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Larry Jordan: Andy Maisner is the founder and President of TV Pro Gear. This is a company that specializes in the design, engineering and assembly of television stations and mobile video production systems, along with in-house production and video rentals. Hello, Andy, welcome.
Andy Maisner: How are you doing, Larry?
Larry Jordan: I am so excited to be talking to you because my favorite thing in the world is remote trucks and we’re going to be talking about remote trucks today. How can you not get excited about that?
Andy Maisner: They are fun to build and design and fun to use too.
Larry Jordan: Well, start at the beginning. What is TV Pro Gear?
Andy Maisner: We build, as you said, television systems, primarily video trucks, entire TV stations and we specialize in fly packs as well.
Larry Jordan: Now, what’s a fly pack?
Andy Maisner: It’s a multi-camera system used for shooting live events like concerts and sporting events and conferences and it’s typically six cameras, it’s all in one box, you can put it on a plane, train or automobile and shoot anywhere in the world.
Larry Jordan: Why a fly pack and not a remote truck? What are the differences?
Andy Maisner: Smaller, lighter, easy to get into places. Bloomberg bought two of them from us, they used it recently to shoot at the White House with President Obama and we have a number of them that have gone out and shot four TED talks in the last couple of years.
Larry Jordan: We’ll talk more about that a little bit later. If I remember correctly, you started TV Pro Gear in your garage in 1997. Why?
Andy Maisner: Well, it was an accident, believe me. At the time, I was directing a TV series called ‘America’s Dumbest Criminals’ and the producer sold off the series to Barry Diller, who wanted to move it to Memphis and I didn’t want to go to Memphis. The producer sold off all the equipment and made us a lot of money and found our business an easy way to make money and then people kept asking me to build things and it just kind of grew.
Larry Jordan: It grew from that?
Andy Maisner: Yes. Yes, and finally my neighbors complained to the police that I was running a business out of the house and I had to move to a real building.
Larry Jordan: So who are some of your clients, after you stopped being arrested for building stuff in your garage?
Andy Maisner: AT&T does a lot with us, Bloomberg, as I mentioned, Comcast, NBC, Fox Sports, ABC. Those are the big ones. We have a lot of clients. Right now, we’re building a TV station in Bangladesh for Nanobase; building another station in Nigeria. We sold a video truck to Nigeria in December and we have projects going in Guatemala and Jamaica and in Trinidad we did two projects this year, so it’s pretty much all around the world.
Larry Jordan: One of the hot buzzwords that’s going round right now is 4K. What’s your opinion on 4K?
Andy Maisner: Well, clearly it’s here to stay for an ideal for scripted material, single camera or even multi-camera, but for sports and concerts it’s not quite there yet. First of all, the bigger the sensor of a camera, the shallower the depth of field or depth of focus and so while that gives you the film look, it’s not so great for shooting live events where you don’t know where the talent’s going.
Larry Jordan: Which means that you’ve got to be critically sharp on your focus or everything is out of focus, which is the definition of what sports is not.
Andy Maisner: Really hard to stay in focus. Secondly, if you look at these TVs, you see the big cameras with the giant zoom lenses. Well, those zoom lenses are 50, 60, even 100 times zooms. There’s no such lens for a 4K big sensor camera right now. About the most is a 12 to one, so you really don’t have the lenses you need to do sports properly. Those big lenses, by the way, I know a lot of your viewers will know the more telephoto, the harder it is to keep it from vibrating, so the big lenses all have optical stabilization in them, which is why they’re so expensive.
Andy Maisner: Again, those lenses are not available for big sensor 4K cameras, so a number of manufacturers are currently introducing two-thirds inch sensors, the same as your traditional camera. They’ll use two-thirds inch lenses, so more pixels in the same size sensor but you can use the standard lenses.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that NHK was doing was they were experimenting with 8K video and, rather than panning the camera like we traditionally do, they would take an 8K picture and do a region of interest where they were taking essentially a window from that 8K frame. Would work in a 4K environment as well?
Andy Maisner: Yes, that is being done and they are using 4K in the NFL, for example, doing that exact method, but it’s still a specialized function.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, with 4K we don’t have a distribution system for people to watch a 4K image, so they’d have to down sample to 1080, which takes three quarters of the resolution away from people to be able to watch a live event at home.
Andy Maisner: You’re not supposed to talk about that because companies selling 4K TVs are going to be upset.
Larry Jordan: Well, you can get it with what’s called Over The Top. If I’m looking at YouTube, I can get a 4K picture from YouTube, but I can’t get a 4K picture from my cable system or over the air.
Andy Maisner: Right. A number of tests have been run so that you can broadcast 4K. Obviously, it’ll be highly compressed. It’s coming. The standards committee, both SMPTE and EBU in Europe have finalized on a 4K standard for transmission over the air. It’ll be here soon enough.
Larry Jordan: Soon enough.
Andy Maisner: Yes.
Larry Jordan: I will confess, I went to NAB three years ago, I was in the central hall and there standing in front of me was a remote truck. It was a standard 44 foot semi and I called my wife, I said, “Wife, I’m standing in front of a brand new remote truck. It’s $6 million. I have to buy it.” Now, she’s very smart, she did not say no because then you know I would have whipped out the Amex card and bought the remote truck on the spot.
Andy Maisner: Two, probably.
Larry Jordan: She said, “Where are you going to park it?” at which point I realized I have no place to park a 44 foot remote truck at home, but you build remote trucks.
Andy Maisner: Right.
Larry Jordan: And I want to play for everybody to watch a promotional video that TV Pro Gear created, showcasing the latest technology in remote trucks. Take a look.