Tag Archives: broadcast robotics
STEVE BOLAND, BROADCAST DIRECTOR @ MRMC, PROVIDES THE BENEFIT OF HIS EXPERIENCE, INSIGHT AND OPINION, DISCUSSING THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS AND TRENDS IN AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS… AND WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MRMC AT IBC2017
Q: What are the key opportunities for your customers in the current market environment?
A: Steve Boland:
Choice! MRMC is about image acquisition for broadcast, film and media production and there has never been more choice for imaging tools as there are today. Designing sophisticated camera moves has largely been the domain of specialist solutions operating on high budget productions. Whether shooting for live or post produced applications, MRMC provide solutions for the broadest possible spectrum of imaging technologies.
Q: So what are the major technology drivers for the business going forward?
A: Steve Boland:
The media production industry is driven by highly skilled and dedicated people working as a collective whole. The synergy between the tasks and communication of the team is key to a successful production. Our technology drivers are measured by this synergy. If we are attempting to simplify or automate a task, is the solution as good or better than current methods?
Q: How will MRMC at IBC shed light on these developments?
A: Steve Boland:
IBC brings together a broad range of MRMC robotics, including High-Speed Solutions and versatile Multi-Axis Arms, to compact Pan and Tilt Systems. These systems can provide an extraordinary level of creative acquisition options and our focus is to show the simplicity of how these solutions can fit in a modern production environment.
Q: Why should delegates visit the MRMC stand at IBC?
A: Steve Boland:
To get ‘hands-on’ and have fun. MHC is our new control interface that brings a new level of simplicity and customisable ‘skins’ based on the user’s production environment. To date we have created skins for tennis, basketball, darts, studios and can design any number of skins based on the requirements of our customers. Our stand at IBC offers delegates the chance to play and explore robotics and MHC skins as extensions of their imaginations. Visitors can meet Bolt, the world’s fastest Cinebot and drive a StudioBot. New at IBC and can be seen on the MRMC stand is the Whisper Head PTZ and Robotic Pod.
Q: Do you think the IBC event has come at a good time for the electronic media industry? Why?
A: Steve Boland:
IBC is always a good annual evaluation platform for the industry. Whether it comes at a good or bad time is a matter of perspective. The level of exhibitors and visitors will continue to act as a barometer for the health of the industry.
Q: What do you think are the key developments in, or threats to the market sector at the current time?
A: Steve Boland:
From an image acquisition perspective, there is a new focus on operations that are formulaic and repetitive and those that require a greater level of creative input. As with many other industries, automation is key topic as the cost and efficiency benefits can be substantial. However, it is easy to envisage how problems can arise when the idea of automation is so compelling and the transition from a non-automated to an automated model is seen as a one-step process. From a robotics manufacturer’s business view the prospect of fully automated environments would appear as a persuasive driver. The reality is that we are in the business of facilitating compelling camera moves and whether that is following a football player for 90 minutes or capturing the impact of a bullet through a high-speed move, the result has to look natural and organic. Automation is not a one step process nor a term for shortcut cost savings, but thinking about a future creative industry where certain tasks will be automated, gives rise to transitional technologies that augment the best of human productivity.
Q: Why should delegates visit the MRMC stand at IBC?
A: Steve Boland:
Our mission at IBC is to showcase some of the transitional technologies that help facilitate a reduction in the timescale between the creative idea and the executed product. Simplifying controls for specific tasks is one of the key features of our new robotic software ‘MHC’. MHC allows the end-user to define the interface that is right for their application. This can be a tailored design for the unique task of a specific camera position and in a particular multi-camera environment. Through such fit-for-purpose user interfaces, the single task is elevated to a uniquely focussed task so the best possible tools are provided for that role. Delegates can explore these interfaces and bring their own ideas for camera positions to life via MHC.
VISIT US AT IBC SHOW: HALL 12, F11.
Location map: https://goo.gl/CCgxtt
For more information on MHC 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
This year’s NAB Show was likely one of our busiest and we had a tremendous amount of interest in MHC (Multi-Head Controller) software, and its ability to have tailored skins. Another key focal point was in IP connected technology; many visitors were interested in the ability of remote production through IP, using MHC tailored skins with our robotic heads.
See the short video below from IABM, who visited our stand, and conducted a short interview, that covers this great new technology of MHC.
For more information on any of the above robotics or MHC software, click on the hyperlinks above, or get it touch
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.
London Live in is a local TV channel based in London, England. The channel transmits local news, current affairs, sports, arts, events and entertainment and was launched on the 31st March 2014.
In September 2013, MRMC and London Live began discussions around ways to employ motion control robotics to realise a radically different approach to broadcast studio content acquisition and workflows.
Headed by Technical Director, Bryn Balcombe, the LL team saw an opportunity to challenge traditional assumptions of the look and format of TV news and current affairs programmes.
The perception of local TV is low budget technology often resulting in a cheap and static look. London Live set out to innovate and challenge this notion and without the budget of National TV studios, opted for a different look using full frame sensor cameras. With developments in DSLR camera technology allowing for high-quality HD video functionality in addition to a cinematic shallow depth of field look, the team began looking for a supplier that could integrate this technology in a studio environment.
To download the full case study click here
Check out the video below for an overview of how MRMC robotics work within the London Live Studio.
The AFC pan and tilt head has established itself in the broadcast sector as a versatile performer offering new possibilities for sports and studio content producers.
With a small footprint and high payload capacity, the AFC head is the perfect choice for getting close to the action without compromising picture quality. The art of fluid motion is perfectly realised through the very latest in precision motors and high-resolution gearing, together with control interfaces carefully designed to maximise the operator’s creative direction.
The AFC’s IP-based architecture brings a wide range of benefits to today’s broadcast workflows. Whether extending operator control, target tracking or integrating with augmented reality graphics, the AFC fits seamlessly into networked production environments.
AFC-180: Speed & Performance
The AFC-180 head offers exceptional speed and performance from a compact head. With pan speeds of up to 180° per second, the AFC-180 is ideal for getting trackside and following fast moving targets. Brushless servos provide smooth and quiet axis motion whilst high-bandwidth slip rings offer unlimited pan rotation. Paired with MRMC’s LFP joystick controller, the AFC-180 makes high-speed close-up shots an intuitive, safe and highly creative solution.
AFC-100: A Range of Applications
The AFC-100 head is the ideal choice for a wide range of broadcast applications ranging from studio camera robotics to live events and sports production. Speeds of up to 100° per second can be achieved using powerful stepper motors. A high payload capacity offers supports for full studio build-up kits including compact cameras and Teleprompters.
High-Level of Integration
The AFC range offers a high level of integration features. Camera video, power and data are conveniently routed through the heads I/O panel providing simplified rigging and cable management. Using robust, weather-proofed connectors and sealed gaskets, the AFC heads are designed for the heavy demands that come with outside broadcast robotics.
Control: Live Event Robotic Cameras
For live televised sports and events having the right interface is essential for successfully combining remote control and natural looking motion. MRMC’s LFP joystick and pan bar control systems offer the best available translation of operator commands into smooth and precise camera shots. MRMC’s controllers employ complex background algorithms exclusively engineered for live action. Features such as ‘ZRS’ (zoom related scaling) and ‘EXP’ (exponential joystick sensitivity), automatically respond to the operator’s intentions and make difficult zoom and pan transitions possible as single continuous shots. The LFP’s simple and intuitive control surface empowers the operator to concentrate on the action, whilst powerful background software provides the level of immediacy and precision required for the most demanding shots.
MRMC’s studio control software provides an ideal framework for today’s integrated studio environments. Multiple camera positions can be easily controlled from a single operator and pre-programmed moves and positions executable via a simple touch-screen interface. MRMC’s studio software also supports integration with 3rd party virtual graphics and automation systems.
An open architecture design philosophy makes the AFC range attractive to system integrators who can employ or design their own control interface as part of a unified system (API available on request).
MRMC provide a wide range of accessories including studio build-up kits, tracks, lift columns, lens motors, encoders and tracking systems.
To see videos and other information about our robotic camera systems click here
We have a great show this year at NAB! To show off our high-speed Bolt Cinebot we will give visitors their own 'red carpet' experience with the Bolt on Track shooting in slow motion! We will then put together a short video compilation at the end of the show and post it up on our company blog. Keep an eye as you may be famous on the red carpet!
Check out what E-Magazine did with the Bolt (AKA Glambot) at the Golden Globes (link below). This could be you, so do come visit us at stand C10108. To see where we are at NAB click here. For the video and article on E-Magazine, Click here
Get your FREE $150 pass for NAB Show this year! Click the button below and select the 'Exhibits Pass Session 3-Pack'. You'll need to fill out the short form, but you will then receive a free pass to NAB!
MRMC had some of its AFC pan-tilt heads at The British Basketball Championships earlier this month, where the London Lions played the Leicester Riders at The Copper Box Stadium in London. The AFC heads are used by Hawk-Eye Innovations, the same company known for their ball tracking technology used at all the major international Tennis events.
The pilot is set to run over four events and be streamed live in January 2016 via Skysports.com and Webcastsport.com.
You can read more at Hawk-Eye Innovations News here.
At NAB we showed countless demonstrations and met many fantastic people. For us the show is a great opportunity to make new friends, meet old acquaintances and of course showcase all the latest developments we’ve been working on here at Mark Roberts.
In case you missed us there, or perhaps just didn’t get a chance to get out to the event, we’ve put together a final overview of what went down. To get a glimpse of the technology behind our newest camera tracking technology check out the photos below and watch the short video above with our Managing Director Assaff Rawner. The video was generously created by IABM (International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers).
MRMC partnered with Century Sage Scientific Group to introduce Polycam and the AFC-100 pan and tilt head to the Chinese market at BIRTV exhibition last month.
As a leading broadcast system integrator, CSS has the reputation, strong client base and technical expertise to showcase and introduce pioneering technology such as Polycam to the broadcast market in China.
A two-camera AFC-100 Polycam SOLO configuration was on display and numerous demonstrations were given to leading TV Stations and Broadcasters throughout the four day exhibit. The Polycam range of Solo, Velocity and Auto offers many benefits for sports and live productions, but the show also generated interest for studio applications. The high speed performance of the compact AFC-100 also attracted attention. With a new version capable of 180° per second, getting closer to high speed sports becomes a safer option without compromising the shots.
Looking forwards – MRMC will be at IBC 2013 where you will find us on stand IBC Hall: 11 Stand G35
You will be able to see Bolt High Speed Cinebot for the first time ever at IBC, along with the newest editions of the Polycam set-up. All are welcome to come see us and talk shop.
For more details about MRMC or our products please contact Mark Roberts Motion Control on: firstname.lastname@example.org +441342 838 000 or look us up on the web: www.mrmoco.com