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Professional PTZ Cameras - A Market Full of Opportunities

One of the uniting aspects of most of the pro video and AV industries is that almost all end-users are looking to cut costs whilst at the same time aspiring to do more with the video format. This idea of doing more for less has driven down price points significantly in the pro camcorder market (a global figure of -28% over the past five years) and has encouraged people to consider alternative ways in which to capture video.

Alternatives to pro camcorders include DSLRs and CSCs, a trend which has been well documented, but in the world of live video production, the burgeoning professional PTZ camera market is fulfilling this function.

For instance, take broadcast, the origin of professional video use. Traditional studio set-ups require at least two or three cameras and their camera operators as well as a camera controller in the studio’s gallery. Use of comparatively inexpensive PTZ cameras does away with the need for camera operators, reducing the required headcount for a three camera set up from four to one. In a world where budgets are being squeezed, this is a significant reduction in both CAPEX and OPEX that is very appealing to some. 

There are caveats to this of course: PTZ cameras can’t yet match the image quality of 2/3" sensor studio cameras and they can only be used in non-dynamic environments where the action is pedestrian. PTZ cameras are therefore better suited to static studio set-ups (interviews, news or cooking shows for example) than fast moving sports. Because of this, reality TV is another key application, for example the UK production of reality staple ‘Big Brother’ uses 55 high-end PTZ cameras controlled by just one operator.

Away from broadcast, the video conferencing market is going from strength-to-strength, partly due to the cost savings derived from people being able to communicate face-to-face without the expense of traveling. 

Another way broadcast is starting to save money by using PTZ cameras is through remote production. Where small, satellite studios are required, PTZ cameras (along with other production equipment) can be operated remotely, requiring no on-site staff. This is perfect for locations that often require people to be interviewed, but don’t warrant investment in a full stand-alone studio - financial districts for example.

Aside from cost savings, another point key to the growth of the PTZ camera market has simply been the emergence of video as a central part of modern life. The dominance of the internet in our lives and increasing broadband speeds has meant that video is now everywhere. Smart phones and tablets mean that video content is always at arm’s reach, websites are now almost expected to feature video in some way and video-based display signage is ubiquitous, we can rarely escape video.

It follows therefore that the use of video is growing fast outside of the world of broadcast. Video hasn’t been the exclusive preserve of broadcast for at least 10 years now, but its use in a whole variety of applications is now being accelerated by this wider cultural phenomenon.

In addition to video conferencing, other markets for PTZ cameras include internal corporate communications, education, houses of worship, government and military as well as medical, event venues and stadiums. Some of these applications use PTZ cameras due to their low cost and comparative simplicity (they are often seen as “fire and forget” in terms of installation) while others such as education, stadiums and houses of worship use them because of they can be mounted out of the way on ceilings or high on walls and controlled remotely.

The education market in particular is extremely interesting in its use of PTZ cameras and is a good example of the cultural encroachment of video. While PTZ cameras are used to record lectures or lessons for students to catch up on later or for teacher assessment, the cameras come into their own in this environment when distance learning is considered. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), typically fielded by technology companies rather than educational establishments, are forcing some of the world’s leading universities to change their business models. The ability to distribute videos of lectures, whether recorded or live, gives universities valuable assets that can be monetised without geographical boundaries. PTZ cameras are at the heart of this trend and are allowing traditional higher-education establishments to compete in this new market. 

Considering all of these factors, the PTZ camera market is growing in volume terms, with 49% growth expected between 2016 and 2021. Although much of the 103,000 units shipped in 2016* were accounted for by comparatively inexpensive products used extensively in video conferencing, most volume growth over the next five years will be found in the $2,000-$3,500 segment as more quality conscious markets grow in importance. This means that despite significant price erosion, the shift in product mix will allow for a 27% growth in value over the same time period, up from $220 million in 2016*.

About the author

Adam Cox

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Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.