Industry Insights: The future of camera control and automation
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Last year saw an immediate shift in many broadcasters’ studio workflow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, we’ll be looking at how the lessons from work from home and reduced staffing will impact future productions.
In this installment of our Industry Insights roundtable, our experts on camera robotics look into the broadcast control room of the future as well as the impact of PTZ cameras on production.
Make sure to read the rest of our Industry Insights series, including:
- Studio camera robotics and production workflows
- IP production, automation, cameras, and cutting-edge trends
How do you envision camera control workflows in the control room of the future?
“Although established for a long time, we do see further moves to full automation. Robotics need to be left to operate live on-air for long periods of time, perhaps with no operator or an operator carrying out several other critical roles. Shotoku now has an automatic face tracking system which makes that goal that a reality in many applications,” said James Eddershaw, managing director at Shotoku Broadcast Systems.
“The most significant change in workflow is going to be in higher degrees of automation, and closer integration with other studio systems. This will enable the team of studio operators to produce more content more efficiently,” explained Vinten’s product manager, Neil Gardner.
“Studio robotics will continue to get smarter, reducing the need for human intervention. Today’s studio robots can recall any saved shot, quickly and accurately, which eliminates the need for a camera operator to manually position the camera. Systems are emerging that can automatically account for slight movements by the talent or perhaps different talent (height, hairstyle, etc. can affect the framing of the shot) from day to day. This is typically taken care of by the camera operator, whether through live adjustments while on-air, or by re-framing and updating the presets just before going on-air. If this can be done automatically, it further reduces the burden on the camera operator, potentially eliminating the need for a human camera operator during the production altogether,” said Karen Walker, VP of camera motion systems at Ross Video.
“This is particularly important in workflows that use production automation, where quite often the person responsible for running the automation system is also tasked with ensuring that the cameras are properly framed. As these automation systems become more adept at compensating not just small for movements for a subject sitting at a desk, but being able to create natural, smooth tracking shots for a subject that is moving around the set in an unscripted production such as a variety show or live event, they will further reduce our dependence on manual intervention, improving production quality and lowering operational expenses,” continued Walker.
“We envision a steady evolution towards fully automated production workflow that integrates robotic cameras, dollies, and sophisticated one-touch motion presets which include both PTZ and dolly position changes and speeds,” predicted Rush Beesley, the president of Rushworks.
“The control room of the future will have to be adaptable to its location and size. Having the flexibility of combining multiple pieces of equipment into a single panel is also critical when space is even more of a constraint (in a home control room for example),” answered Michael Cuomo, VP at Telemetrics.
“For those working in studios, safety and distancing are paramount and will continue to be in the future. We’re already seeing this feedback from customers in the vein of camera control, as limited staff must rely on technology to streamline their workflows,” said Bob Caniglia, director of sales operations for Blackmagic Design.
What about the increased reliance on PTZ cameras?
“PTZ cameras have come a long way as it relates to image quality and VR output, but the limited lens and pan/tilt performance will continue to be a limiting factor in most broadcast environments,” Eddershaw said.
“For robotics camera control, an integrated PTZ is just another remote camera to operate. They offer a simple solution for more camera positions, especially supplemental positions which are less critical to program output, places where there is limited space or are more exposed than is appropriate for a full broadcast camera, lens and remote robotic support system. They are also ideal for quick, short-term installation in non-studio environments such as someone doing a broadcast from their home office,” Gardner explained.
“PTZ cameras are definitely having an impact on almost every market vertical when it comes to robotic camera systems. We are increasingly seeing them in broadcast studios around the world, as well as in other verticals where they are used extensively. While their performance and functionality continue to improve (as chip technology advances), there are still limitations that prevent them from completely taking over in all applications,” said Walker.
“We still see many instances where either their optical performance (focal length, low light performance, etc.) or functionality (limited ability for on-air movement) prevent them from meeting requirements, and customers opt for studio cameras and lenses. However, the increased adoption of these cameras cannot be overlooked, and as they improve and evolve, we can expect that they will continue to move into more and more applications,” added Walker.
“AI has been and will continue to be a big trend in the year ahead. It’s being heavily integrated into our products to make them easier to use. The other big trend we’re seeing is remote setup and support. Before, we would always have to send out resources to get a system configured, but we’re doing more remote commissioning than ever before. This is a huge benefit because customers can get the same support that normally would’ve required on-site trained technical staff and also saves on travel costs. With remote training and troubleshooting, staff does not need to be as technical, especially when there is just a single person operating out of a home studio,” Cuomo suggested.
James Eddershaw – Shotoku Broadcast Systems
Neil Gardner – Vinten
Karen Walker – Ross Video
Rush Beesley – Rushworks
Michael Cuomo – Telemetrics
Bob Caniglia – Blackmagic Design