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Sony Anycast Touch: Translating the Tablet Into a Production Tool

In July, Sony introduced the Anycast Touch AWS-750 live content producer, which features an all-touchscreen interface.

Sony Anycast Touch

Folding up into the size of a briefcase, the AWS-750 combines a video switcher, character generator, audio mixer, camera pan/tilt controller and web streaming encoder, all operated from two touchscreens. The system also includes a recorder, so that a live production can be recorded for future playback.

“The Anycast Touch is really designed for people who don’t have a traditional production background,” says Deon LeCointe, product manager for broadcast and production systems at Sony. “It has the ease of use and intuitive operation that’s afforded to them with touchscreen technology.”

And a lot of other features too.

With a screen display that looks uncannily like the operating system on a tablet, Anycast Touch actually uses Linux for its OS. LeCointe says that Linux is known for its reliability and security.

The AWS-750 replaces Sony’s earlier AWS-G500 Anycast unit, adding full HD production capability with 10-bit video processing. Anycast Touch’s primary screen is nearly 18 inches across (diagonally), and it has a clever lift-and-fold design that reveals a lot of display area in a compact space.

“The most prominent feature of the Anycast Touch is its dual-screen technology,” LeCointe says. “This is Sony’s first touchscreen-based production switcher.”

The author switches an inning of minor league baseball using the Sony Anycast Touch. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

The upper screen, which is lifted up and propped in place by the AWS-750’s base, is used to display and select video sources, transitions and character generator graphics. The lower screen, which remains flat, controls audio levels and camera positioning, and provides a keyboard for composing titles and lower-thirds.

Video sources are shown, somewhat larger than thumbnails, along the left side. Touching a source loads it into a postcard-sized preview window at the bottom of the display.

To switch the source to the program window, there is a “Take” button between the preview and program windows. Once a transition effect is selected from a menu on the right side of the screen, touching the Take button transitions the preview source to program.

Ease of Use

The whole process takes longer to explain than it does to do. On July 16, Sony set up a press demo to show that even journalists are capable of successfully using the Anycast Touch AWS-750. It’s that easy.

As part of the press demo, Sony assembled a complete system at the home of the Rockland Boulders, a minor league baseball team from Pomona, N.Y., about 35 miles northwest of New York City. The system included two specially installed Sony

The Sony RM-IP10 camera controller provides pan, tilt, zoom and focus control for cameras such as the Sony BRC-H900. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

BRC-H900 cameras, as well as a feed from the stadium’s Sony HXC-100 center field camera. A composite feed was also delivered from the output of the stadium’s Sony MVS-6000 production switcher.

Each journalist had a chance to sit down with the Anycast Touch and switch an inning of a baseball game. The results were certainly uneven, but that was exclusively the fault of the operators and not the Anycast Touch. Sony’s production switcher performed perfectly.

The idea behind the Anycast Touch is that it is a single, easily transported device that can be used to create a broadcast-quality video presentation, then stream it to the web.

“With the Anycast Touch’s streaming function, it can distribute a Flash H.264 RMTP stream, which can then be picked up by a Flash streaming server and distributed to a much wider audience,” LeCointe says.

Live Transmission

In addition to the Anycast Touch, Sony showed its new NXL-IP55 live production transmission device. Capable of transmitting four full-bandwidth SD-HDI camera feeds on a single gigabit Ethernet network, the NXL-IP55 is an inexpensive and convenient way to ship broadcast-quality signals around a stadium or other large venue.

The NXL-IP55 provides for intercom connectivity and a return program channel so that camera operators can see the program feed. Two NXL-IP55s are needed for a complete system: one for the cameras and one in the control room.

The Anycast Touch AWS-750 provides the ability to control pan, tilt and zoom on cameras such as the Sony BRC-H900. In situations where the person at the Anycast Touch is too busy switching to handle camera positioning, Sony offers the RM-IP10 camera controller.

Anycast Touch has a touchscreen that operates much like a tablet.

With the RM-IP10, a camera operator can quickly pan, tilt, zoom and focus the cameras. A quick button push will switch the controller from camera to camera. The RM-IP10 permits the user to save presets so that shots can be recalled at the press of a button.

All the action at a baseball game gave me ample opportunity to get the hang of the RM-IP10’s control interface and set up for anticipated shots. The RM-IP10 is configurable so that the controls respond just as the user expects.

Anycast Touch can be literally carried anywhere, and will likely be used by operators with a wide range of video skills. Likewise, the unit will be connected to a broad universe of gear, from consumer cameras to devices with HD-SDI signals.

For this reason, the AWS-750 has BNC connectors for SDI input, as well as HDMI and 15-pin VGA connectors, all for video input. For audio, the unit has combination XLR and 1/4-inch phone plug connectors that support just about any type of audio signal. There’s even switchable 48 V DC for microphone phantom power.

Anycast Touch’s output connectors run the gamut from professional BNC SDI connectors to HDMI, VGA and even RCA audio connectors. This is a system that is meant to be dropped into an unknown environment and connected to what’s available on site.

The Sony Anycast Touch AWS-750 is expected to ship in September and will cost around $20,000.