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Wireless Camera Logging Makes The Connection
With the proliferation of “smart” cell phones, PDAs and laptop computers now ubiquitous among professionals in the production community, a number of new wireless applications are becoming available that relieve once tedious processes, thereby streamlining workflows. From remote logging to metadata insertion, camera control and clip preview, camera manufacturers like Ikegami, Grass Valley, Panasonic and Sony are now saying “there’s an app for that.”
All of the 2.4 GHz band wireless applications are now in various forms of prototype but will be available to the general public this fall. Initial field tests have shown that signal interference is not a big issue, unless you are operating in an RF-intensive environment, such as a sports stadium or between concrete walls in an indoor venue. The freedom wireless connections bring can have a significant impact on a production.
At the IBC convention in Amsterdam, Ikegami Electronics showed new software for its GF Series production equipment that allows users with a laptop in the field or a workstation in a studio to see thumbnail picons of clips captured with the company’s GFCam HDS-V10 camcorder—part of the GFSeries tapeless Flash RAM HD production system—and attach metadata and other production notes via a Bluetooth wireless connection.
Bluetooth technology is now available in three classes, with different transmission specifications: Bluetooth Class 3 is designed for short-range transmissions at 1 mW for a distance of about 3 feet; Bluetooth Class 2, a consumer grade found on most laptops and cell phones, with transmission level of 2.5 mW and a range of about 30 feet; and Bluetooth Class 1, which is more of a professional grade (at 100 mW), where the data rate is the same (54 Mbps) but the range is increased to about 300 feet, making it more suitable to production sets. In its first phase the Ikegami GFCam software uses the Bluetooth Type 1 scheme.
Within the spec Bluetooth technology also provides many profiles for different applications. For example, most cell phones employ the HFP (Hands-Free Profile) for connecting Bluetooth-compatible headsets. For professionals, cellular phones or PDAs must support the Serial Port Profile (SPP), File Transfer Profile (FTP) and Object Push Profile (OPP) in order to transfer metadata files wirelessly. All of these profiles are currently supported on desktop PCs with Bluetooth capability.
[Of note: a Class 1 transponder in the GFCam camera can communicate with a PC or Mobile Phone using a Class 2 system and function properly, but will only be useable to the 30 ft range limit.]
The complete wireless logging system includes software for a laptop and a USB transponder (dongle) that is inserted into the GFCam camera for Type 1 Bluetooth connectivity. Most laptops offer Type 2 Bluetooth technology, so a special Type 1 dongle will be needed. Each camera requires its own laptop and transponder. For multi-camera productions, there is no solution to allow a single laptop to access several cameras. Ikegami is working on a solution for multi-camera applications that will be introduced in 2010.
Using the Ikegami Bluetooth software on a PC or laptop, users can see a thumbnail of every clip, with time code, that’s been recorded onto the GFPak Flash RAM cartridges (manufactured by Toshiba), and then access those clips to add notes and other metadata about the scene. They can also download a low-resolution “proxy,” complete with audio and time code, of the entire clip to the laptop for preview. And this can all be done without affecting the camera operator, who can continue to shoot as the clips are being accessed.
Those using the Bluetooth application can also view a live, low-res stream of what’s currently being shot with the GFCam. Notes can be prepared during clip recording, and then entered immediately once the “Stop” button is pushed on the camera. Again, saving time and effort.