PTZ - Pan/Tilt/Zoom. Moving Cameras. Remote controls. What’s the point?
I’ll tell you the point. EASE OF USE! Imagine having a camera that you can simply click a button and it jumps to exactly where you want it to. Now imagine a camera that will not only go to where you want with the click of a button but now you are able to manipulate it how you want to create smooth pans or tilts. Did I mention that it shoots in full HD and can be controlled via IP as well as via a tactile controller?
How did PTZ Optics cameras make my life easy? Well… If you have read my stuff for a while you know that I hate graduation. Graduation and cats may be on the same level when it comes to how much I hate them. Graduation always brings something to the table that makes me want to scream and throw things. This year was no different.
Usually, technical problems are what hem me up with it comes to graduation. There were a couple this year; like having no power in the press box and not really knowing how the sound was going to be run for the event. Those may seem like game enders but they were nothing like having ALL of my crew back out within 2 hours of the event. One of my guys no call no showed (he applied for a position on the live broadcast crew earlier that day… imagine how that interview is going to go in the fall) and the other had transportation issues which meant he would not be able to get back to the school until around 30 minutes before show time. If you have ever been to a small town graduation, you know that 30 minutes is not enough time to get to the stadium much less get there, get a rundown, and get set up.
I have two PTZ Optics 20x 3g-SDI cameras and two huddle cam joystick controllers. When I realized my broadcast was about to crash before take off, I sat down and thought about how I could make the best show without killing myself or dragging someone into action who was planning on a nice peaceful night watching graduation in 100-degree weather. This was the first time I planned to use the cameras in the field. I had used them in the studio and had great success with that but as you should all know, doing work in the field is completely different.
I powered up my system (the entire stadium was powered by a generator positioned below the press box - we are talking a HUGE generator). The cameras came to life and all I see is white! Now I’m quelling a freakout. I remember that with the huddlecam I have full control over the cameras. I find the iris button and pull it down to one position before close. Did I mention our graduation was at 8 pm and the sun was still in full cast and it was 100-degrees?
Now with the graduation program in hand, I sat out to come up with a plan on how to run two cameras, switch, and monitor a stream all by myself. I was surprised earlier when I set up my cameras at how easy programming positions and zoom on the PTZ Optics cameras can be. I laid out a rundown based on the graduation program and set forth programming the cameras.
Set the position of camera 1 for the when the students walk in. Hold down the number 1 button on the huddlecam for 3 seconds… done. Now set position for camera 2 for when the graduations walk down the teacher tunnel (teachers line up on the 5 and 10-yard line and cheer as the students walkthrough). Hold down button 1 on the huddlecam for camera 2 for 3 seconds and set. Lather, Rinse, Repeat until I had a full show locked in (It took 7 settings per camera).
That’s it. Done. Now I just had to push the correct button for the shot I wanted then switch it on the switcher. It was by far one of the easiest graduations I have ever done.
(Please don’t judge me for the lack of cable management in this photo (right, blow) . . . remember, I was one man showing it and the original plan was to put the cameras on the roof but between the heat and lack of personnel I chose to punt)
The only problem with using the PTZ Optics cameras was that I could not sleep that night thinking about all of the things I could do with the cameras next year. For baseball and softball, I could set the camera positions to correspond with bases and be able to cover all three field bases without a camera operator. For football, I could program a position for the cannon and every time we score a touchdown hit button 6 to go to the cannon so we have that footage instead of having to have a camera op find and lock in the shot. I hate that I changed my mind of PTZ cameras so late in the school year. Now I have all summer to make plans on how to use them.
If you are a new program looking for an easy way to get a ton of coverage at events, consider the PTZ Optics 20x. The zoom allows you to cover a football or baseball field extremely well and you can simply program positions to shoot or use as a starting position. If you are an established program, the same goes for you. Finding ways to maximize camera coverage should always be on your mind and these cameras certainly will help with that.
Oh yeah… I almost forget, there are a ton of ways to control these cameras. You can use IP or even use an xbox controller. I am excited to explore that. The students are extremely familiar with the touch and feel of these game controls so you may be surprised at the type of work you can get from the students when you arm them with new tools to use with familiar controls.
Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year.
Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.