The LDX 100 is a self-contained IP endpoint with up to 100 Gb/s IP network connections for audio, video, and control at the camera head.
With each new remote production and IT-centric infrastructure implementation, camera manufacturers are learning more and more about what it takes for a camera to operate seamlessly on an all-IP network. With the right design, production companies can send less equipment to live events and camera operators can work from anywhere—even those with limited skills.
With internal native IP processing a goal from the beginning, Grass Valley product engineers set out to build such a camera. Two years later, the result is the new LDX 100 camera, which facilitates simple connection and discovery of audio, video, and control (via several flavors of AMWA’s NMOS spec) and PTP timing using SMPTE IP standards like ST 2110. This allows access to live video signals wherever they are needed (even, for example, as return feed monitoring from another camera position).
In terms of networking, the camera is a self-contained IP endpoint with up to 100 Gb/s IP network connections for audio, video, and control directly at the camera head that enable distribution of camera sources wherever they are needed on the network—without the delays inherent in sending signals to a separate control hub.
The camera includes three new 2/3-inch Titan UHD imagers that give operators an F-stop more sensitivity than Grass Valley’s previous premier camera, the LDX 86N. It captures four times HD resolution and High Dynamic Range color and wide color gamut at up to 3X high speed (1x and 3X super slow-motion) and accepts standard B4 lenses. This new optical block beam splitter is made to capture UHD resolution and primary colors better than other cameras on the market, said Ronny van Geel, Director of Product Management, Grass Valley.
“We can capture more colors than you can fit in a Rec.709 color space, but a Rec. 2020 color space is much larger. With the new primaries we have more overlap between the colors, which means the camera produces much richer colors than you’ve seen so far in a broadcast camera.”
Implementation of NMOS IS-04 and IS-05 protocols means the camera is instantly identifiable to a network control system such as Grass Valley’s GV Orbit or Lawo’s VSM.
The camera supports AMWA NMOS-03 for discovery, N-04 for distribution and N-07 for tally information, audio levels, and remote control.
Look Ma, No XCU!
Another important distinction for this camera is that there’s no base station required, like it is on previous Grass valley cameras. It is compatible with the Grass Valley XCU Universe base station so users can migrate from baseband SDI to IP at their own pace. Once they are at full native IP they can eliminate the XCU altogether. This means customers do not have to locate the XCU on site. They can just connect it to a network, find it using NMOS and begin uploading a live feed immediately.
“If you need 3X recording we scan every pixel for every color individually at the same time; it’s really native UHD triple speed for all three imagers,” he said, adding that this is what the industry has been asking for. “Once you have a native IP camera, you can get rid of all of the limitations of SDI. So now with a native IP infrastructure we can start on the camera side to go to 12-, 14- or 16-bit processing and get rid of all of the unwanted SDI curves.”
The camera features a 12G single stream operation to accommodate 4K UHD resolutions.
“We still talk about a Rec. 2020 color space, but now with the different primaries, we really have much more richer colors than before,” van Geel said. “In the past primaries did not overlap. Now you can find out exactly where you are in the red, green and blue colors.
The LDX 100 can be used with a base station, for those making the move from SDI, or without for remote production applications.
He said that in new remote production models the camera becomes “the eye” of the production. A lot of the signal processing has shifted to different locations, increasingly outside the studio or hub facility.
“People are thinking about how to get a certain source to my central equipment room where I do all of my processing and also at the end do one conversion to a different HDR curve or color gamut,” said van Geel. “We’re recognizing that people don’t request all of those different video modes from the camera. They want to do it in one central location and just send back four video modes from one camera in the field and standardize on one format or resolution and do the conversion once.”
This way, he said, the central facility is dictating what the resolution will be. And the LDX 100 eliminates the need for traditional SDI interconnects, thereby enabling a high level of distribution flexibility including true remote production integration that requires less bandwidth because only the needed signals are transmitted. The camera also supports field swappable SFP connectors at speeds of 10 Gb/s, 25 Gb/s, bidirectional 25 Gb/s, and 100 Gb/s QSFP to meet a variety of applications.
Remote Camera Shading
Camera shading has also been streamlined with the new LDX 100. Grass Valley has built a GPS chip into each camera so that, using NMOS for discovery on the network, shaders and others can find the specific camera that need attention quickly and adjust it accordingly. So, if you have a huge IP network with a few thousand devices connected, the engineer in charge can send the GPS location of that camera and then the shader, possibly sitting at his home, can see the exact location of the camera, rather than an IP address.
“All of the things video processing happens in the camera, because the viewfinder needs to represent the exact same quality and performance the director or producer is looking for,” said van Geel. “All the things like S-Log3 mapping, those things are being done at the home base, but the processing and grading is done in the camera so you get the exact same quality on the viewfinder. Because if the camera operator does not see what the director sees, then you’re lost. Producers want the same quality level for HDR and other things.”
The optional VF7-100X is a high-quality, flat panel native HD 1920x1080 color viewfinder designed to work with Grass Valley LDX system cameras.
There’s also creative grading for the camera operator, who can match the look between production in different locations. So, in a 36-camera production, a production could have one remote shader at home watching the video images or it can go back to the traditional way of shading with a XCU or with IP connectivity in an on-site production truck.
“So, one production can be distributed over multiple shaders at different locations or you can run multiple productions simultaneously with a set of shaders,” he said. “This ensures that the look between productions is consistent. And it’s very easy to do, even for less skilled operators.”
Is It Closed?
When the camera was first announced about a month ago, some in the industry questioned whether buying a new LDX 100 meant getting locked into a proprietary Grass Valley ecosystem. Not so, says van Geel.
“We’re not locking anyone into anything,” he said. “We’re out to earn customer’s confidence that this camera can be used in a variety of ways and interoperate with other devices on an IP network. That’s why we support AMWA NMOS. So if I have production with all Sony cameras, I can add a Grass valley LDX 100 very easily and it will be discovered on the network and begin working with other networked devices. We understand that there are times when there will be a mix and match of cameras used for one project, so we’ve also provided Sony profiles to allow users to match Sony cameras with Grass Valley cameras.”
And there’s been a lot of attention paid to details like a sliding hand grip to enable the operator to counterbalance the camera by holding it in front of the lens plate. The grip also includes easily accessed zoom controls.
Familiar Licensing Model
Grass Valley’s existing software licensing strategy is available for the LDX 100 camera as well, but they also offer A La Carte pricing, whereby a customer can order licenses for specific features. The LDX 100 costs about 15 percent more than the company’s LDX 86N (list), depending upon configuration. If you only need UHD recording, it becomes about 10 percent more expensive than the 86N.
“You can take one single feature and use it or the camera can be upgraded to include more features,” said van Geel. “Single day software licenses, perpetual licenses are available and all of the many features are available for free for three minutes, to allow people to try the different modes.”
A New Camera For The IP Era
Given all of the flexibility of the camera, van Geel said the new LDX 100 allows customers to reinvent themselves.
“In the old days we would sell something and it would do the same things for ten years,” he said. “Now, it can find its way into today’s operations but it also allows you to reinvent yourself and change the whole paradigm of connectivity so that in two years you can be doing something completely different without hauling around all kinds of conversion boxes and other things. It enables your business to say ‘yes’ to virtually every opportunity. This is a camera for the long term.”
It’s clear that the new LDX 100 will enable new topologies for signal acquisition and distribution for studio, remote production and other applications. Owing to its flexibility to adjust to the job at hand and its potential longevity as a networked workhorse, this might be the best value in a camera that Grass Valley has ever offered.
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