As the need for an ever-increasing amount of content continues, both on linear TV and online, production studios and broadcast news facilities across the country are faced with getting more productivity out of the resources at hand. There’s no budget, and in many cases no more space, for a large studio with 3-4 manned camera operations. The solution is a smaller studio with Telemetrics automated production technology, which requires minimal manpower and brings immediate (and long-term) benefits in efficiency.
Since 2005, the studio operations team at MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball based in New York City’s historic Chelsea Market, has been challenged with just such a scenario in the building of three small (two approximately 16 x14 ft. and a third measuring 11x14 ft.) production studios and control rooms. At the time, MLBAM was moving heavily into producing original video content to support its pre-taped and live shows appearing online and it needed as much production space as it could configure in a century-plus old refurbished cookie factory. Across the three studios, MLBAM installed eight standard-definition (SD) cameras under the control of a Telemetrics PTZ robotic system.
Then in 2007-2008, MLBAM upgraded the two larger production spaces to high-definition (HD) and added on to the existing camera control system as the Telemetrics technology had proved its value. This allowed the crew to produce even more content without having to hire additional staff. The equipment worked so well that in 2012 it added a second control room and a second Telemetrics camera control system. Two more cameras were added—for a total of ten—to further amplify the original content programming’s broadcast production values.
In the summer of 2016, MLBAM upgraded its third, smaller studio, installing yet another Telemetrics RoboEye integrated HD camera/robotic PTZ head and Televator elevating pedestal, for a new online show that debuted in September. Adding the Telemetrics systems was important because there wasn’t a lot of additional and available space to work with but still wanted a “big” look for its new daily studio show.
The use of robotics was key to achieving that goal because the physical studios were operating at peak performance and there was no time for labor-intensive studio setups or pre-show preparation. With the robotics systems, they could be assured of consistent performance from the same equipment and very little down time.
With such limited space new studios and a limited operating budget, Dan Gentile, Senior Director, Studio Operations at MLBAM, said they needed to be practical in the HD studio design. This resulted in the smaller sized studios that make use of cost-effective robotic cameras with Telemetrics’ multi-featured Remote Camera Control Panel (RCCP-1), an integrated control surface that enables unified command over camera robotics and camera shading. More importantly, it also allows a single operator sitting at a remote control panel to pan, tilt, and zoom the cameras from a joystick in the control room and ultimately produce tighter, cleaner, and higher quality shows—whose settings can be stored and later recalled for the next day’s shooting.
“We needed a system where we could produce high quality content with lower operating expense and limited space,” Gentile said, pointing out that the MLBAM studios are open Monday-Friday, 6am to 8pm—and later if needed. A live daily show produced every morning and various live and taped productions for MLB and its programming partners keep their studios—and the Telemetrics gear—extremely busy. “The Telemetrics robotics helped accomplish those goals.”
Today, across its three studios, MLBAM now uses 11 HD cameras that are controlled via the two control rooms with the Telemetrics RCCP-1 system. This includes a Telemetrics RoboEye HD camera/robotic PTZ head and 10 Panasonic 1500 cameras with PTZ control from Telemetrics. The RCCP-1 allows access to deep menu controls of broadcast cameras without the need for dedicated camera control units or paint boxes. This was a big advantage for MLBAM, because they could maintain a consistent on-air look for its programs without a lot of unnecessary gear.
The turnkey RoboEye PTZ camera system allowed MLBAM studio designers—working closely with Telemetrics product engineers during commissioning of the equipment—to implement a professional HD camera robotics solution that delivers exceptional performance at a very competitive price point. The RoboEye features a Sony Exmor HD camera and 30X zoom lens to help capture an unlimited variety of high-quality HD images and interesting camera angles from anywhere in the studios.
Gentile added that training the staff to use the Telemetrics systems was fast and easy, ensuring a smooth transition for his three studios to unmanned camera operation. “The basic operations of the control units are pretty simple and easy to use,” he said. “My entire staff is very comfortable using the system. That’s what makes camera robotics most appealing.”
Another value proposition that the Telemetrics systems provided MLBAM is the strong technology foundation. This has allowed Gentile and his team to expand its robotics systems and add more cameras and control units as the need arises. Since 2005 MLBAM has expanded from eight SD cameras to its current 11 HD cameras. That’s thanks to the Telemetrics robotic camera platform’s modular design.
“Our camera robotics system has grown as we have grown as a company,” Gentile said. “That’s what I like most about Telemetrics systems. They give us a cost-effective way to expand our existing system when we feel the time is right, so we never feel limited in what we can do from a production standpoint.”