Adding PTZ Cameras to Your Production Arsenal Extends Versatility and Control

Published on in Miscellaneous

By Rush Beesley - president, RUSHWORKS

I received a call from a very savvy and experienced video producer who was seeking suggestions and help for a problem he’s experiencing. His productions include everything from single camera, post-produced pieces to multi-camera live events. 

He explained that his kit includes a Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro switcher and some Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras, and another DSLR camera that doesn’t interface with the ATEM Mini control. The Micro Studio minimally requires an f/2.8 lens aperture to pass enough light to the MFT sensor, and there are no power zoom lenses that meet this requirement. His primary challenge is a weekly church service where he has to enter the same room several times to reframe the zoom lens and/or adjust the iris or other parameters during the service. 

And since he is a “one man band” operation, he has no camera operators or other production personnel. The lack of control of the tripod-mounted cameras during a shoot is his biggest challenge.

After listening to him describe his frustration working in the church, I recommended that he consider adding at least one, if not two PTZ cameras to his kit. These cameras have many advantages such as full-range VISCA control of virtually all the camera parameters, and provide pan, tilt and zoom control to allow the creation of multiple presets for each camera.

I suggested that using presets for shot-blocking the weekly service can provide instant relief for his frustration. Most available hardware joystick controllers let you set basic VISCA parameters like pan, zoom and tilt speed, auto or manual color balance, and auto-manual focus. Some software controllers, like the RUSHCONTROL application, let you name and save presets, and set up motion parameters between presets. It can even interface with standard ATEM switchers via IP, remotely controlling the Program and Preview bus selection for auto-selecting camera inputs. It also provides remote AUTO and TAKE command functions.

Using a single CAT5 cable for VISCA over IP or serial control, cable management for the PTZ cameras is minimal. If your switching system supports NDI, there is a nice selection of NDI/PoE PTZ cameras for your consideration. NDI to SDI and HDMI converters are available, which allows you to use that CAT5 cable for your PTZ camera runs. If your switcher supports SDI, then run a coax cable for the video and a CAT5 cable for camera control.

For his weekly church production, I recommended permanently mounting two L-bracket wall mounts for the cameras (or a single mount if only one supplementary camera is required). When he arrives to setup the weekly service, he just needs to place the tiny, lightweight PTZ cameras on the L-brackets and tighten the 1/4x20 tension nut. This assures the camera is always in the same exact position, which is critical since the repeatable accuracy of PTZ presets is based on absolution position of the lens when the fixture initializes.

In the RUSHCONTROL application you can save and recall as many custom layouts as you wish, which means you can support multiple venues like churches, school boards, city governments and such by just creating appropriately named layouts for each of those venues.

The biggest advantages of using presets with PTZ cameras is that you’ll get precisely the same shot every time, you don’t have to depend on a camera operator to “show up”, and your setup and strike are super quick and easy.  

Keep the kit you’re using if it’s working well for you. Just extend your versatility and control by adding one or two of these problem-solving PTZ cameras to your production arsenal. HD and 4K PTZ cameras are amazingly affordable and are excellent enhancements to your production versatility.

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