ACS’ 3D Railcam runs the line at Twickenham

When England play Wales at Twickenham this weekend in a warm-up match ahead of September’s Rugby World Cup, Aerial Camera System’s 3D Railcam will be running one of the touchlines.

“We’ve done a succession of rugby games for Sky from Twickenham and Cardiff and we’ve progressed from having two cameras locked off side by side, which was a very basic rig where we had to adjust all the parameters electronically, to our current system of using an Element Technica Pulsar rig,” comments ACS Engineering manager, Simon Preston.

ACS provides the 3D Railcam as a turnkey system, with its own support vehicle and seven-man crew. “The Pulsar is just the right size to fit on the rail system and it’s also very robust, which it needs to be when it’s going at 10 metres per second down the rail for 100m. It’s also easy to hook up to remote control.”

The rig mounts two Sony P1 cameras fitted with Canon HD 22 lenses, and the whole unit is connected back to the truck via a Copperhead fibre system. “That means we can run the whole rig, power the cameras and the whole thing, off of one SMPTE cable,” says Preston. “That gives us both HD coming back, numerous data paths, and also some return HD so we can send some back to the rig to help with the alignment process.”

At the moment, Preston says that the system is being fine-tuned. Because it’s an open platform system, in the extremely original sense of the phrase, it’s sensitive to weight and balance issues, not to mention being affected by the way the whole thing is put together, so testing is underway to try and increase the stability.

The company is also looking at expending 3D into the other areas of its business, such as different minicams to fit the same form factor of what Preston calls ACS’ ‘bread and butter’ cameras, the remote control smartheads that sit behind the goals for Sky’s football coverage. One thing it doesn’t need to do just yet, however, is look at the Railcam and increase the unit’s speed.

“The Railcam goes around 30mph, which is pretty quick when you’ve got someone operating the track, someone operating the camera, and a 3D guy doing convergence at the same time. But you can just about keep up with Usain Bolt..for now.”

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