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Telemetrics' robotic cameras at The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel’s new Studio 1C uses the TeleGlide camera track system.

On-camera meteorologists, technicians, operators and producers work in shifts to offer 24/7 weather coverage to more than 89 million homes in the United States. Last winter, The Weather Channel (TWC), headquartered in Atlanta, GA, decided the time had come to update its look. Logos, tag lines and the program line-up were spruced up. And a new studio set and on-camera talent were added. The big behind-the-scenes change was the decision to update its robotics control system.

The original robotics system was installed in 1996 when TWC moved into the building. Last winter, we met with several manufacturers, looking for a company with a viable solution to merge and control three systems, including an existing camera pedestal, new track and new studio systems. The Telemetrics system offered the best fit for our needs.

New Telemetrics robotics camera system heads were installed in studios 1A and 1B, where “Your Weather Today” and “First Outlook” are produced. A Telemetrics TeleGlide was installed in the new Studio 1C, home to the new “Weekend View.” The track system and the camera pedestals are controled by the the new Telemetrics control system.

The camera system for The Weather Channel’s new show, “Weekend View,” is controlled by the CPS-ST-S.

Five-location control

At the heart of the new camera control system is the Telemetrics CPS-ST-S studio control system software installed on dedicated computers next to the “Your Weather Today” set and outside the “Weekend View” studio. CP-D-3A desktop serial control panels were installed in both of these locations, which are the primary control stations, as well as in the two production rooms and master control room. All five control areas include pan-and-tilt and pedestal control, as well as DS-4 device servers for Ethernet transmission.

The design allows operators to control all 17 cameras on the three systems from any of the five locations, calling up presets and making adjustments. Operators can also build story boards with the on-board GUI, store shots in memory, preview live video display and control the outdoor HD-HOU-W weatherproof housing and camera.

Revamping two studios

This Ikegami HDK-75EXCF camera hangs from the ceiling in Studio 1C on a dual-rail track TeleGlide.

For “Your Weather Today,” three PT-LP-S3 servo pan-and-tilt heads with virtual studio interfaces and RS-422 control were deployed with three Ikegami HDK-75EXCF cameras. The setup offers operator-like moves with programmable, timed presets to start and stop all axes simultaneously.

On the set of “First Outlook,” two additional servo pan-and-tilt heads and cameras are used, and four are placed between the anchor desk and chroma key sets. New Ikegami cameras were also added.

New studio, new design

Perhaps the most innovative engineering feat was the custom-designed system for the new Studio 1C. The ECM-PT-S2 camera mount works like a Televator, but instead of being on the floor, it is connected to the overhead track system. The ceiling-mounted, 35ft, dual-rail track TeleGlide camera trolley system is servo-controlled for smooth operation with location feedback for preset positioning and motion control.

To control the camera system, operators use the CD-D-3A desktop serial control with CPS-ST-S studio control software.

An Ikegami HDK-75EXCF camera is attached to the track system with a PT-HP-S2 pan-and-tilt head with an ECM-PT-S2 extendable camera mount, which allows for more than 2ft of vertical travel. This offers additional camera shot options. And the wraparound cradle-type pan-and-tilt device allows the camera to be rotated directly on the center line. The extended arm allows for additional tilt range and camera orientation. An additional camera and pan-and-tilt head with camera control is ceiling mounted on a custom mount in the producers' area.

In addition to increasing range and speed, the new design incorporates the older pedestals into the overall control system. The Televator interfaces with two legacy pan-and-tilt and pedestal devices through the CP-D-3A, which adds a roving pedestal option. A DS-4 was changed to translate between the Telemetrics protocol and the existing robotics system. And control was added to the CPS-ST-S. This blending of the old and new system has worked well, providing us with more camera angles and looks.

The final product

Another advantage of the system is the control redundancy because it is both Ethernet and serial based (RS-232/RS-422). This allows easier work arounds when something goes down. Many of the necessary signals can be sent through the system using its control and signal capabilities, which cleans up the cabling and control system. The new Telemetrics camera robotics system allowed us to improve both the technical side and the look of our productions.

Michael Smereski is chief engineer for The Weather Channel.