Guest Comment: Vinten’s Tobias Keuthen on supporting more complex OB applications

Tobias Keuthen, senior product marketing manager, production equipment, Vinten

Tobias Keuthen, senior product marketing manager, production equipment, Vinten

The pressure on broadcasters to create the most compelling and dynamic live coverage continues to grow, alongside the vast increase in multimedia channels, says Tobias Keuthen, senior product marketing manager, production equipment for Vinten. There is also a higher level of expectation from audiences for more diverse coverage and as new providers enter the market, it is vital that broadcasters look at new ways to capture live footage and set themselves apart from their competitors.

As OB applications become more complex, one of the key considerations for every production is the equipment. Not only does it have to perform reliably and effortlessly so the operator can consistently capture those crucial shots, it has to have the portability required to be moved from venue to venue and be robust enough to withstand the demands placed upon it in the field. From the cameras themselves, to the camera support equipment and accessories, the environment demands the toughest kit that can also offer the precise performance essential for live broadcasting.

Live broadcasts demand a reliable operation and even the standard pieces of kit such as the tripod systems have to provide the ultimate support to the camera and its operator to ensure they can perfectly frame any action, follow it smoothly, stop when the action stops, and easily start again with a smooth acceleration. The OB environment is characterised by dynamism, action and its fast pace and when capturing content for OB, especially for events such as live sport, the camera operator has to have complete confidence in his or her equipment.

Every tripod is designed to complement the performance of the camera and the ideal solution is one that gives the operator the perception that the camera is weightless, suspended in air. It frees the operator to focus on moving the camera and lens assembly as needed, and to achieve this the support system has to ensure the camera remains stationary regardless of its height or angle.

When a camera is tilted, the centre of gravity moves away from being directly in line with the support structure, this leads to instability and the tendency of the camera to fall away. The balance mechanism in the pan-and-tilt head must exactly counter the force of gravity to prevent this. If it is a lighter camera, the drag can to some extent mask any imperfection in the balancing force, however as camera weight increases control can be severely impaired if the counter balance is imperfect.

Stiffness is a characteristic which is vital in support equipment for live OBs. When putting loads on to the system by moving the pan bar, it’s important that the tripod doesn’t act like a coiled spring. If it did, the camera could be panned from left to right, but as soon as the pan bar was released, the camera would spring back to point in a totally different direction. Subsequently, without a suitably stiff tripod, framing is very difficult to maintain and framing quality is significantly affected.

While OB applications such as live sports broadcasts have traditionally relied on the use of static, extremely stable tripods, the use of pedestals is now becoming more commonplace. When equipped with larger softer wheels, which allow them to roll over most surfaces, and handling points for increased portability, they bring an added level of reliability and even uniqueness to production.

The reliance of operators in the latest tripod systems will continue to grow as broadcasters demand more innovative footage and techniques to differentiate their programming. Live OB applications may be getting more complex; however, success will come from using the right equipment and pushing the boundaries, to enable broadcasters to lead the field in live productions.

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