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Focusing on specialist cameras

The advances in camera technology

Nearly 40 years on from its beginnings in the cinematic world of aerial filming, Aerial Camera Systems (ACS) has gone on to become provide specialist cameras for live sports coverage around the world. Last year, systems were provided for the Wimbledon Championships, Euro 2016, The Open and the Rio Olympics – to name a few – and this year is proving just as busy for the ACS team. The company has a diverse offering, from minicams to SMARThead remote head systems, rail cameras, wire systems, vehicle and boat mounts, aerial filming and the Eyeflyer blimp.

Production techniques, broadcast technology and the continued desire for camera innovation mean our clients continually face the challenge of finding new and dynamic shots to enhance coverage of regular national and international sports events. As such, ACS works very closely with clients to help find solutions, and it’s the development team that works out how to achieve these requests, often designing specific systems for the coverage, which are then utilised or adapted for other work.

The coverage of horse racing is one of the great examples where specialist camera equipment has gone on to become an integral part of the coverage of these major events. Developed specifically for the racing, the ACS tracking vehicles can now be seen regularly at most horse racing events. Identifying the need for a steadier tracking shot of the horses and their riders along the course, ACS custom built the vehicle allowing an operator to control a gyro stabilised mount on the vehicle. At the same time, a specialist driver keeps up with the horses as well as monitoring the output of the camera and positioning the vehicle to get the right shot.

On the higher profile events, the company has brought in aerial coverage – either with the blimp or helicopter – wire systems across the courses and rail camera systems around the parade ring area delivering dynamic camera angles of the racing as it unfolds. To employ such cameras requires precise planning to overcome the intricacies of rigging, including site surveys, load calculations and tests in-house to ensure a good delivery onsite.

The ACS SMARThead remote head was developed to fulfil the need for a small discrete remote head to be used successfully for national state occasions and events and has gone on to be an important part of the capturing the action at the Wimbledon Championships. The compact head is rigged to the umpire’s chair to follow the players in between games and any action at the net. All this is controlled back at the OB.

Working closely with the All England Club, the ‘hide’ baseline track was also introduced on Centre Court to enable slow and discrete tracking shots of the players at the baseline. In 2015, the system was replicated on No.1 Court. Today ACS now supply over 25 specialist cameras for the Championships.

ACS continually faces the challenge to keep up with the demand for developing more interesting ways of moving the camera. Last year, Kartcam was introduced on the Golf coverage. A small remote controlled buggy with a stabilised head that moves along with the players giving a tracking shot close to the action. This addition went on to travel alongside the runners at the London Marathon and is being actively considered for a range of other live sports applications. Both shots couldn’t have been achieved with more conventional kit!

This year SMARTgrip, debuted on premier league football coverage for BT Sport and Sky Sports. SMARTgrip is a compact robotic camera arm providing a smooth, jib like fully remote controlled camera movement within a small footprint. Both these developments were born out of the growing need for more movement in already established static camera positions.

With other projects currently keeping the development team busy, it’s the challenge of finding these solutions that drives the ACS team while continuing to be part of delivering some of the biggest sporting events around the world.

By Matt Coyde, sales director, ACS