Live From the PGA Championship: CBS Sports, Winged Vision Debut New HDR Aerial Camera System in Goodyear Blimp

The system features a Sony HDC-P50 camera, Canon 4K lens, and GSS gimbal

Flying in the skies above CBS Sports’ many technological innovations at the PGA Championship this week is a brand-new HDR camera system in the Goodyear Blimp. Created by Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Bob Mikkelson’s Winged Vision, the first-ever HDR aerial system for a live sports production features a Sony HDC-P50 box camera, Canon 4K 45-to-1 lens, Gyro-Stabilized Systems (GSS) gimbal, and Janteq microwave transmitter.

Covering the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, the Goodyear Blimp is equipped with Winged Vision, the first HDR aerial camera system for a live sports production.

“The new camera delivers the best aerial pictures I’ve ever had, and, right now, I believe it’s the best aerial system that’s ever flown,” says Mikkelson. “What’s noticeable right off the bat is the sharpness at every pixel on the screen from corner to corner. It’s absolutely incredible.”

Although the system is capable of 4K, it is running in 1080p HDR mode this week at Bethpage and is used for CBS’s 4K HDR production of Holes 16-18  and downconverted to SDR for CBS’s main broadcast.

“This is the first time we’ve done HDR,” says Mikkelson, “and this new system is perfect for golf because HDR allows you to see the contrast between the greens, the fairways, and the bunkers. You see a whole new level of detail that you didn’t before.”

The Winged Vision aerial system features Sony HDC-P50 box camera, Canon 4K 45-to-1 lens, and Gyro-Stabilized Systems (GSS) gimbal.

Mikkelson and his team have been looking to make the move to 4K HDR for several years but were waiting for the technology to meet the unique needs of an aerial camera system.

“We were looking to go 4K, but we have unique packaging needs,” he explains. “You can’t use a rack-mountable camera-control unit. It’s just not a smart choice when you have an aircraft because it’s more weight and it’s more power requirements. When Sony announced the P50 [at IBC 2018 last September], I knew immediately that would be the [ideal] camera. And so GSS got with Sony to [create] the gimbal, we got the Canon 4K lens, and we were off and running.”

CBS and Winged Vision demonstrated a prototype of the HDR system at Super Bowl LIII in February, which drew rave reviews, according to Mikkelson. He then worked with Sony, Canon, and GSS to create the system in time for NAB 2019, where it was showcased at GSS’s booth. Winged Vision used it at the NFL Draft last month in Nashville in 1080p SDR mode and was once again impressed with the results. Mikkelson sees this system as the new standard moving forward.

“This is now the gold standard and will be for years to come,” he says. “We’re going to start replacing all of our [units] with these systems. We’ll start making the transition now, and, slowly but surely, we’ll have nothing but P50’s in the future. It’s a whole new level of picture quality, and we’re very excited about it.”

Adds Ken Aagaard, former EVP, innovation and new technology, and current consultant to CBS Sports, “We all think of Bob Mikkelson for shooting amazing golf coverage for the last 30 years. But it’s easy to forget that he has always been the leader on the technical side. He is always looking to innovate and find the next great tool to enhance our coverage.”

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