The Panasonic AW-HE130 is a compact, remote-controlled camera that offers studio-quality HD and SD video by employing a newly developed, 2.86 megapixel 3MOS image sensor. It includes power over Ethernet (POE+), multistream transmission of H.264 video, a 20x zoom lens and a nearly full-circle pan and tilt range. Multiple cameras may be mounted and controlled remotely for a variety of television productions, including live events, sports, and reality TV. Although the camera is small enough to be mounted on any surface, it contains the same imaging sensors and processing electronics as many of Panasonic’s larger broadcast camcorders. The AW-HE130 supports both direct and Web-based IP remote control, allowing control and adjustment of the camera on location, or from a PC located anywhere in the world.
The Panasonic AW-HE130 Robotic CameraFEATURES
For those who may be familiar with the previous model (the AW-HE120), the Panasonic AW-HE130 boasts some impressive improvements, starting with a newly developed, more sensitive 1/3- inch 2.86 megapixel 3MOS image sensor. The camera is small enough to be held comfortably in one hand, but contains the inner workings of a much larger full-fledged broadcast camcorder. The previous model offered video capture in multiple international formats, including 1080/59.94p and 59.94i, 720/59.94p, 480/59.94i, 1080/50p and 50i, 720/50p, and 576/50i. The HE130 now adds 1080/23.98p, which allows greater compatibility with productions based on 24p.
Other improvements offered by the HE130 include a Web browser for Mac and Android; 3G-SDI output (up to 1080/60p); stereo mic/line-level inputs for embedded and streaming audio; a night mode for hi-res, near-infrared video acquisition (using an optional infrared-illuminator providing light in the 900 nm range); an optical image stabilizer; and IPlive preview for remote control and management of as many as 16 cameras via a browser.
In addition to the three 1/3-inch progressive, 2.86 megapixel MOS sensors that deliver 1,000 lines of resolution within a 60 dB signal-to-noise ratio, the AW-HE130 also sports advanced features, such as 12-axis color correction and Panasonic’s exclusive DRS (Dynamic Range Stretch). DRS allows the camera to provide a clear picture with balanced contrast in a wide range of situations—all the way from bright sunshine to dark concert halls. It’s equipped with a fast f-1.6 lens and a built-in remote-controlled, four-position neutral density filter to accommodate bright environments.
The AW-HE130 is designed to be mounted on walls or other available surfaces for recording live events or studio programs from a variety of camera angles. The device’s remote control capability eliminates the need for an individual camera operator, enabling angles from positions that would otherwise be impossible. It also reduces the need for a camera crew, which can lead to substantial cost savings. A small, three-camera studio can easily be managed by only one person instead of the four that would be needed when using conventional cameras.
The AW-HE130 can be easily mounted via a detachable plate for quick reconfiguring. And the 20x zoom lens, with 35 mm equivalents of 32.1 mm at wide-angle to 642.5 mm at telephoto, offers versatile framing while retaining razor sharp focus. With the ability to pan 350 degrees and tilt 240 degrees, the AW-HE130 can capture almost anything in sight.
Each camera can retain as many as 100 presets, which include the zoom setting, pan and tilt position, focus and lens opening. With a push of one button the camera can switch from an extreme close-up of a musician’s face to a group of fans in the back of the concert hall. And the mechanism is extremely quiet, so that camera movement is inaudible, even during quiet events.
By employing Ethernet hubs, as many as 100 AW-HE130 cameras may be controlled from dedicated control units, such as Panasonic’s AW-RP120G or AW-RP50, or with other serial and IP-based control systems from Crestron, AMX and other vendors. These small cameras can also be controlled through a PC and any Internet browser.
The AW-HE130 provides video signals in HD/SD-SDI and HDMI formats and flavors, as well as analog component and standard-definition composite. While remote control may be achieved via Ethernet or LAN cable, a wireless controller is available as an option.
I set up the Panasonic AW-HE130 in a television studio with a talk show set. I tested the camera’s remote control functions using a Panasonic AW-RP50 remote camera controller. This is a compact unit with buttons and knobs for easy control of focus, iris, zoom, pan and tilt. It also has user menus for storing presets and achieving quick setups.
The remote control unit supplied with the camera included a joystick that allows fast and intuitive control of the camera. (As I only had one camera for this evaluation, I was not able to test the multi-camera controls.)
Setup was easy and fast. I connected the controller to the AW-HE130 with a standard Ethernet cable and connected the camera to a high-definition monitor with an HDMI cable. (As mentioned, the camera offers other outputs including an HD/SD SDI out, composite video and an analog VGA port.) For longer cable runs, SDI would be the natural choice for monitoring, but in my testing, distance was not an issue and the HDMI port worked perfectly.
Once connected, I had complete control of pan, tilt, zoom, iris and focus. It’s important to note that the AW-HE130 can be controlled wirelessly with an optional device using a Web browser over IP, making control possible from any location. I found Panasonic’s AW-RP50 remote camera controller to be well-suited to the needs of a small studio. It has some convenient features, such as the 10 preset buttons that allow you to predetermine a shot, with the camera automatically selecting that shot when you press the button.
I programmed 10 different camera settings— everything from very wide shots to extreme close-ups. Regardless of the difference between the shots the camera very quickly reset itself precisely to the predetermined shot. The reset buttons also remember other features, such as white balance, iris and focus.
I found the AW-HE130 camera to be quite a remarkable device with its preset memory’s ability to retain up to 100 shot definitions. The unit is very compact and could be mounted almost anywhere, including on a wall, ceiling or camera pedestal. Yet this small device offers the full feature set and functionality of many typical studio cameras. The zoom function is very powerful and maintains sharp detail throughout its range. I was also quite impressed by the crispness and sharp detail level offered by the camera, and how well it maintained very solid black levels. I really had expected to see more noise in the dark areas, but found that they were consistently pure black and showed no detectable irregularities. The camera’s contrast range was also very pleasing with pristine white levels and rich blacks in the shadow areas.
The remote functioning of the camera is also impressive. It swivels close to a full circle in panning and has a very wide tilt range. And when in motion, the camera is virtually noiseless so that the mechanical functions are not audible, even in a quiet studio setting. Pan, tilt and zoom speed can be regulated to provide smooth slow or fast response.
The pictures produced looked great on a high-definition picture monitor with very true color renditions and sharp detail. I had to push the camera very hard to find any aberrations in the image. If I zoomed in all the way on a bright white surface with a dark object in front of it, I could detect some color aberrations around the edge of the object. However I really can’t imagine that in normal applications this camera would be used to photograph something of such an extreme nature.
The main attractions of the AW-HE130 are its size, portability and ease of placement. Once it’s set up you can remotely control all camera functions, eliminating the need for a camera operator on-set. Ideally these cameras could be mounted in a room to cover an event, or used as auxiliary cameras alongside ones with operators. However, it’s conceivable that a studio setup with three or four of these cameras could operate with a crew of one. They could very efficiently cover talk shows, newscasts or most studio-based productions. They would be useful in reality TV shoots, where unobtrusive cameras need to be present to cover scenes from multiple angles.
The light weight and compact form factor of this little camera make it exceedingly easy to implement in remote productions. I also found the breakdown for travel process to be really fast and easy; within just a few minutes I could disconnect the cables, pack up the camera and be ready to go.
The Panasonic AW-HE130 is a remarkably useful camera for covering any event or studio operation where versatile, multicamera coverage is required. It’s small and agile, so it can be mounted almost anywhere, yet it is a full-fledged HD camera that delivers very sharp images throughout its formidable zoom range. In many cases it can eliminate the need for camera operators, which will result in major cost savings.
Geoff Poister, Ph.D., is a member of the film and television faculty at Boston University and a regular contributor to TV Technology.
Anywhere a small, unobtrusive, remotely-controlled HD camera is needed
Small form factor, high-quality imaging, controllable from a variety of ways, sharp 20x zoom lens
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