New developments in mobile HD production


When widescreen HDTV was first demonstrated back in the 1980s, the pictures were great but the size and price of the kit left much to be desired. Two decades on, broadcast-quality 1080i/720p HD cameras and recorders have reached levels of compactness and affordability that would have seemed impossible in those early days.
When I designed the original Polecam rig in 1998, and established the company which today sells it and offers it for hire, we found ourselves competing in a world where clients were prepared to trundle very large and heavy camera mounts around except on the rare occasion that they needed extreme portability. That gradually began to change, influenced by the introduction of high-quality compact SD (later HD) cameras and by increasing concern about health-and-safety issues. In addition, the ever-increasing price of tickets to live events made event promoters anxious to give audiences an uninterrupted view of the stage. Demand for large camera rigs declined as producers opted for the new lighter and more compact solutions.
Ten years on from company's inception, the Polecam rig has become the centrepiece of an entire production system comprising HD and SD fixed-lens or zoom cameras (including stereoscopic pairs if required) through to compact storage on tape, disk or solid-state media. Being independent of hardware manufacturers, we are free to select and integrate the best equipment available to match the needs of a growing band of highly mobile production service-providers.
The transition from heavyweight to easily transportable systems is by no means a regional phenomenon. Even in the USA, portability and operational flexibility have become important factors as fuel costs increase and the need for maximum production efficiency is recognised. A typical daily production schedule involving three separate locations can be quite literally very heavy going with a traditional camera crane needing pre-shoot site inspection, transportation and construction licensing plus long assembly and dismantling times…and of course mains electricity. Weighing just 35 kg in its transit bags, Polecam can be carried in by car, camel, horse, hand-trolley or if necessary even over a couple of shoulders. The entire system can be established and operated on any surface firmer than a quicksand (we can even accommodate that!) and powered, if necessary, entirely from batteries. The rig itself has an integral counterbalance and is designed for comfortable and efficient manual operation.
In Russia, which has a strong and highly creative film industry that enthusiastically embraced HD digital cinematography, Polecam is no longer viewed as an alternative to heavyweight camera rigs but as an outright replacement. An experienced Polecam operator has far greater creative freedom than any heavyweight-crane driver, delivering fresh viewpoints and camera swings in almost immediate response to the producer's demands. If a higher camera position than Polecam's 20 foot stretch is called for, the rig is quite commonly set up on the roof of the vehicle (typically a Land Rover or equivalent) in which it and the rest of the kit were brought to site.
The world of broadcasting continues to change, most notably in the direction of specialised channels offering advertisers access to tightly focused audiences. This does not necessarily mean any increase in the size of the overall television advertising cake. However, it could do before long if web-based television channels modelled on the BBC iPlayer pattern of viewer-selectable video sources begin to compete with specialist print media. These new channels will in turn regard high production efficiency as absolutely essential while demanding the same high-impact creative camera-work expected by every viewer brought up on tradition broadcast and Hollywood fare.
In terms of quality, the latest miniature HD cameras deliver pictures that are well within the acceptance level of broadcasters and digital cinematographers. Quality levels will continue to increase for the simple reason that portability and mobility are now mainstream requirements for the entire industry. The combination of file-based capture to high-stability power-efficient and climate-tolerant solid-state media will also spur rapid advances in the storage capacity and versatility of mobile production systems. On-location post-production is already commonplace and will become even more flexible given the high processing power of modern off-the-shelf laptop computers running industry-standard software such as Apple's Final Cut Pro.
My own experience of mobile shooting has taken me from commercials production in, on and under the Hawaiian surf to the wilds of Alaska (assisting in shots for the recently-released film 'Arctic Tail'). Polecam itself, and its auxiliary cameras and recorders, have been used in even more hostile conditions such as the Sahara where temperatures and dust levels go way beyond traditional 'Code of Practice'. In hot and sandy environments, recording to silicon makes a great deal more sense than the standard combination of helical-scan VTR and rechargable vacuum-cleaner. An incidental but key feature of Polecam is its ability to be used as a body-mounted harness. This opens up an enormous number of creative possibilities including vehicle tracking shots from the back of a Jeep. Polecam is mainly used with a prime wide angle lens producing a wide depth of focus which makes shots of this kind highly effective.

Tags: polecam | hd camera | hdtv | iss024 | polecam rig | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Polecam at IBC 2016

    Polecam at IBC 2016

  • Guided Tour of the Polecam Stand at BVE 2016

    Guided Tour of the Polecam Stand at BVE 2016

  • Polecam at IBC 2015

    Polecam at IBC 2015

  • Polecam Antelope Pico at IBC 2014

    Polecam Antelope Pico at IBC 2014

  • Polecam presents award to AMS Pictures at NAB 2014

    Polecam presents award to AMS Pictures at NAB 2014

  • Polecam Toshiba Minicams at BVE 2014

    Polecam Toshiba Minicams at BVE 2014

  • Polecam Slow Motion Minicams at BVE 2014

    Polecam Slow Motion Minicams at BVE 2014

  • Polecam talk accessories on BroadcastShow LIVE 2013

    Polecam talk accessories on BroadcastShow LIVE 2013

  • Polecam talk high speed on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Polecam talk high speed on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Polecams range of accessories and minicams at IBC 2013

    Polecams range of accessories and minicams at IBC 2013

  • Polecam: Z10 zoom lens at NAB 2013

    Polecam: Z10 zoom lens at NAB 2013

  • Polecam at BVE 2013

    Polecam at BVE 2013

  • Polecam at BVE North 2012

    Polecam at BVE North 2012

  • Polecam at IBC 2012

    Polecam at IBC 2012

  • Polecam at NAB 2012

    Polecam at NAB 2012

  • Polecam at BVE 2012

    Polecam at BVE 2012

  • Polecam at BVE North 2011

    Polecam at BVE North 2011

  • Polecam at IBC2011

    Polecam at IBC2011

  • Kit Overview from IBC 2015

    Kit Overview from IBC 2015

  • Steffan does the Surf Forecast

    Steffan does the Surf Forecast

  • Ateme at IBC 2014

    Ateme at IBC 2014

  • Harmonic at IBC2011

    Harmonic at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • Polecam Minicam Show: BVE Day 1

    Polecam Minicam Show: BVE Day 1


Articles
Grading BBC Sounds
Simone Grattarola

The BBC has launched its new personalised music, radio and podcast app with a campaign that follows one listener’s journey from meeting Kylie Minogue in a lift to Idris Elba on a bus. 

BBC Sounds offers a single home for the BBC’s thousands of hours of audio content, including live and on-demand shows and special music mixes curated by artists.

BBC Creative, the broadcaster’s in-house creative division, took the brief to agency Riff Raff Films and Megaforce directing duo of Charles Brisgand and Raphaël Rodriguez who in turn brought on board regular collaborators Time Based Arts.

Tags: iss135 | bbc | grading | bbc sounds | davinici | resolve | blackmagic | editing | Simone Grattarola
Contributing Author Simone Grattarola Click to read or download PDF
Switching to Internet Based Distribution
Chris Clark

"An IP status check for the broadcast industry", "Resistance is futile", "IP points the way forward for the broadcast industry"...

Yes, we've read the headlines too. But rather than force you into submission, scare you, or leave you feeling like you have no other choice, we want to give you the information that helps you to make a sensible decision about Internet-based distribution.

So what’s stopping you from making the switch right now?

Tags: iss135 | ip | internet | distribution | cerberus | Chris Clark
Contributing Author Chris Clark Click to read or download PDF
Test, Measurement and Standards
Alan Wheable The Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), is a non-profit trade alliance that fosters the adoption of one set of common, ubiquitous, standards-based protocols for interoperability over IP in the media and entertainment, and professional audio/video industries.
Tags: iss135 | omnitek | aims | SNMP | hdr | ai | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
21st Century Technology for 20th Century Content
James Hall A big challenge facing owners of legacy content is rationalising and archiving their tape and film-based media in cost effective and efficient ways, whilst also adding value. Normally the result of this is to find a low cost means of digitising the content – usually leaving them with a bunch of assets on HDD. But then what? How can content owners have their cake and eat it?
Tags: iss135 | legacy | digitising | digitizing | archive | James Hall
Contributing Author James Hall Click to read or download PDF
Future proofing post production storage
Josh Goldenhar Advancements in NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express), the storage protocol designed for flash, are revolutionising data storage. According to G2M Research, the NVMe market will grow to $60 billion by 2021, with 70 percent of all-flash arrays being based on the protocol by 2020. NVMe, acting like steroids for flash-based storage infrastructures, dynamically and dramatically accelerates data delivery.
Tags: iss135 | nvme | sas | sata | it | storage | post production | Josh Goldenhar
Contributing Author Josh Goldenhar Click to read or download PDF