Mobile TV Group off and running with new Grass Valley XtremeSpeed slo-mos

A new addition to the high-speed–camera market looks to be making an immediate impact — even before its debut at NAB 2014 next month. Grass Valley and Mobile TV Group deployed Grass Valley’s new LDX XtremeSpeed 6X ultra-slow-motion camera, integrating it with the K2 Dyno Replay System at Major League Baseball spring-training games this week in Arizona.

The system is being used live and for six-times slow-motion replays on Mobile TV Group trucks at five spring-training locations by Fox Sports RSNs and Root Sports. Although the deployment was initially planned as a field test of the XtremeSpeed, MTVG will put the system in full service at Root Sports Rocky Mountain by Opening Day at the end of the month (and at other RSNs soon after).

“This is an outstanding development for ultra-slow-motion [6X] production,” says Mobile TV Group President Philip Garvin, who was on-site for the deployment. “The images were stunning. The cameras perfectly match Grass Valley’s standard-speed cameras so they could be used live as well as for replay. Even in the challenging lighting of night spring-training games, the system worked beautifully at 360 fps. The slow-motion replay is smooth, detailed, and eye-catching.”

Ready for opening day

Next week, Mobile TV Group will install the first two LDX XtremeSpeed 6X cameras and one K2 Dyno Replay System on its Colorado-based dual-feed mobile unit to serve Root Sports Rocky Mountain. Deployments to additional units in MTVG’s 27-truck fleet are planned for the next 18-24 months.

“We are really excited to deploy the new Grass Valley XtremeSpeed camera system in the Rocky Mountain region for our Rockies broadcasts. What a difference this system will make,” says Root Sports Rocky Mountain Executive Producer Ken Miller. “No longer do the camera operators or replay operators have to trigger anything. No longer will we miss something or have it triggered late. Plus, you have instant access to everything, which is huge.

During spring training, Miller and company deployed the XtremeSpeed super-slo-mo at tight-center and mid-first positions. They are using 72X Canon lenses but will continue to experiment with configuration.

Miller referenced a broken-bat play during one Colorado Rockies spring-training game, when the production team took the entire replay off the XtremeSpeed camera using the variable-speed tool. Root played the play back in super-slow motion, freezing it at the point of contact when the bat broke, playing it out at 100% until the shortstop collected the grounder, slowing it to 7%, speeding it back up to 100% for the throw, and then slowing back to 9% for the bang-bang play at first base.

“[The play was] incredible,” says Miller. “Camera matches are great with the other truck cameras. We always ran it in 6X, but, with the variable speed and such a good camera, it often looked like 10X or 11X, especially in daytime. Camera operators and video guys loved it. Really easy in the truck to save clips and build playlists with the Dyno.”

Just like a regular camera

The Grass Valley LDX XtremeSpeed operates at up to 360 fps (six times the normal 60 fps) with solid low-light sensitivity and provides flicker-free operation via a function Grass Valley calls AnyLightXtreme.

“The producers and directors praised the system and took the live camera and the replays frequently and without the usual concern about mixing together un-matched camera images,” says Garvin. “Camera operators were thrilled to have a real truck camera to set up and use. The feel is exactly the same as a standard Grass Valley LDX Series camera.”

The output is SMPTE or single-mode fiber with three 3G feeds to the truck, combined to achieve 1080i or 720p images at 360 fps. The XCU XtremeSpeed XF fiber CCU outputs for both a regular 1X single-speed live feed, on a single HD-SDI cable, and three 3G feeds, which can be fed directly to the K2 Summit 3G media server.

A single K2 Summit 3G media server with K2 Dyno S controller can record/play back three hours of content from two independent LDX XtremeSpeed cameras running at 6X. For playback, the Summit 3G incorporates the new AnySpeed playback function, which guarantees smooth playback at any speed from 0% to 200% and at all speed transitions.

According to Garvin, although the XtremeSpeed is not capable of achieving the peak speed of other high-end ultra-slo-mo systems (usually well over 1,000 fps), it marks a substantial increase of the 3X super-slo-mo systems that have become standard in live sports coverage, while maintaining their ability to be quickly and easily integrated directly into a standard mobile unit’s production environment.

“This may lead a transition to mobile units with multiple super-slo-mos,” says Garvin. “It’s even conceivable that, a few years from now, the traditional instant replay will be completely replaced by super-slo-mo replay with variable speed — i.e., every replay from every camera can be anything from normal to 1/12th speed.”

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