CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 15, 2016 — For more than a decade Wright Way Video, Inc. owner Joshua Wright has been delivering professional production services for countless broadcasts such as Soundstage, the long-running live concert TV series featuring new and legendary artists—from Fleetwood Mac and Bad Company, to Kenny Loggins, Kenny Chesney and Regina Spektor. Produced by WTTW Chicago and HD Ready, Soundstage has millions of viewers in more than 20 countries.
While Wright provided both professional personnel and expertise for many such productions, broadcast clients often either rented gear or hired a production truck to meet their needs. "It was either you have a flypack that takes up quite a bit of space backstage, or you hire a truck that is outside," says Wright, who was an engineer for a Chicago-based production truck earlier in his career. "Usually, if you wanted to do a multi-camera shoot, you were stuck going with a truck. We were one of the first U.S. production trucks offering producers HD footage, so I was at the forefront of that movement."
After years of renting gear, Wright, and his partner Ken Heinemann, discovered a new brand of video recording equipment. That's when things began to change. "We were tired of renting all this gear from different rental companies. You just never knew what you were going to get. The quality was inconsistent and never really superb. Then we found and started using the PIX 260i and PIX 270i decks for a few shows, and from then on we just fell in love with the quality of the products that Video Devices creates. So when the PIX-Es came out, it was perfect for the route we wanted to go, which was to position us at the forefront of the 4K era."
The PIX-E Series of 4K recording monitors began shipping in 2015. The largest of three models is the PIX-E7, which features a seven-inch touchscreen LCD, a full suite of monitoring scopes and tools, and the unique ability to simultaneously record both ProRes and H.264. "That's huge for us," Wright says. "We do a lot of corporate events, and sometimes at the end of the day, the client wants the files 'right now.' It’s perfect to have H.264 on a $12 SD card that I can hand off to them, and we’re done. For us, that’s a huge benefit!"
The fact that the lightweight, portable PIX-E monitors were designed for camera-mount applications didn’t stop Wright from thinking out of the box—or rather, into a smaller box.
Speaking of a typical flypack, he adds, "The bulkiness and the weight just wasn’t ideal. When Video Devices created the PIX-Es, it was an eye-opener for us. This was our way to provide professional rental and staging services to clients with a small footprint."
Answering the growing demand for 4K content, Wright and Heinemann founded 4K the Wrightway, Inc., designing smaller, lighter, custom flypacks featuring the camera-mount PIX-E7 recording monitors. "Traditionally, a truck was faster to set up than a flypack, but the flypack had the benefit of being the smaller footprint. Our system offers clients both--speed and economy of size. We've pre-wired our flypacks so we can do the setup just as fast as a truck pulling up could do a setup, but our footprint is smaller than trucks and most traditional flypacks."
The 4K the Wrightway flypack rental system includes an engineering rack, plus two STAR Case, customized ATA-approved travel cases that are smaller than a two-foot square and weigh less than 40 pounds. Each case houses four PIX-E7 recording monitors, each capable of recording 4K or HD. "We’ve done 15 shows already in 4K. It’s the new technology, so we're maintaining our leadership position, and Video Devices has helped that happen," Wright says. "The versatility of being able to record 4K or HD has been huge, because I've done plenty of HD shows as well. I’ve had anywhere from corporate to sporting events, documentaries to live entertainment; pretty much, I’ve used the PIX-Es on all of those different genres."
4k the Wrightway also rents out three individual, stand-alone PIX-E7s, offering a cost-effective solution for those smaller productions that don’t require a full flypack.
When first developing the idea behind the 4K flypacks, Wright beta-tested different gear in a rental warehouse and ran into issues between the cameras and recorders. "We used really high-end, $100,000 cameras that quad-link out to create 4K, but the (PIX-E) recorders only take a 6G-single-link SDI cable or HDMI, so I was trying numerous converter boxes. I was really torn, because it was early on and became kind of a pointing-the-finger blame game between everybody." Wright recalls the tipping point came once he called the Technical Support line for Video Devices. "The tech support guy asked, 'Well, what exactly are you doing? Let me try to recreate the issue on my end, and we can solve some issues.' He was really great as our advocate in supporting us and understanding what we were trying to accomplish. He did a lot of research and definitely persuaded us to stay with Video Devices."
Recently, 4k the Wrightway added several Video Devices PIX-LRs to the flypacks. The PIX-LR is an audio interface accessory that mounts to the bottom of any PIX-E monitor. It provides Sound Devices-designed mic preamps, unclippable limiters, 48V phantom power, and most importantly for Wright, dual XLR I/O. "In my world, the flavor is always going to be XLR when it comes to audio. The quality of going through an eighth-inch line-level isn't necessarily professional. That creates issues; now you have to have an adapter or converter of some sort, so I just wanted everything to be, ideally, what audio would always give me, which is XLR. It was a no-brainer to go with the PIX-LRs, and they also gave me left/right audio out, plus of course, the meters in the front and the independent gain structure controls." Wright adds, "Sometimes an audio guy can’t always be on all these different sets, so having the independent gain structure right there accessible to me is very helpful to cover audio and to cover the recording, ensuring we have proper levels."
Offering a neat, compact and portable setup that can still deliver high quality audio and video in the desired resolutions is crucial for Wright in meeting their customers’ needs. The PIX-E7, with its 7-inch IPS display and monitoring features, has achieved that in ways beyond Wright’s expectations. "The display is great on the recorder. It’s superb. I mean, most recorders don’t give you the full HD resolution on their displays. I appreciate the fact that Video Devices thought about putting scopes, false color, the TapZoom™ feature; all of these things are huge for what I need to do to create a professional service for a client."
Wright also admits configuring multiple PIX-Es within the flypacks is often a cost-saving bonus for multi-camera workflows. " have clients now who may be tight on a budget, and they don' want to pay for an extra piece of gear to create a multi-view for them. The way my racks are arranged, it's basically set up as if it's a multi-view. So I have clients that maybe are just ISO recording; we're not doing a line-cut or something, and they'll just sit right in front of the recorders and see all 8, 10, 12 cameras – whatever we may have – via the PIX-Es, and I'm saving them money by being able to do that, because the quality of the monitors and their displays are so good."
After years of broadcast productions in SD, HD, 3D—and now 4K—under his belt, Wright knows listening to his clients and delivering on what they need is vital in his business, which is what impressed him about Video Devices. "I really appreciate that the company can take recommendations from the end users in the field, understand what they're expecting out of it, relay that to the tech support team, and then be flexible enough to adapt. That'll definitely keep me coming back to them as a customer." Wright adds, "We've done a lot of high-end shows, for many years with a truck. From here on out, we're staying with the 4K the Wrightway flypack we've created, outfitted with Video Devices gear. We believe our proprietary, cost-effective, efficient production solution is the wave of the future."