Bexel Brings Camera Corps’ New Q3 Mini Camera-Tracking System Stateside
After a successful debut at this year’s Rugby World Cup in the UK, Camera Corps’ Q3 mini camera-tracking system has arrived in North America and is now available from Bexel. The railcam-style system features a Q3 robotic camera (or can be outfitted with a third-party camera) and offers live sports productions a cost-effective, compact, and flexible solution suited for venues where space is at a premium.
“We found that customers were looking for something more compact, easier to rig, and, most important, at a more competitive rate than using a full broadcast camera or Cineflex camera for these applications,” says Camera Corps Commercial Manager Barry Parker. “We didn’t set out to replace those cameras because there is a place in the market for each, but we saw there was a gap in the market where clients were looking for a bit of extra movement, whether for on-air tracking or simply repositioning.”
A Global Debut at Twickenham
Camera Corps had been working on a prototype track system when a request for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) from IMG and host broadcaster ITV accelerated the development process. The request was for two low-level tracking systems to be placed behind the goals for the Grade-A games at Twickenham Stadium. Although rail-based systems are nothing new on major events like the RWC, Bexel faced a unique challenge at Twickenham.
“The challenge was, it had to be low enough so it wouldn’t obscure any view of cameras looking toward the advertising boards behind the goal and also low enough not to constrict the view of cameras looking over the advertising boards towards the pitch and also not to obscure the public’s view,” says Parker. “We also had to work [with] what the grounds [crew] were doing.”
Following each match, the system would have to be removed from the pitch to allow the grounds crew to conduct their business, and then the system would have to be rolled back out. This called for an ultra-flexible track system that could be set up and torn down quickly and easily.
To meet IMG and ITV’s needs for RWC matches at Twickenham, Camera Corps developed two 40-meter tracks that integrated its existing control system so that a single operator could drive both the track and camera.
“We wanted to make it as efficient as possible,” says Parker. “We were able [to engineer it] so that the operator has the choice of a joystick or pedals, which make it easier to drive the camera. When we gave that as a choice, the client jumped at it. Normally, they would have their own camera operator driving the camera, and we would have someone driving the track. So that created obvious efficiencies straightaway.”
The system is powered and controlled over a single SMPTE 3K cable using Camera Corps’ Simply SMPTE boxes. In addition, the track can be extended in 1.5-meter lengths, allowing more flexibility in placing the system.
“In the past, typically, we set our tracks at certain lengths, which restricts customers to having a certain length,” says Parker. “We could configure any length they like, but it is less flexible. With this, since the motor is at one end and it is driven by a rope-and-pulley system, it is simply a matter of adjusting the rope and adding another piece of track. That is one of the things that people have been raving about at the tradeshows.”
Beyond the RWC
As a result of the RWC, Camera Corps now has five systems at its disposal and has seen no shortage of interest in the Q3 mini-camera-tracking system for a variety of applications, ranging from rugby and soccer to curling to studio applications.
“Rugby World Cup was nerve-racking for us but quite satisfying since it worked very well and our client was very happy,” says Parker. “We hope it will continue on some of the larger rugby events in the new year, but it could be any sport. There is quite a lot of interest right now, and it looks like we’ll be providing several for various venues [at the 2016 Rio Olympics].”
He notes that the system can be packaged as part of an overall Camera Corps complement. For example, at RWC, the tracking system was part of a six-camera package with two coach cameras and two dressing-room cameras — all operated from a small vehicle next to the primary OB truck.
A Stateside Arrival
Fellow Vitec Group Company Bexel is now offering the Q3 mini camera-tracking system in the U.S., having taken shipment of its first system at its Burbank, CA, facility. According to Bexel Business Development Manager John Mills, the camera has already been deployed on a handful of live productions, and interest continues to grow stateside.
“We see it as a low-cost alternative to your typical rail cameras and broadcast cameras,” says Mills. “It has a smaller footprint but can maintain the HD quality many of our clients are looking for and can be used in multiple applications. The goal is to get it out in front of people and in different use-case scenarios because it has the flexibility to be used in such a wide variety of applications.”
He notes that, in addition to inquiries on using the tracking system for more-traditional sports like football and basketball, Bexel has also seen interest for lower-profile shows that demand flexible and compact camera solutions.
“We’ve also seen interest in sports like track and field,” he adds. “The small footprint of this system allows it to be right next to pole vault or long jump, for example, where one of the larger truck cameras wouldn’t be able to fit. It can provide a very unique angle for a wide range of events like that.”