PTZ cameras - Packing a punch

  • By Adrian Pennington

PTZ cameras - Packing a punch

PTZ technology continues to evolve unabated since they were first introduced over a decade ago, reports Contributing Editor Adrian Pennington...

Virtual stage productions, remote live productions and hybrid events necessitating physical attendance and a rich online delivery are fixtures in the post-Covid media landscape from high-end recorded content to broadcast OBs, concerts and corporate presentations. Pan Tilt Zoom remote controlled cameras are in high demand and packing sophisticated functionality from 4K to NDI networking. InBroadcast rounds up the latest entrants. 

PTZOptics have released a pair of powerful PTZ camera control joysticks, the SuperJoy and the PT-Joy-G4, enabling easier workflows for both amateur and professional producers. The company has built its products around a smooth and efficient video production workflow, and these two products deliver on that promise.  

Explains Paul Richards, Director of Marketing, “We’ve consulted our customers to create the most functional and professional PTZ camera controllers on the market, considering everything from customisable network-based controls to the feel of the buttons. Specifically, the PT-SuperJoy-G1 joystick controller is a comprehensive solution supporting serial and network-based camera control. It features a new and improved PTZ joystick, on-screen-display controls, quick camera select buttons, and Power over Ethernet (PoE) support. The PT-Joy-G4 is a legacy-friendly joystick that supports either serial or network camera control. 

“We’ve also brought network capabilities to more of our cameras, rolling out NDI|HX across both our product lines to allow customers to leverage the network for camera management, video production, and content distribution. Additionally, our cameras are now SRT ready, helping customers secure live streaming and video production over wide area networks.” 

BirdDog’s P400 is the company’s entry into the world of Full I-Frame NDI 4K and boasts some features simply not found or possible in other PTZ cameras. BirdDog’s custom NDI silicon implementation allows for chroma subsampling in 4:2:2 in NDI which, outside the BirdDog P4K, is unique across the PTZ category.

Added to the highest quality NDI streams possible, are a Sony Exmor R back illuminated sensor, a Sony Image Module, Advanced Colour tools, and 512 pre-set gamma positions.

‘One of the greatest things about P400, and indeed all of our PTZ range, is that only a single Ethernet cable is required for everything. Video Audio, Power using PoE, Tally, PTZ Control and even Remote Shading” said Eamon Drew, Co-Founder and CMO. “The remote shading is super cool as we offer free software called Cam Control and it gives you full access to all the amazing colour tools in the P400 from anywhere on the network.”

Drew says that in Q4, Cloud Connect will begin first customer shipments and this then allows you to control the P400 from anywhere in the world with full PTZ control. “There is a full range of iPad, iPhone, Android TV, Apple TV, and Android mobile apps that allow you to receive the video from the PTZ cameras in as little as 2 frame latency anywhere in the world. When configured correctly it’s so fast and intuitive that it feels like the PTZ is in the same room, not somewhere remote. It’s kind of been blowing my mind playing around with it on the test bench to be honest.”

Agile Remote Cameras are now part of MRMC. The ARC 360 PTZ Camera houses a Sony Exmor R sensor within a precision-engineered housing. Designed to operate in a variety of conditions, the ARC 360 camera offers a fully remote solution for a wide range of applications from live sport and natural history to music environments. 

Paddy Taylor, Head of Broadcast, MRMC says, “The Agile Remote Camera acquisition marks a really exciting point in the development of MRMC automated camera tracking systems. MRMC have long been admirers of the Agile cameras. The ARC 360 in particular is a very popular rugged waterproof PTZ camera used in events like The America’s Cup, concerts tours and festivals. It is a perfect complement to our existing pan-tilt solutions. We’ve been asked many times if we would produce a PTZ camera so this was a great opportunity to bring one into our range of products.” 

The camera also provides a number of features as standard, which other manufacturers’ products offer as additional optional extras, Taylor says. These include a driven horizon axis as well as a static wiper blade that can be used when the camera is mounted externally.  

“The ARC 360 utilises the latest technology to ensure reliability and performance. The 14-bit positional encoders and belt drive technology provide an unsurpassed level of precision accuracy. Built around an ARM processor, the camera’s electronics have been designed to be remotely accessed or upgraded if required, ensuring down time is kept to a minimum. Its unique modular design allows for a simple upgrade path for both hardware and firmware.” 

In the last 18 months, with studios working with less on-site staff, Sony says it has seen a great interest in remotely controlled cameras, “especially those that offer high image quality.” 

More recently, says Norbert Paquet, Head of Live Production, Sony Professional there’s been interest in PTZs with built in AI features or models compatible with third party specialist suppliers that offer advanced features such as facial or object tracking.  

“This is where collaboration with our partners such as Mo-Sys and others has really borne fruit for our customers, such as Aftonbladet or RTL Belgium who are using our BRC or SRG ranges to diversify their content offering, in easy to set up and smart environments,” Paquet says. 

Sony’s BRC-X400/SRG-X400/X120 newly support the SRT streaming protocol with Sony’s unique ARC (Adaptive Rate Control) technology. Poor network conditions can mean glitchy, stuttering video streams with distorted or frozen pictures. SRT technology addresses the challenges of remote video contribution while maintaining speedy delivery. 

“The latest software version allows the cameras to output SRT video/audio which can be directly streamed to the cloud via public internet,” Paquet explains. “Sony offers some unique features in this regard, namely a stable and high-quality streaming through the use of SRT & ARC technology, as well as effectively creating a one-stop solution for native cloud production (what we call Virtual Production).” 

Sony began supporting the FreeD protocol in 2020 for its BRC range of PTZs and has since been expanding its ecosystem with various ‘virtual solution’ providers this year. These collaborations make the design of virtual studios simpler and more effective. These include Mo-Sys, Brainstorm, Pixotope, Zero Density and Skaarhoj.

Marshall Electronics‘ CV730 contains a variety of I/O options for onsite production workflows, REMI production, or hybrid production events.  Available outputs include low latency 12GSDI, HDMI, IP(SRT), NDI and even USB3.0.   According to the company’s Director, Tod Musgrave, the CV730 is designed around a UHD sensor producing up to 3840x2160p at 60fps, as well as support for HD resolutions in progressive and interlaced. The 30x zoom range starts with a wide angle 70-degree (4mm) angle-of-view through a long telephoto 3-degree (135mm) which is more than enough zoom to reach most of the long shots.  

Selecting the NDI model (CV730-NDI) and using the newly release NDI5 tools permits remote, cloud or hybrid-based productions to become much easier from anywhere in the world, he says. 

The model is available in standard IP (CV730-BK/WH) where Secure Reliable Network (SRT) might be the chosen path boasting pristine quality, low-latency live video over public networks.  

“There is undeniable convenience of having one-cable to camera from an IP (PoE) switch, and our collaboration with NDI and SRT software designers was a game changer enhancing usability of IP in all types of workflows.” Choose a hardware control interface with the IP enabled broadcast-style VS-PTC-IP controller or utilize one of the Marshall software access control sources such as VMS, GUI or OBS Studio plugins. 

“The advantage of the CV730 platform is that it provides flexibility and versatility as an all-in-one camera model with exceptional broadcast video quality.” 

Among JVC’s PTZ range is the new 4K KY-PZ400N camera for streaming remote production over the internet. It is equipped with a 4K 1/2.5-inch progressive scanning CMOS image sensor, NDI|HX and SRT streaming and H.265/H.264/MJPEG encoding. Additionally, with the incorporated Vertical Interval Time Code (VITC) with Network Time Protocol (NTP), the new JVC PTZ camera also features multi-camera synchronization for live event production.

This is useful for the mixing and streaming of concerts, shows, sports, and other live productions where image synchronization is crucial. Remote control capabilities are made possible through the JVC RM-LP100 Remote Camera Controller, KM-IP6000/4000 Live IP Production Suites, or a variety of other options from vMix, OBS Studio, and NewTek. 

The AW-UE150 is the newest addition to Panasonic’s professional PTZ camera lineup. Featuring a 1-type MOS large sensor, this model supports high-quality 4K 50p video, features a 75.1 degree viewing angle, 20x optical zoom and supports versatile outputs, including 12G-SDI, HDMI, optical fiber and IP. Simultaneous 4K/HD operation makes this powerhouse ideal for those looking to future-proof their system, Panasonic says – in particular for video production in stadium, lecture halls and other venues.  

The camera is equipped with a variety of interfaces and supports simultaneous 4K/HD operation which allows for versatility in current and future production systems. 

The software version 2.16 makes the AW-UE150 series compatible with FreeD and Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) systems. 

Datavideo claims its PTC-140 is currently the most cost effective professional PTZ camera with NDI|HX technology on the market. Its new RMC-300A camera controller can control up to 24 Datavideo cameras using IP technology and features a touch panel to control all camera parameters.  

“Our PTZ cameras are used anywhere, but the coolest place we’ve seen was underwater at a waterpolo training facility in Hungary,” says Valentijn Diemel, Marketing Manager EMEA. “They’ve encased them in special waterproof housings and put them underwater to see the movement of the individual players.”  

He explains, “Datavideo PTZ cameras use stepper motors, so getting back to the exact same position each time is a piece of cake. Combined with IP control we can make them do the same motion time and time again. This means that they are exceptionally suited to be put in a system where they are operated automatically. Using AI you can incorporate tracking of a person moving on stage, however this comes with some pitfalls. As you can imagine you should carefully buffer the motions to prevent a jerky image when someone moves back and forth the whole time.”