precise values for signals they receive or send. Rounding out the technology stack are our AJA Ki Pro recorders. The Ki Pro family has been a part of our rental fleet for a long time, from the Ki Pro Classic to the Ki Pro Rack, the Ki Pro GO and Ki Pro Ultra Plus. The Ki Pro GO, with H.264 USB drive recording, enables rapid turnover for customers.
Why did you opt to incoprorate 12G-SDI technology in the control rooms?
12G-SDI makes it easy to transmit UltraHD signals over a single cable, which is advantageous for live events. Most projects last 3-14 days, without any existing infrastructure for signal transmission, so quad split SDI technology isn’t practical. It would mean four times the cables, complex troubleshooting, and potential differences in runtime between the individual cables. The single-cable simplicity of 12G-SDI is just easier and more reliable for our use cases.
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
For quite some time, virtual events were the only way to connect people and transmit information, as in-person gatherings were paused, which meant previous concepts couldn’t be implemented in their original forms. From this standpoint, it was and remains very important for us to give the client’s audience a seamless, interactive experience, regardless of if they’re physically present or tuning in remotely. At G+B, we work with specialists from G+B Interaktiv, who have developed tools for years that integrate a live audience into the event, via query options, word clouds, voting and games. Due to this experience, we were able to quickly adopt these tools for online audiences, and bundle everything together. The result is a livestream platform with interactive possibilities.
At the heart of each event, is the livestream component; the demand for broadcast equipment increased sharply in 2020, so in 2021, we decided to invest in new cameras and build another UltraHD HDR-capable control room. Because we’d had such a good experience with AJA building the original control room, we chose to continue using AJA tools. Now that in-person events are starting to return, we’re loving how we can easily combine in-person and online components to offer sophisticated hybrid events to our customers.
What do you think is in store for the events industry in the next decade?
Although I can’t predict the future, I’d expect creative, high quality video live content production to remain a focus for our team and customers, whether for in-person, virtual or hybrid events.
About AJA Video Systems, Inc.
Since 1993, AJA Video has been a leading manufacturer of video interface technologies, converters, digital video recording solutions and professional cameras, bringing high-quality, cost-effective products to the professional broadcast, video and post production markets. AJA products are designed and manufactured at our facilities in Grass Valley, California, and sold through an extensive sales channel of resellers and systems integrators around the world. For further information, please see our website at www.aja.com.