Eye to Eye: Getting a grip


Getting a grip
Cameras and camcorders are shrinking at such a rapid rate that a lot of today's established support devices are looking completely out of scale. In some aisles of the NAB 2010 Central Hall, visitors were at perpetual risk of colliding with excited demonstrators nipping hither and yon with hand-held stabilisers for DSLRs. Most were only for single camera 2D but watch out for the 3D redesign at IBC in September or at NAB 2011.
Some of the latest camcorders are quite literally wearable, the only grip needed being an attachment to a helmet, car, bike, surfboard, airplane, balloon or pogo-stick. VholdR is a good example. I didn't see the company on the show floor but its promo-bus was prominently positioned on the edge of the main car-park. Loud graphics on the side of this vehicle told most of the story and the company's website (http://vholdr.com) tells the rest: cameraman jumping from cliff and capturing brief descent on Secure Digital memory card at 1080p through integral 135 degree wide-angle lens.
That is even more impressive than watching three hours of self-ramcamming cyclist on a long pedal from Alaska to the southern end of Argentina (BBC4 if I remember correctly). If the $330 price seems excessive, there is always GoPro's HD Hero, a matchbox-sized camcorder at an 'NAB special' price of $200, again incorporating wide angle lens and Secure Digital card slot. GoPro fielded quite a large booth at NAB and demonstrated remarkably good images. I looked carefully at the badges of the assembled multitude and, to me surprise, it included serious broadcasters. So maybe this is not just for kids. See
Autocue demonstrated at both at BVE and NAB 2010 an Apple-iPhone-based prompting system designed for use with hand-held DSLRs. If that seems small, the company now also offers a larger prompter based on the Apple iPad which incorporates a 9.5 inch screen).
Manfrotto has added to its PRO tripod series the model 546, available in two versions: 546B with mid-level spreader and 546GB with ground-level spreader. The 546 has an aluminium top casting allowing use with 75 mm diameter professional half-ball video heads. Aluminium twin-strut legs incorporate adjustable locking levers that can be tension-set.
Petrol Bags' Cambio is a light-weight equipment bag which converts into a support for camcorders of up to 4.5 kg weight. Features include frame and axle trolley with integral handle, camera platform and 75 mm ball-head mount adapter. The Cambio has a centre steel column which is extendable to 142 cm. An optional lightweight micro-fluid head allows quick attachment and conventional pan and tilt movement.
Panther's new 'U-Bangi 2' is a multi purpose horizontal tracking system for use on dollies, tripods, stands or a flat surface. Features include redesigned endpieces with 80 mm connector, double Euromount and counter weight bar, and compatibility with all Panther accessories.
Polecam announced that its 3D-Narrow pan and tilt head is now being supplied as standard with all the company's new camera support rigs, with the option of choosing the new 3D-Wide head. The standard pan and tilt head sold with Polecam systems will now be capable of holding a 3D camera pair.
3D-Narrow attaches directly to all standard Polecam rigs and is optimised for normal studio shooting as well as close-ups where it is desirable to match normal human eye spacing. A levelling plate with three fine-adjustment verniers allows each camera to be exactly matched in height and forward angle. The optional 3D-Wide head allows the distance between cameras to be extended so that full 3D impact can be achieved even in long-shot.
Sachtler has introduced two new fluid heads: the Video 18 S1 and Video 20 S1. Both are optimised for use with DSLRs such as Canon's 5D Mark II or 7D. New features include a 16-step counterbalance and a boost button for quick payload range shift.
Robotics
Camera Corps demonstrated its new ultra-compact Mini Joystick Control. This is compatible with all Camera Corps and Egripment pan and tilt heads, including the Q-Ball. Features include fully adjustable pan, tilt and zoom speeds and reverses. Zoom is controlled by rotary twist of the joystick. Up to five separate heads can be operated from a single panel. Reverse settings and control speeds for each of the five channels can be stored in non-volatile internal memory. Camera Corps' audio data communication system allows unlimited operating distances between Mini Joystick Control and remote heads. Each of the five channels has its own red and green cue/tally light switch. Individual channels can be locked to prevent inadvertent alteration of presets. Focus can be remote-adjusted manually or switched between manual and automatic when used with cameras that support these features.
Vinten Radamec hosted a virtual reality demonstration at NAB with graphics software from Brainstorm and Orad. Control and location data from Vinten Radamec virtual-reality heads and pedestals is on an open interface and ready to work with potentially any graphics system.
Virtual grip
Dominant subject at NAB 2010 was, as last year, 3D. Less predictably, the interest was on both sides: potential buyers as well as sellers. Given that the human brain is capable of imagining depth from a 2D cave painting, what is so special in 2010 about 3D? Quite simply, the technology to deliver 3D to home-based television audiences now exists. More importantly, video gaming will migrate fully to 3D over the next few years and neither traditional television nor the Web will be left behind.
As a break from booth after booth of 3D, I keyed in on the second morning of the four-day show to the latest sci/tech headlines at www.physorg.com. One of the top stories was Belgian research organisation Imec (www.imec.be) and the technology described was a 'virtual camera'. Imec has worked out how to interpolate in real-time the viewpoint from an operator-guideable camera. My initial assumption was that this would be an avatar-based system but it proved far more impressive. Imec's iVC system interpolates the actual video output from multiple fixed real cameras pointing in from various locations and heights at the edge of the field. Although any non-available fragment simply showed as black on the demo, actual implementations would require enough cameras to make that a non-issue.
Belgian OB company Outside Broadcast participated in the development project. OB's MD Timo Koch: "The iVC system is based on a computer algorithm which interpolates real HD video from multiple cameras. Five were used for the NAB demonstration. As well as allowing the viewpoint to 'fly' laterally and vertically between the source camera positions, the system allows the operator to zoom into close-up. It also allows some standard camera positions and movements to be automated and could replace cameras that are only used for specific replay angles. iVC is the ultimate tool to offer angles that have never been shown before. On another level, iVC is the ideal tool to generate the perfect stereoscopic image the broadcasting industry actually is looking for."
Interesting potential.

Tags: grip | tripods | support | autocue | manfrotto | petrol bags | panther | polecam | sachtler | camera corps | viten radamec | outside broadcast | iss041 | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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