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FOR-A Celebrates 50 Years of Innovation, Collaboration

Mike Wharton • FeaturesOctober 2021 • October 8, 2021

Music Matters Productions’ Ken Sorrell meets with Satoshi Kanemura, president and COO of FOR-A America.

Music Matters Productions Relies on FOR-A Gear as Live Event Projects Return

As FOR-A celebrates their 50th anniversary, they continue their time-honored tradition of being both a collaborator and advocate for their clients. Satoshi Kanemura became president and COO of FOR-A America this year as well, after working previously with Sony Corporation for 35 years. “The philosophy of FOR-A is totally identical to the business philosophy of Sony,” he tells PLSN. “That is, we try to be a business partner to the customer, and we try to provide solutions to the customer.”

That philosophy is formed around listening to their customers, getting to understand their “pain point,” then applying a solution through the FOR-A technology. FOR-A further tailors that effort toward their customers’ particular needs and business objectives. “That results in better business for us as well,” says Kanemura. “We always seek the solution to complete the circle.”

A Technology Leader

FOR-A, a worldwide, industry-leading manufacturer, is at the forefront of 12G technology solutions. They offer a wide range of broadcast and production products with a focus on cutting-edge technologies geared toward video switchers, routing switchers, multi-viewers, and full 4K high-speed cameras. Additionally, the company is well known for their intuitive and ergonomic design of IP encoders/decoders, multi-channel signal processors, 8K/4K/HD test signal generators, color correctors, frame synchronizers, character generators, video servers and much more.

Most recently, FOR-A has collaborated with Atlanta-based Music Matters Productions, which is launching a full-scale regeneration in their video production line of technology solutions. This will place MMP ahead of the curve in the market as live events re-emerge from the cold Covid winter.

“We are excited to partner with Aaron Soriero and MMP to bring 12G-SDI workflows to the live event marketplace,” said Kanemura. “As 4K production with huge LED walls, multiple projectors and multiple cameras become the norm for concerts and corporate events, 12G offers an easy and familiar upgrade path for existing baseband infrastructures.”

Ken Sorrell, national account manager for MMP, was the conduit that introduced Soriero to the FOR-A way. He joined MMP in May of 2021. “Aaron called me during his search for someone to lead and build their video department expansion to see if I knew of any available candidates. I mentioned that as a matter of fact I was, negotiations ensued, and a short time later we established the Nashville facility. He had a good budget and was looking to invest in full systems, and a great deal more LED. Though we already owned plenty. We have purchased a lot more high-res LED.” MMP is known for their very large LED walls, which are often beyond HD capabilities.

“I have been a very happy client and consumer of FOR-A for the last nine years; their gear is amazingly rock solid,” says Sorrell. “In fact, one of their earliest switchers, the HVS-390, did over 800 shows worldwide for me, and it never had a single issue. The FOR-A line of switchers are ridiculously easy to program and will be great for our festivals,” Sorrell adds. “Any guest video director can walk up to a FOR-A switcher and be programming within minutes. The company doesn’t just make a cool piece of gear that does cool things. They spend as much time thinking about the user experience as they do the features.”

The choice of going to FOR-A was a “no brainer, particularly since Aaron saw the opportunity to upgrade to 12G,” Sorrell continues. And MMP did it early. There are still adverse waves affecting supply lines, manufacturing materials and delivery times. “I wanted to make sure we were firmly sitting in the driver’s seat before business gets back to and surpasses what was going on before Covid-19. We are going to experience a deluge of requests for gear as shows and touring take off next year,” Sorrell adds. “MMP was very blessed to have a lot of Augmented Reality (AR) work during the shutdown, so we have the people and the gear ready to go.”

Switchers were the first in line purchase, then Sorrell began building director and engineering racks that could easily transition across the spectrum of event environments and markets MMP finds themselves in. “You get a lot more value for your money,” he says, of FOR-A’s 12G products. “We were able to get a faster return on our investment.”

FOR-A’s “Swiss Army Knive”-like FA-9600 signal processor.

A “Swiss Army Knife”

Both Kanemura and Sorrell refer to the FA-9600 as the “Swiss army knife” for video. “Up, down, cross, anything in, anything out; it handles all of it,” says Sorrell. “The coolest thing are the color correction knobs. That analog touch just feels right.”

Music Matters Productions is also gearing up with FOR-A’s HVS-1200 switcher.

The adjustment knobs on the front panel of the FA-9600 are crucial for engineers to quickly paint outputs and match different display technologies as closely as possible. The HVS-1200 switcher will be used for both 4K and HD productions.

FOR-A’s MFR-1000 routing switcher

Unlike other routing switchers, the MFR-1000 routing switcher offers a clean switch between sources. The router can be used as a cuts-only video switcher. As a result, if a Music Matters client needs video for an unscheduled overflow room, for example, the MFR-1000 is the perfect tool.

“The team at FOR-A are so personable and actually wizards,” Sorrell says. “Bob Peterson, the lead technical guru at FOR-A, gave me so much information. He saved us an untold number of headaches making that transition upgrading to 4K. The people there are happy to talk, they are excited about what they do. You never feel like just a customer with a customer ID number. Satoshi is awesome,” Sorrell adds. “The fact he was a senior VP at Sony tells me a lot. He is deeply impressed and involved with the FOR-A company.”

With the launch of 360Festivals creation, a joint venture by Soriero with Mike Brammer over at SES (See related article, this issue, page 34), the FOR-A infrastructure as the backbone of the MMP video department and Sorrel at the helm of the department, a new dynamic will be on the scene. “For today’s live concert/event productions, where large-screen projectors and large LED panels are used, 4K-quality video is essential,” points out Kanemura. “The 12G-SDI transmission standard allows users to transmit a 4K signal through a single coax cable, while 3G-SDI systems require four cables. For Music Matters, single cable connectivity provides easier setup and fewer points of failure in the signal chain on location, as well as less weight for transport.”

With FOR-A, MMP now has a whole ecosystem. They have routers, they have media servers, they have record decks, and all of these devices talk to each other and have a proven road worthy record of working flawlessly. “As a director, I’ve got more control over the systems,” says Sorrell. “Being able to adjust what I’m getting versus what I’m showing is huge.”

A “Beast of a System”

The capability of these switchers, and the directing racks of FOR-A products being built at MMP will use these routers and other gear to allow one central system to control three stages at a festival. The HVS-1200 has 10 in/10 out as a 12G switcher. In HD, it can handle 40 inputs. “The way the 360Festivals is playing out, we are going to need a beast of a system,” explains Sorrell.” We have an ecosystem where we can control three stages all from one control system. While the main stage is switching to the next band and the B-stage is on, we can show the B-stage on the main stage video wall. With three or four cameras on each stage, guest video inputs, laptops playing back content, and media servers, we could do it all from one control truck and all those stages can have the same look and feel.”

Getting pieces of gear to talk, and trying to find the right cable and the right connectors to overcome the challenges posed by distances from video switcher, can be a real difficult task. “FOR-A has really facilitated the transition from HD to 4K and eased a lot of the challenges with their 12G single-cable solution” says Sorrell. “Having their variety of know-how obtained throughout real installation and implementation of actual working 12G 4K workflow is an extraordinary asset. Plus, the operation and workflow of FOR-A’s equipment is so intuitive, which makes everything incredibly simple.”

“We found the unicorn,” Sorrell says, in closing. “We found the one thing that can do it all.”

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