When discussing cameras, the topics usually focus on optics or electronics that complement those optics or help enhance the image in some fashion. A discussion of cameras might also lead to talking about camera microphones; such a topic might naturally segue into how silent the operation that piece of equipment is. What is more rarely touched upon (beyond focusing) is the movement of the camera itself, and delving more deeply into that subject is the movement of the camera by itself.
Robotic cameras are either remote controlled or automatic (or a combination of the two) and can be made for wireless operation. As the viability of robotic cameras increases, so, too, does their use in/for the studio and in the security/surveillance trades. The most common variety of robotic camera one might currently encounter is the PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom). These are readily found in a studio setting or in a protected property, such as a large department store or casino. Almost everyone in the developed world has seen a dome or ‘eye-in-the-sky’ camera. Not all dome cameras are robotic, however; the picture quality improves and remote/robotic options begin to appear as the upper-end of the price range is reached.
For security cameras, the dome provides environmental protection from dust, rain, and flying insects with some degree of protection for the camera itself from willful destruction by vandals seeking to circumvent their observation. In some cases, the dome provides deception as well, because a few (or all if the proprietor is notoriously cheap) of those enigmatic black domes are empty, which reduces the overall cost of the CCTV security system by tricking some potential thieves into believing that a particular area is under surveillance. PTZ cameras greatly enhance the effectiveness of a camera operator by allowing one individual to operate multiple cameras at multiple locations via remote control.
Some robot cameras are fully automatic and follow a set movement pattern (most commonly encountered with security cameras), while others might be set-up to follow movement (which is much more useful for a studio).
Originally, automatically following movement was accomplished thru a combination of motion detectors, computers, and cameras. Then, along came auto-tracking, a built in firmware program that monitors the pixels and centers the picture for alterations of the image; it then uses the PTZ to maintain its central focus on that area of movement/distortion. For better focus, the firmware programming estimates the distortion and thereby the object’s total size and speed, as well as its distance from the camera, which allows for a clear picture by enabling a more effective auto-focus and smoother movement by approximating the distortion’s movement and trajectory. Once the distortion has exited the camera’s field of view, it either (depending on its programming) remains watching the exit point of the object, returns to its previous area of focus, or recommences its pre-programmed movement pattern; at this point, the camera also begins ‘watching’ again for movement to follow. Automatic cameras are also useful for a naturalist’s observation of wildlife in remote locations (or ‘nature surveillance’ if you will).
A couple of examples of PTZ cameras are: the Lumens VC-G50 High Definition PTZ Video Camera and the Panasonic AW-HE120. While the Lumens VC-G50 camera was initially designed for video conferencing, it is adaptable to a variety of applications. With an amazing field of coverage, this camera’s pan angle ranges from -170° to +170° which allows it to cover almost an entire room; the tilt ranges from -30° down to +90° up when the camera is mounted right-side-up (inverse mounting is also possible with image flip). Combine that with 20x Optical Zoom and a 60° Angle of View, and a dozen other features and you have a pretty sweet view.
Panasonic has a number of PTZ cameras available – one of which is the Panasonic AW-HE120, which supports both direct and Web-based IP remote control. With its fast 20X zoom lens and three 2.2 megapixel U.L.T. MOS imagers supporting full HD video capture, the AW-HE120 is a prime candidate for use recording surveillance, news, worship, sports, and staging. The camera has 16-axis color correction and remote controlled neutral density filters, DRS, shutter, and other functions enable optimal exposure for a wide range of shooting conditions. It can store over 100 preset positions, and has over a dozen additional features besides.
Fixed location robot cameras are certainly useful but the next step (literally) in robot camera movement is a camera that can change its location without physical contact from an operator. A vast array of walking, rolling, climbing, flying, and swimming camera conveyance contraptions now spring to mind. Remote controlled cameras could also be attached to a biological carrier that does not operate the camera itself, such as: chimpanzees, greyhounds, dolphins, large birds, or athletes, etc. There are a multitude of possibilities there.
Flying Cameras are already on the market; further advances in miniaturization and aerodynamic design will continue to improve these. It’s not too hard to imagine tiny cameras attached to tiny flying robots. Flying insect robots are already in experimentation tests by numerous colleges. Conspiracy websites speculate the government already has insect robot cameras to spy on the public. As rapidly as our technology now advances, you don’t have to be wearing a tinfoil hat to believe that swarms of flying nano-cameras are possible, if not already real.
About Lumens Integration Inc.
Lumens™ Integration Inc. is the leading manufacturer of Ladibug™ portable document cameras and PTZ video conferencing cameras. The company was founded in 1998 and has a deep technological heritage of image processing, optical technology and video electronics. Lumens™ applies great importance to every step of the product cycle. From operations, warranty maintenance and customer satisfaction.
About Panasonic Corporation of North America
Panasonic Corporation of North America provides a broad line of digital and other electronics products and solutions for consumer, business and industrial use. The company is the principal North American subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Panasonic Corporation and the hub of Panasonic’s U.S. branding, marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. In Interbrand’s 2014 annual “Best Global Green Brands” report, Panasonic ranked number five overall and the top electronics brand in the report. As part of continuing sustainability efforts, Panasonic Corporation of North America relocated its headquarters to a new facility, adjacent to Newark Penn Station in Newark, NJ. It is the first newly constructed office tower in Newark to earn both LEED Platinum and Gold certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council. Learn more about Panasonic at panasonic.com/pressroom