A new era in slow-motion?


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Those readers who watch sports programmes on a regular basis may have noticed that many productions now have high speed cameras providing so called “ultra-motion” replays as a part of slow motion sequences. These cameras have been in use for many years in such areas as crash testing and sports training, but until recently the quality of the image has not been high enough for inclusion in mainstream broadcasting.

At the heart of all current systems are either Photron or Phantom camera heads manufactured in Japan and USA respectively. These devices have internal RAM memory to store and replay the very high data rates required in such products and control is by laptop i.e. generally very cumbersome and not “live operation” friendly! Frame rates available are between 25 fps and 10,000 fps dependent upon resolution.
Until these cameras appeared, replays were generally limited to either 25fps or 75fps (Sony Super-Motion). Early systems were based on tape using such formats as 1 inch C-format (Ampex or Sony) and Beta SP / Digi Beta (Sony) although for several years now there has been a move to disc based servers – the industry standard now being the EVS LSM (Live Slow Motion) server, although Grass Valley, Orad, BLT and many other manufacturers have products to offer in this field.

What speed for what sport? Well, let us imagine a sequence of punches in a boxing fight, two jabs followed by a left hook – this could last say 5 seconds in “real” time? It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that at half speed this would take 10 seconds and that three angles of said action would take 30 seconds – a nice little sequence to fill the gap between bells ! Now how about including an “ultra-motion” replay in your sequence? At 1000 fps the viewer will see images never seen before (!) however, a 5 second replay will take 3 minutes 20 seconds to replay!!! Thus to enable the inclusion of a more spectacular replay, you would have to use fewer angles and perhaps not show the entire punch sequence in ultra-motion, how about two “normal angles at 50% speed and just the left-hook (tightly cued) in ultra-motion as the final replay in the sequence ?

Obviously in many sports, 1000fps is far too slow and sometimes does not reveal any more than a replay at say 350fps would, so careful thought has to be given to shooting speed, especially if it is a requirement to include a replay within a live production such as football or rugby. From experience, frame rates in excess of 600fps are rarely used as a part of a replay sequence. However, on many programmes the main use for ultra-motion is not action replays but rather for the gathering of those “special” images for inclusion in slomo sequences leading to commercial breaks or end of programme slomo montages – these can add a real quality touch to any broadcast.

The current market leader in this technology is I-Movix, a young Belgian R&D company based in Mons. These guys have taken the latest Phantom 641 high speed camera and developed a full, user friendly, broadcast integration package that is second to none! We introduced their products to the UK some three years ago and have never looked back. Their current model is the Sprintcam V vs HD, this shoots at frame rates up to 2500fps at 1080i (5600 @ 720p) and has dedicated control panels for both replay and vision control areas. The camera will take any standard B4 mount broadcast lens and is connected to the OB truck via SMPTE fibre that carries full reverse vision and talkback facilities. One of the many advantages of the latest camera is the dual output, enabling the “live” output to be used independently of the “replay” output, thus the camera can occupy a normal camera position and have two functions – budgets are important these days!

Finally, watch this space – keep an eye open for the new X10 from I-Movix – this cutting edge product provides direct data streaming to the latest EVS XT3 server giving network access to all recorded frames and around 16 hours of storage!
Isn’t it about time you added the ultra-motion sparkle to your programme ?
For further detail and to arrange a demonstration please call Steve or Hayley on 0116 2727800 or visit www.editec.co.uk - I-Movix, slow motion at it’s best!



Steve Cotterill (“Cotters”) has been involved in the broadcast industry for over 30 years and has some 20 years experience the the slow-motion field. He started his career at Central TV Studios in Birmingham initially working on Quad format tape systems including Ampex VR2000 and ACR 25 commercial transmission, then being trained in CAR / MCR areas, moving on to be the VT supervisor at 021 TV (formerly Central OB’s) one of the early major independent UK OB companies. Steve started Editec around 20 years ago and was the original importer of the now industry standard EVS LSM server.

Tags: iss063 | evs | i-movix | slow motion | evs xt3 server | photron | phantom camera | N/A
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