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Specialty HD cameras bring flare to Sochi winter sports coverage

The thrill of the Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge World Cup competitions from Sochi, Russia, in mid-February was captured in HD for broadcast TV audiences worldwide with Q-Ball remotely controlled pan/tilt/zoom cameras and 13 MiniZooms from Camera Corps.

Camera Corps technicians Nick Bonner and Kes Thornley installed the cameras and control equipment ahead of the sporting event for operation by a Moscow-based broadcast production organization working on behalf of multiple television channels.

A total of 260 athletes took part in the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup Stage. Official training runs were held Feb. 11-14, followed by women's double bobsleigh and men's skeleton on Feb. 15, men's double bobsleigh and women's skeleton on Feb. 16, and men's quad bobsleigh on Feb. 17. The Luge World Cup, run by a separate sports federation, was held the following weekend.

"The cameras were rigged in come-and-go pairs and cut into the program in quick succession to give a real idea of speed," explained Bonner. "The MiniZooms can get closer to the action than a traditional cameraman and provide a much more dramatic viewing angle. Each camera was mounted in a fixed frame, which allowed virtual graphics of other faster bobsleighs to be laid over the top of replays to show which competitors were taking the best line.”

The technicians also rigged a Replay XD miniature camcorder onto the competitors and their sleds to record HD onto an internal micro SD card, he said. The resulting sequence was dramatic and was played at the top of the program to give an onboard view of what the competitors saw, he explained.

The cameras were operated remotely over a long distance via Camera Corps' Remote Control Panels, and their video output was integrated seamlessly with signals from larger cameras.

The Camera Corps Q-Ball is a compact remotely controlled camera head with integral 10X zoom optics and smoothly accelerating pan/tilt motors, all housed in a robust and fully weatherproof 115mm diameter aluminum sphere. Equipped with a 2-megapixel CMOS sensor and capable of operating in daylight or infra-red illumination, Q-Ball delivers 1080i/720p HD or 625/525 SD at 50Hz or 59.94Hz refresh rates. Pan and tilt slip-rings provide the freedom to perform unrestricted camera rotation at a wide range of speeds with precise control of acceleration and deceleration. Master black and color saturation control allow accurate matching with other video sources.

Camera Corps' MiniZoom is a miniature HD camera with integral remotely controllable zoom lens.