European Aquatics Championships: Omnicam4Sky special camera captures split images above and below water

Credit: European Aquatics

Grup Mediapro company Omnicam4Sky has provided a host of special camera solutions – including the Waterline Dual Cam that allows the capturing of split images above and below the waterline – for use at the European Aquatics Masters Championships, which took place in Belgrade from 26 June to 6 July.

Established as an R&D-driven subsidiary of Grup Mediapro in 1997, Omnicam4Sky is focused primarily on the development of innovative camera systems. It has long-standing associations with sports federations including FIFA, UEFA and Conmebol, and in the last month alone has supplied special cameras for events including the UEFA Womens Champions League Final and the UEFA Europa League Final.

Omnicam4Skys involvement in the European Aquatics Masters Championships provided a particular opportunity to showcase the breadth of its recent innovation. Multiple units of its Underwater PTZ solution – which constitutes an aluminium rail with underwater glass dome enclosure for Panasonic UE-80 UHD cameras – were used to capture the artistic swimming, swimming and jump events.

Omnicam4Sky also provided one K2 remote-controlled track camera with stabilised 15×8 Canon lens and pan-bar (essentially a regular tripod with zoom and focus handles instead of traditional joystick control) for the swimming events, as well as a single AquaJib – which comprises a pole with underwater glass dome enclosure housing a Dreamchip Atom SSM500 ultra-slow motion camera – for jump events.

But arguably the most intriguing single solution from Omnicam4Sky to be utilised at the championships was the Waterline Dual Cam. Employed throughout the artistic swimming events, the Waterline Dual Cam provides two perspectives on the same image – one from above the waterline, and one from below.

Jorge Quinta Gaspar, CEO of Omnicam4Sky, says that the origins of the current camera stretch back as far as 2009 and a swimming training centre project in Portugal. We had a railcam with a Sony Z700 PTZ camera on top, and underwater there was a small zoom camera, which was a Sony HXR-MC1,” he recalls. It was pretty similar to what we see now in the artistic swimming event, where the concept is to have the two cameras – one outside the water and one inside – and then stitch the two images together.

Controlled remotely with a motorised iris focus zoom lens and multi-matrix support, the Waterline Dual Cam enables a seamless, horizontal line that clearly divides the integrated waterline image regardless of the presence of waves and ripple effects.

The current HD solution rectifies the principal challenges encountered with the 2009-era product. It wasnt so good in terms of manipulating the images with the software we were using, and as a result the final effect wasnt too great,” says Gaspar, who adds that the moving underwater camera was ultimately deemed to be unsuitable for actual swimming competitions because the waves it created in the swimming pool could affect the swimmers. So, what we have now is a much better quality solution that revolves around fixed cameras which run along a track [some distance] above the water, and also close to the waterline, that can be controlled very effectively in terms of pan and zoom.”

Software upgrade

Integral to the performance of the latest-generation solution is the significant evolution of the control software, which means users can now benefit from access to very high-quality 3D imaging of the cameras in use”. An extensive period of testing before deployment also proved to be invaluable.

We are always testing new things and looking into possible improvements,” confirms Gaspar. For instance, for a long time we were using plastic domes with the PTZ solutions, but more recently we have switched to glass domes as part of our ongoing efforts to get the best from the cameras.”

In terms of the performance of the Waterline Dual Cam at the European Aquatics Masters Championships – where host broadcaster duties were shared between Arena Sport and RTS Serbia, “the feedback received from the operators has been very good, with the system performing well throughout the event”, he says.

Read more Arena Sport and RTS Serbia share host duties for European Aquatics Championships

Gaspar also points out that the Belgrade event was by no means the only major recent aquatics-related outing for Omnicam4Sky solutions, with the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships – which took place in Doha from 2-18 February – involving extensive use of the 4Sky four-cable suspended dynamic camera system. Incorporating a stabilised camera head, a choice of Panasonic or Sony cameras, Canon lenses and remote OCP camera control, 4Sky is able to move dynamically across a sports field or arena from virtually any spot or angle – allowing it to shift vertically and horizontally across a pre-defined indoor or outdoor space.

We have worked on a lot of aquatics events in recent years, using our own camera systems developed in-house,” confirms Gaspar, adding that in Doha the 4Sky was employed by Sky as part of its coverage. We are always innovating, both in terms of new systems and improvements [to existing ones], in order to capture the kind of images and angles that wouldnt have been possible even relatively recently.”

He also thinks that a continual focus on making its special cameras as easy to use as possible has contributed significantly to Omnicam4Skys current prominence in the sports market. Everything we do is from the ground-up with [a major emphasis] on making it all versatile and user-friendly for the operators,” says Gaspar. You really dont want to be making any aspect of the production more complicated, so a lot of work takes place to ensure the systems are flexible, easy to mount and install, and support low power consumption.”

With another successful edition of the European Aquatics Championships in the rear-view mirror, Omnicam4Skys current workload includes the supply of special cameras to the 2024 Copa América. Organised by Conmebol in conjunction with Concacaf, the 48th edition of the quadrennial international mens soccer championship is due to conclude with the final at Floridas Hard Rock Stadium on 14 July.

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