By Mark Roberts Motion Control
It’s fair to say that there isn’t a single industry that hasn’t in some way been affected by the changes that COVID has enforced across the last 15 months. No-one was properly prepared for the pandemic but as a whole, we have been designing workflows and building technology that is designed to simplify production, reduce onsite staff, and drive efficiency for a number of years. We probably never thought of the phrase ‘social distancing’ as we do now. All of the work that has been going on behind the scenes, has come to the forefront enabling sports production to resume pretty quickly as we adjusted to the new normal.
The holy grail for sports (and live events in general) is to be able to produce all of the content centrally where you can have dedicated specialists working in far more comfortable surroundings than an OB van and the ability to finish one match and then cover another. The lack of spectators and an increased number of matches to cover has led to more cameras being used to cover games, focusing on new and inventive positions and angles. Some of these camera positions are hard to access while others may be very close to the pitch and lend themselves to being controlled remotely or even automated. Over the past season, MRMC’s Polymotion Player has provided automated player tracking cameras for the German Football League or ‘Bundesliga’, providing a constant feed of different superstar players either for additional coverage for the home country broadcaster of the player or an additional feed for tactical analysis.
As this sort of technology matures demand is appearing from many more sports on many different levels. Camera automation is never going to replace camera operators in the stadium as it isn’t meant to! It is there to provide feeds from locations where people simply can’t be and to do something a human would find difficult. But it can also be used to enable things that five years ago just weren’t possible.
For some time, clubs and sports bodies have been looking at how to cover matches and events to give fans the opportunity to follow their team or sport wherever they are. Internet and OTT services provide the right platform and the ever-decreasing costs of production equipment are making this a reality. The one constant and typically the largest cost overall is people. Semi-automated cameras are where this market is heading towards. One camera operator can use a pan bar system, a joystick or even a camera on a traditional tripod with an encoder and this can be used to provide positional data and move other robotic cameras mapped to cover the pitch/course/track. This allows one person to operate up to 12 cameras making it a very cost-effective solution to the challenge posed by the zeitgeist under which we all now operate.