Mark Roberts Motion Control and Nikon have collaborated to create a new fast action robotics system for DSLR users. It was used by sports photographer Bob Martin at this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championship to capture shots that were impossible before. Martin also used three of MRMC’s new Polycam systems to capture action from three angles at once (including from the roof of Centre Court).
The system used Nikon’s large-sensor D4 DSLR cameras mounted on MRMC’s SFH-30 robotic heads, allowing Martin to take shots remotely from positions that would normally be physically impossible. Latency of less than 0.1 seconds meant it was suitable for capturing fast action.
“Our robotics project has been in the making for some time; since the London Olympics we’ve been working with Bob Martin and leading photo agencies who needed more from existing robotics systems, listening to their feedback and requirements to refine and develop this system,” said James Banfield, professional services and business solutions manager, Nikon UK.
“Initially the robotics set up has been designed to support sports photographers, maximising the qualities of the D4 camera and allowing them to track fast moving subjects, however there is great scope to use it for other areas of photography.”
Martin’s Polycam set up used three synchronised robotic heads. He controlled the master head, which moved the two other heads at the same time to track the same subject. Polycam allows any number of robotic heads to work together to automatically track the same point of interest from multiple perspectives, allowing one photographer or cameraman to effectively and easily control multiple remotes.
“Using this set up, it’s proved that capturing the impossible is now possible, which is very exciting for the future of photography,” said Martin. “I was constantly hoping for sun so that I could capture the players on the grass with stunning shadows.”
Three Nikon D4’s were also set up in various locations to record time-lapse images, taking one picture each every minute and feeding them directly to the Wimbledon iPad App, which allowed viewers to see what was happening at the highest resolution.
MRMC launched its Polycam software-controlled tracking systems at IBC last year and has now introduced three separate systems designed for live sports production.
It allows multiple triangulated cameras and lenses to track a point (or numerous points) of interest, simultaneously and in realtime, using a single control interface.
It should produce fluid and precise repeat camera moves and MRMC claims that Polycam will “offer new editorial and commercial opportunities for live sport coverage.”
Features include: self-calibrating robotic heads; robust system architecture; and simplified user interfaces.
“Although the principal of triangulated robotics is well understood, producing systems that are easily configured, deliver consistent results, fit technically and economically in a live broadcast environment and offer real creative possibilities, are vital to realising the technology’s potential,” said MRMC managing director, Assaff Rawner.
Polycam Velocity is designed for race tracks or wherever the path of the subject is known. Users need only adjust the speed of the cameras following the path. Realtime positioning data automatically adjusts focus relative to the moving target and slaved zooms maintain consistent framing.
Polycam Auto is designed to interface to third-party image analysis and tracking systems such as ChyronHego’s TRACAB and automatically control the point of interest of the camera. The operator simply selects an individual player (or group) to follow. Because it offers automatic and precise focus tracking, MRMC maintains that Polycam Auto is also ideal for supporting Ultra HD and high-speed camera technology, where focussing is often more difficult.
Polycam Solo allows a single operator to manually and simultaneously control multiple perspectives and camera motion from a single controller.
“Whether the driver is cost savings, unique camera perspectives, enhanced visual analysis or multi-camera web content creation, the new Polycam configurations are designed to add value on many levels,” said Rawner.
By David Fox