The Collaborative Technology Services (CTS) unit at Iowa State University provides on-location video production, recording, conferencing and streaming services for departments, colleges, research centers and administrative units across the institution’s 1900-acre campus. When group’s projects began to outgrow the capabilities of its original equipment, it purchased Z-HD5500 studio and field production cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to achieve the ease of setup, consistent performance and visual quality they needed.
Iowa State University is known worldwide for excellence in science and technology, discovery and innovation, and a culture dedicated to the success of roughly 36,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The fee-for-service CTS unit was formed six years ago with a mission of supporting its customers’ audiovisual needs through technologies and environments that connect people.
“Our group’s original primary goal was to deliver classes online, so we started with some lower-end technology and made the best of what we had available,” explained Roger Suski, Collaborative Technology Services manager at Iowa State University. “That often meant cobbling together disparate products as best we could. We were able to deliver on our promises with that equipment for a while, but we realized we had been lucky. As the profile of the events we took on grew to include convocations, Presidential Addresses, special events and more, we couldn’t risk having a key production fail because our equipment wasn’t up to the task.”
With the CTS team moving their equipment between venues for each project, ease and reliability of setup were key considerations, as were the cameras’ technical specifications.
“I wanted a turnkey camera system from one manufacturer so our productions could be set up in a standardized way,” said Suski. “Having a native 1080p image sensor was also important to me. Some cameras had only 720p sensors that they up-converted for 1080p output. Others had 4K sensors that could be licensed to just do 1080p, but then you’re paying more for something you’re not going to use, which isn’t a prudent use of university budget. The Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai had the native 1080p support we were looking for and were priced correctly for our needs, so I had no reservations about including them in the bidding process.”
The Z-HD5500’s exceptional sensitivity also proved ideal for the lighting challenges often faced by the CTS team.
“In a lot of locations we go into, the lighting can be the last thing people think about, and our requirements can change dynamically,” said Suski. “For example, in one project we expected the presenter to stay at a well-lit podium, but he went out into the audience where we had just basic house lighting. The Hitachi cameras enabled us to follow the presenter with just a minor gain adjustment while still producing a good picture. Even when subjects go from lit to darkness and back, we know the cameras can handle it.”
The new cameras’ ease of setup and fiber connectivity have also enabled the reduced setup time and increased agility that Suski sought.
“We used to need to block large amounts of time in anticipation of configuration and setup problems, but now I can be confident we’ll have a base level of operation set up in a very short time,” he said. “Being able to put power, intercom and tally all on one fiber cable and interface it all through the camera is very convenient and saves time, while letting me quickly react to setup changes. For example, if I need to send another signal back to the camera, I don’t have to run another cable; I just plug it into the base station and it goes out over fiber.”
Comparing the visual quality and image control capabilities of the Z-HD5500s to CTS’ previous cameras, Suski again finds clear improvements.
“The units we had before were decent industrial cameras with basic adjustments,” he said. “With the new Hitachi cameras, wow, the image really ‘pops.’ The color rendition is a lot better, and I have a lot more control of how I can make the picture look. The difference in sharpness and color richness is plain as day.”
Ultimately, the Z-HD5500s have enabled the CTS unit to meet their goal of elevating their services to the university.
“The Hitachi cameras have been great, and have enabled us to do any project that has come in our door,” Suski concluded. “I can say ‘yes’ to every request, because I know the technology is going to work without question.”