November 18, 2012

Bradley Bonds with Skyfall + Skytrac

Bradley Engineering’s new U4-F remote pan and tilt head for digital cinema cameras was developed for the new Bond movie, Skyfall, primarily for use in cars (notably M's Jaguar) with the Alexa M split-head camera, but it could also have applications in sports production.

It has ten gears for very precise slow or fast movement, and uses a traditional style wheeled controller. What excited some visitors who tried it at IBC was how smooth it is, thanks to in-built processors, which would make it perfect for an object tracking system.

For sports applications, “our head could be used to automatically have a camera smoothly follow a player around a pitch,” said the company’s founder, David Bradley. “This hasn’t really been possible [before], because in order to make it smooth you have to have a very high data rate, but our head takes care of it. It works out the positions in between and gives a very smooth move.”

Also new is Bradley’s high-speed Skytrac Lite, which was originally designed for possible use on a natural history production, as it is small and can be battery powered.

However, the first one has been sold to Remote CameraSolutions (which also commissioned the original Skytrac HD used for Sky Sports golf coverage), and has been used for ITV and Sky Sports, including the Speedway World Championships, where its top speed of 75mph (120kph) enabled it to keep up with action.

The dolly alone weighs about 4kg. Add a GY236 gyroscopic remote head and it weighs about 9kg (plus batteries and downlink). But it would be possible to order a lighter, more basic version.

“It is simple, lightweight and easily portable,” said Rory Watson, head of special projects, Bradley Engineering (pictured with the Skytrac Lite).

At IBC, Bradley also showed two of the Torchcams it developed for the BBC to cover the Olympic Torch Relay for some 8,000 miles (almost 13,000km) around the UK - which were used in and on a converted horsebox (pictured above). 

It made four of Torchcams: a Gimball 2 (self-levelling) that was mounted on top of the OB trailer for wide shots; a smaller GY236 head, used for long-range shots of the runners; and two HD10 fixed cameras.

By David Fox

November 05, 2012

Panasonic AF100A/AF101A update

It seemed as if Panasonic had forgotten its AF100/AF101 Micro Four Thirds-based AVCCAM camcorder, but it has finally announced an update: the AG-AF100A / AG-AF101A.

The new A series looks identical to the existing model, but will now be able to record 1080p 50/60 (at up to 28Mbps) internally and will produce a 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HD-SDI for recording on an external recorder (compared to 8-bit output on the previous model).

Although this means that the AF100/101 hasn’t been totally forgotten, it is a rather limited upgrade. Given that Panasonic’s own GH3 stills camera can record 1080p 60p/50 at 50Mbps IPB and 24p at 72Mbps ALL-I internally, it seems a shame that the camcorder should lag so far behind a much cheaper stills camera.

Admittedly, the new GH3 only has 8-bit 4:2:0 output via HDMI (although given what hacks have done to expand the recording options on the existing GH2, one would hope the GH3 will be similarly tweakable).

The AF100A/AF101A also gets an expanded focus assist function, which enlarges the centre of the displayed image, and 2.39:1 (cinema scope size) safety zone marker.

Besides the GH2 and GH3, the other option for anyone with an investment in Micro Four Thirds lenses is the upcoming MFT version of Blackmagic Design’s Cinema Camera. It has certain advantages over the stills cameras in terms of faster connections (Thunderbolt), higher bitrate recording and smartphone-like controls (although the GH3 will be controllable from a smartphone), but is not as ergonomically usable as the AF100/101 (nor have its dual XLR audio inputs). However, it does cost less.

The AG-AF100A (the US version) and AG-AF101A (European version) will be available later this month with a list price of €4,150 excluding VAT (about £3,300 or $5,300).

By David Fox

November 02, 2012

BSI catches the wave wirelessly

Broadcast Sports, Inc. (BSI) provided mobile radio frequency (wireless) cameras for the recent Quiksilver Pro Surfing Championship in France, including its new remote-controlled, waterproof Pan Tilt Roll Zoom camera.

The elite tour event featured surfers from around the world competing on 4-6m waves and was shown on Eurosport TV and Fox Australia, and broadcast live on the website -

Because of changing weather and surf conditions, the competition moved along the beach each day in search of the best waves, so BSI put together a package with two RF cameras that could be operated anywhere along the 10km stretch of sandy beach.

It deployed the new, waterproof, wireless PTRZ camera, which was developed for coverage of sailing at the London Olympics, plus a handheld radio camera, with a Land Rover carrying four radio links. The set-up had four feeds with point-to-point links and multiplexers that fired back to a master receive point.

The Land Rover could move up and down the beach, up to 8km away from the media compound, which was producing the live web cast. BSI could send back the radio camera, PTRZ, live feeds from the OB truck and scoring for the competition from any point down the 10km stretch of the beach, without having to move the whole production.

Wireless PTRZ

The PTRZ camera was mounted on a pole to get views of the crowd along the beach. Being wireless it could be moved anywhere along the beach and even taken into the changing rooms, where BSI could still receive a signal.

The dome-shaped PTRZ is available as a rental item from BSI, and can also be used for land-based applications that require a particularly robust camera.

Its features include: a 1080i HD camera; 10x optical zoom lens; compact 210mm x 165mm case; and it weighs 2kg.

It pans 360° continuously, tilts through 60° and rolls  +/- 30°. These movements and the zoom, red/blue gain, iris, focus, shutter speed, saturation, master gain and master pedestal are all remotely adjustable and the operator can adjust RF parameters and switch from standby to operational mode.

The PTRZ uses COFDM wireless encoding at H.264 MPEG-4 and MPEG 1 Layer II with QPSK and 16QAM modulation and operates at 1.4-1.5 GHz or 2.0- 2.5 GHz. BSI can supply models for other frequencies.

3D camera systems

BSI also has a new 3D wireless camera package designed for live broadcast use. It includes camera control, remote convergence, and return vision to the camera.

It uses low delay encoding, and BSI uses its own dual-stream mini encoder/transmitter, about the size of a cell phone, to carry the left and right signals simultaneously, to ensure both signals remain in synch.

BSI developed its own UHF camera control, allowing an operator to adjust the camera parameters and control convergence between the left and right eyes using the camera manufacturer's control panels, which means that images from the 3D rig can be matched to the images from other cameras on the production.

By David Fox