Five Useful Tips When Considering PTZ Cameras

Eli Jacobson shares tips from his experience as a digital media and conferencing lead designer
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Eli Jacobson shares tips from his experience as a digital media and conferencing lead designer
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Photo credit: Brandeis University

Eli Jacobson, digital media and conferencing lead, Media Technology Services at Brandeis University offers some helpful tips based on his experience.

1: Understand what the intent of the recording is and who the audience is.

Is this a high-production event or is the recording simply for reference/archival purposes? This may help to determine if an auto-tracking solution is appropriate. Auto-trackers are not perfect, and obviously not as smart as a human when it comes to determining who the correct subject is if multiple people are presenting at the front of the room, but it may be fully adequate for what you are trying to do.

2: Understand who the human subjects of the recordings will be.

What tools do they like to use in the classroom? Do they prefer to use a doc cam or do they write on the board usually? Maybe they only use PowerPoint. Auto-trackers are especially useful to presenters who write on the board, give demonstrations with physical objects, or if they walk around a lot.

3: Think about the space and what type of camera makes the most sense.

Can the camera see everything in the room with a single shot, or does the camera need to pan/tilt/zoom to capture everything clearly? Small rooms may be adequate with a still shot if the camera can see the front of the room with full detail, but the auto-tracker adds significant value if the room is large or wide so that everything can be captured with detail.

4: Think about the installation/deployment of the device.

How will the signal get from the back of the room to the actual recording equipment? How long is the cable run, and is it even possible to run the cable without tearing apart walls?

5: We have a couple of rooms that use wireless HDMI extenders to get from the camera (mounted on the ceiling) down to the rack.

We have other rooms that use re-purposed Cat5 runs because that was most convenient since they were already there. Other rooms have long-distance BNC/HD-SDI cable runs. The camera’s output will likely impact how you run that signal. If the camera only outputs HDMI or DVI, then you are limited in the length of the cable run unless you adapt to SDI. There are a lot of variables regarding cable runs that must be considered.


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As someone with decades of television station experience, I have to admit that I never thought I’d see the day when a television studio would be populated by cameras that look like the ghosts Inky, Clyde, Blinky and Pinky from the Pac-Man video game.