Remote controlling cameras

Basic requirement for building an automated video production system is some means to control the capture tool ie. camera. Currently commercially available broadcast cameras can be controlled remotely by using one of multiple different protocols. Some interfaces are used through the same channel as the video is transferred (Firewire, HDMI, USB etc.), others rely on vendor-specific hardware interface and propriatory protocols. In the following some of the most common solutions are discussed.

Multi-cam shoots are common in capturing live events such as sports and concerts. In order to control the production all the feeds are mixed in a single point. Hardware devices called Camera Controller Units (CCU) are able to change the zoom, panning, focus and aperture remotely. The controller can be located far away from the camera, but the look of the content can be adapted to mix better with the other feeds.

Even though most cameras have built-in physicals controls additional interfaces are required also if camera operator is available locally. Cameras are usually attached to tripods, cranes and dollies to smoothly move the camera to better angles. The camera operator has a camera handle that controls the same basic adjustments. There are variety of mostly vendor specific interfaces (Sony Lanc/Control-L, Panasonic Control-M, JVC J-LIP etc.).

Sometimes in emergency situations cameras have been used as recorders. Most notable protocols used by VTRs are based on code words transmitted using RS-232 or RS-422 serial interfaces. The good thing about using these interfaces is the fairly integration. The bad thing is that it seems there are as many dialects as there are devices.

In conclusion there many available interfaces for controlling cameras remotely. The unfortunate fact is that there is no interface to easily adopt using in automated video capture process. As file-based workflows and chip-based storage becomes more accessible hopefully a versatile standard emerges.


Fideocam concept

Fideocam is a pioneer in automating video tools for personal experience capture.

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