Remote Control Camera System

HGL's unique mix of skills and enthusiasms were needed on a project to develop the next generation of remotely-operated TV studio camera platforms. These camera control heads, traditionally operated using RS-232 serial links, can move in pan, tilt, zoom and focus axes, and must move sufficiently smoothly to allow for movement from one position to another while transmitting broadcast-quality images.

HGL Dynamics was selected by the customer because of our experience in software design and development and our experience of interfacing with third-party or legacy hardware. The system was designed to operate over Ethernet, storing all camera positions (shots) in an SQL database. Multiple touch-screen user control stations can select shots from the database and command the cameras to move to their new positions.

The legacy control stations and camera control heads communicated using an undisclosed data format over RS-232. HGL had to examine the data being transmitted between example legacy hardware units in order to completely reconstruct the protocol so that network-based hardware could interface with the legacy devices.

The sophistication of the design allows sequences of shots to be played in turn, causing the camera to move continuously from one position, through others, to a final position. Also, multiple cameras may be commanded to move simultaneously, starting and finishing their movements together. In addition, users could override a programmed move by adding extra movement via a manual joystick interface. This required recalculating the movement profile of the cameras in real time.

The technology developed by HGL during this project is now in mainstream use at TV news studios and for parliamentary broadcasting systems around the world.

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