Tag Archives: Automated robotic cameras
Article: The Rise Of The Robotic Camera | from The Broadcast Bridge | By Adrian Pennington
The rise of the PTZ camera, discussed in a previous post, fits into the wider trends for remote operation, robotic cameras, and automated content production. We spoke with Mark Roberts Motion Control (Nikon-owned since 2016), one of the pioneers in robotic cameras to gain insight into the drivers for this, new applications and future developments.
The film and TV industry continues to benefit from automation efficiencies with motion control robotics compatible with third party products throughout entirely automated workflows. Machine vision and real-time image analysis are helping to augment the control of moving cameras, while robust IP architecture permits extreme remote operation. Systems are getting smaller, saving camera footprints and opening up a wider range of potential positions while the layers of system redundancy and control options reduce risk in live operations
Assaff Rawner, CEO of MRMC suggests another reason for take-off:
“Taking viewers closer to the action and providing more unique perspectives and engagement is one. Another is consistency of output made possible through repeatable programmed moves. Also, the demand on space, whether seats in stadiums or modular studios, is increasing pressure to reduce the operational footprint of cameras whilst accommodating for the demand of increasing camera angles.”
Simplicity of integration in existing production workflows is one of the key advances of robotic cameras. MRMC has focused on a simple plug and play approach to broadcast robotics releasing a range of Polycam and MHC products products tailored to remove the complex user operation usually associated with multi-head robotic camera systems.
Its acquisition of Camerobot last year, has also brought together best of breed hardware and software to create a new level of broadcast studio multi-axis robotic studio solutions including VR and AR integration with all the major vendors.
With the rise in quality of small format cameras, advancing motor technology and motion control software, together with new levels of product design aesthetics, robotic camera positions are bringing a level of motion usually associated with manually controlled fluid heads and in positions that add further value to productions. Such advances are allowing robotic cameras moves to be cut live to air (rather than just replays) and, through a wider range of payload and mounting options, opens the possibility of more camera positions without compromise to venue audience space.
“Another area of growth for robotic cameras has been in the rise of remote productions (or REMIs),” says Rawner. “With the increasing availability of stable high-bandwidth networks, the control of camera robotics over IP is an attractive proposition to lower production costs and minimise travel. MRMC has standardized on IP control for all of its robotic range with built-in features such as network diagnostics, IP video encoding at the camera head and localised user client applications for full feature remote control.”
To read the full article visit The Broadcast Bridge Here
This year we will have a range of high tech robotics on the IBC stand, We have expanded our booth size, so we can include more robotics for you to test and have live demonstrations.
Due to popular demand, the Bolt High-Speed CineBot on track returns to IBC, and we will be offering IBC visitors a very interesting video experience – so visit the stand to find out – and bring your mobile phones!
Joining Bolt on the stand is the multifunctional MRMC StudioBot – a complete studio automation robotic solution with up to nine axes of synchronised motion – offering broadcasters an efficient fully automated work flow.
Stand visitors can also ‘road test’ the AFC-100s PTZ, ideal for a multitude of broadcast studio applications
MRMC’s Robotic Pod™, the next generation remote capture unit, for sports, events and other live broadcasts, and The high speed, completely silent Whisper Head, a small compact unit with a diverse range of applications, such as live shows, corporate events, house of worship or for security and surveillance. These robotic solutions raise the bar in broadcast with an impressive array of advanced broadcast camera head features, automation and functionality.
These camera heads are controlled on the MRMC stand, through two software applications – Flair and MHC (multi head controller) – visit our stand for demonstrations of MHC controlling multiple robotic heads from a single console.
Get your pass for FREE if you register before August 18th, 2017 by clicking here – or if you miss the deadline, use our complimentary registration code 4927 to get a free ticket.
Visit our stand: Hall 12, F11.
Location map: click here
CASE STUDY: PDC WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP WITH MHC
MRMC has been providing robotic systems for Sky Sports coverage of the PDC darts championships for 3 years. Between the 2013-2016 seasons, the robotic systems were used in elevated positions where operators cannot access directly. Control of camera moves is extended to a backstage position where the operators use encoded pan bar systems to simulate the function of manually controlled cameras. (See Figure 1)
Working closely with the production and technical facilities teams over the years, MRMC were able to adapt features that helped enhance the camera operator’s coverage. Providing pre-set functionality allowed the operators to quickly get to a position on the dartboard to keep pace with the play. (See Figure 2 below)
Prior to the 2017 season, Sky looked to MRMC to provide a control solution for the 2 main match board cameras (positions 2 & 3). To date, these positions have been manned consisting of pedestal camera supports, full-sized fibre camera channels and 72x/86x box lenses. These positions require operators with a great deal of experience and skill to move quickly and accurately around the dartboard whilst using a high degree of lens magnification.
The challenge for MRMC was to design a control user interface that could provide this high level of match coverage, but using camera operators with little knowledge of the sport or the specifics of the positions. The solution needed to be completed within three weeks. Working closely with Sky Sports Production Director, Andy Finn, the full range of shots for each camera position were mapped out.
“Andy’s deep understanding of the sport and exceptional production knowledge allowed us to assemble a workshop test environment that emulated the live production,” comments Steve Boland, MRMC Broadcast Director. “This allowed us to establish an invaluable feedback loop to ensure every stage of the development was meeting the demands of the application,” he added.
The development was multi-faceted requiring a transition to a robotic model as well as designing a user interface specific to each camera position. The existing camera and lens configuration was generating too much flex when applied to the high-speed robotic moves required for the camera positions. To resolve this, Telegenic (outside broadcast supplier) provided Sony compact cameras with fibre converters allowing the robotic positions to be seamlessly integrated with the multi-cam production.
Reducing the physical footprint of the robotic positions was made possible by feedback from the on-going tests of the shots. Having defined all the shots required for each camera, this then allowed each shot to be stored as a preset in MRMC’s control software ‘MHC’. Because the precise camera positions were known for each fixture, the zoom positions for each shot were tested in advance. Due to the precise repeatability of each shot, this lead to a reduction in the size of the lenses from 86x s and 72x to 2 x 40x ENG-style lenses (See Figure 3)
According to Mike Ruddell, Sky Sports Head of Technology, “Reducing the footprint of the production technology is always welcome. Along with the associated efficiency this brings, it often helps with the fan’s visibility of the sport at the venue. But such reductions cannot compromise the quality of the production. A smaller footprint without the loss of quality, coupled with the precise repeatability of camera moves, provides us with a consistent product which is a value add for us.”
POSITIONING THE CAMERAS
The unique aspect of darts TV production is the operators have to position the cameras in advance of the play. As darts can be an extremely fast sport this means getting cameras around the board using very tight zooms, ahead of each throw. This requires a high level of skill and synergy between operators and the TV director. “Maintaining this production synergy was essential to accepting any technology changes,” commented Andy Finn, “the robotic user interface had to allow that synergy, which is crucial to achieving the high-quality international darts coverage Sky produce and to continue unimpeded by new methods of camera control.”
As the technology started to take shape, MRMC’s software designers worked through various iterations of the UI. Camera 2 required 27 different shots of the dartboard and camera 3 required 44. “The darts application allowed us to personalise the UI, not only for darts generally, but also for particular camera positions within darts,” stated Boland. “By making a direct correlation between the subject and controller, it made sense to use a graphical representation of a dart board as a skin.” (See Figure 4).
The new darts UI allows the user to position the camera and lens for each shot remotely and store by touching the area of the dartboard on the UI whilst in a ‘store’ mode status (See Figure 5). Once all the shots are stored the user selects a live mode allowing all the stored positions to be recalled simply by touching that area of the dartboard. The speed of motion between pre-sets is programmable allowing for each shot to have unique speed characteristics. As a pre-set is selected the graphic for that area of the board changes status to confirm to the user the request has been activated. The UI is presented on a 27” touchscreen display with each active area of the board equal to 3 times the size of the user’s finger touch area (See Figure 6). This allows for a confident selection of the area in a fast paced live production environment. Larger ancillary buttons are available outside the board area to provide programmable pre-sets for the most commonly used positions.
THE TREBLE 20 PUSH IN SHOT
One of the most difficult shots to produce is the camera 2 treble 20 push in. This move is used live on air when the darts player scores 2 treble 20s with his first 2 darts. Before dart 3 is thrown the camera zooms in from a wide to a tight position, framing the treble 20. The difficulty is the shot is framed offset to allow a split screen view of the dartboard to the left and the player to the right. The zoom in requires this offset to be maintained throughout the push in. So rather than a linear zoom, there is a small fraction of pan and tilt required during a much larger move of the zoom range (equal to 2 degrees of pan and 90 degree of zoom). This is a demanding shot for an operator and takes many years of practice to become almost a muscle memory function to repeat. To provide this shot the MRMC team designed a lens configuration table within the MHC darts application that linearizes the relationship between the small pan and tilt motion with the larger zoom motion. This creates a straighter line shot between the offset wide and tight shot, enabling a highly accurate and repeatable shot to highlight this dramatic section of the production. The skin also provides a touch area for creep zooming, allowing the operator to emphasise dramatic moments when a player repeats throws for a double and the cameras alternates between a slow zoom on the players face and a slow zoom on the area of the board he is aiming for.
The MHC control system also allows for hardware controllers to be attached as USB devices. The darts system uses a joystick panel with full manual control of pan, tilt, zoom and focus allowing the operator to re-adjust shots on the fly and move to other areas on or off the board. The system is also IP-based allowing the operator to be positioned at any location (globally via the internet) with full control of the camera head. Each robotic position receives power via UPS units allowing for up to 10 hours of uninterrupted power ensuring stored positions are not compromised through failure.
To date, the MHC darts systems have been used for 16 weeks of consecutive PDC Premier League Darts and the World Cup of Darts in Frankfurt. Using camera operators that have little previous experience of darts production, the systems have performed to the highest technical and production standards throughout each of these events. By removing the difficulty of manually creating these shots and the technical learning curve of a new system, the operators are able to immediately focus on the speed and synergy of the production environment which is this secret of Sky’s highly successful coverage of PDC darts.
Following the successful implementation of the darts interface and now that the software can complement the creative functions of traditional manned camera positions, the benefits of being in a soft design and learning environment can be further adapted to enhance the coverage of the sport. The style characteristics of individual darts players such as the speed of throws can be tailored to adjust the response of the presets creating a more dynamic relationship between the subject and camera. The software can also be easily deployed for training purposes, allowing for a greater pool of operators to learn the system without the need of transporting specialist equipment. As the system is IP-based this also allows for future remote production applications without the need for any workflow changes.
KEY PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
- Very fast product turnaround from commission to delivery
- Precise camera move repeatability allowing consistency of production regardless of operator experience or venue changes
- Simple intuitive UI to control complex camera moves
- Less specialised control allowing for an increased pool of camera operators
- Smaller technical footprint without quality compromise
- IP – based and remote production ready
- Personalised to specific sports and camera positions enhancing operation and coverage
- Skins designs are quick to create at low cost
- Designed by people involved in the production resulting in a fully tailored product
New Product Release at the Show
NAB Show is only a few weeks away and we will be showcasing some incredible new tech developments along with numerous cutting edge robotic solutions.
Our new Multi-Head Controller software (MHC) will make its debut at the show. MHC is a new software platform designed for complete user simplicity. As the name suggests, it controls robotic heads at the touch of a button from a single workstation.
Demonstrations will include key features such as its ‘store and display’ capability – where users can save camera moves or presets and then load them into UI ‘buttons’ that anyone
can then use.
Next Generation UI Technology
However, the keynote feature of MHC is its ability to be UI tailored to virtually any broadcast requirement. This means any environment can be mirrored into MHCs UI functionality, giving users instantly recognisable buttons, graphics, moves etc.
Whether you want an interface skin for events such as tennis, darts etc., or for a studio, stadium or other live event, MHC can be tailored to the user’s specific requirements for complete speed, control and functionality.
Cutting Edge Broadcast Robotics
We will also be demonstrating a great range of robotic solutions, including The POD, AFC-100, the Whisper Head and a StudioBot Lite arm – all of which will be controlled by MHC.
Visitors will be the among the first to try out these cutting edge robotic solutions through the new MHC software, and you’ll be blown away at how simple and user-friendly it is to control some of the most advanced robotics in the broadcast market today.
Where are we at NAB?
You will find us in: Central Hall | Stand C5646 | Find us on the NAB Show Floor Plan
If you have any questions or would like any further information on any of our products please don’t hesitate to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Get your FREE NAB Pass
Get your free ticket to the NAB Show worth $50 dollars, using the code: LV3883 – Hurry, as the offer expires soon. To register, click here
Exhibiting PTZ Systems @ Government Video Expo
MRMC are thrilled to be exhibiting its range of new compact pan-tilt systems for the first time at the Government Video Expo in Washington on 7th and 8th December. As a global leader in the manufacture of Motion Control and Robotic Camera Technology, MRMC will showcase some of the solutions that have transformed many of its client’s workflow techniques and production efficiencies.
Range of Pan-Tilt Robotic Heads
At the show MRMC will introduce a range of new compact pan-tilt systems, each with unique features, together with examples of automated tracking, customised manufacturing, open architecture design and 3rd party integrated solutions.
Dan Brown, VP of Sales and Marketing MRMC comments
“Over the last few years our client portfolio has expanded to include solutions for legislative installations, news and current affairs studios and automated target tracking applications and the time is right to bring these products and services to one of the leading US shows in this market sector.”
For more information about the show www.gvexpo.com
MRMC create pan-tilt heads and tracking technologies to allow easy, accurate control of pan-tilt units for many different applications. From instruments and cameras to surveillance equipment. All our systems are Ethernet based allowing easy integration into third party systems.
Pan-Tilt Heads at Wimbledon Tennis Championship
Once again MRMC’s pan-tilt heads were operating at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. It’s been four years since the heads were implemented at the tournament in partnership with Nikon. In 2013, renowned sports photographer Bob Martin wanted to bring a whole new dynamic to the photography at Wimbledon and therefore trialled MRMC heads mounted with Nikon D4s.
To date, there’s around 20 MRMC robotic heads covering the action from centre court to many of the outer ones that traditionally received little coverage.
Bob Martin, sports photographer, said at the time:
“The demand for new images at big sporting events is what encourages me to push the limits of photography. Using this set up, it’s proved that capturing the impossible is now possible, which is very exciting for the future of photography”.
MRMCs heads are not only used for photography at Wimbledon, they are also used by Hawk-Eye Innovations. They use the heads with their own SMART Production technology to capture footage that gets aired through the red button and BBC iPlayer app as well as other international broadcasters.
Due to the extremely smooth and quiet functionality of the AFC pan-tilt head, along with full lens control and its IP architecture that allows seamless integration into any system, MRMC heads are fast becoming a de-facto choice for many live sports productions & photography agencies.
For more information on the AFC click here