At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, all live, in-person sporting events were cancelled and the industry came to a virtual standstill. As time passed, these events slowly began to return, albeit with strict health and safety regulations. To comply with these rules, Ross Video’s Ross Production Services (RPS) team began producing events during the pandemic by using Ross robotics to keep all event staff, participants, and camera operators safe. These robotic systems allow cameras to be positioned in prime locations in the venues while the operators control everything from a safe distance, ensuring they don’t come in contact with athletes or on-air talent, making them ideal for social distancing.
World TeamTennis 2020
One of the first socially distanced events that RPS produced was the World TeamTennis 2020 season, which was one of the first live sports tournaments to return after the pandemic hit. The event took place at The Greenbrier in West Virginia in July and August of 2020, and RPS was on-site to provide coverage. The tournament consisted of a three-week, 66-match season with nine teams over 19 days.
The event organizers put a “bubble” system in place with only had a limited number of fans in attendance, and instituted rigid health and safety guidelines to protect the crew. Event staff rotated production crews in and out of the venue, with two crews working per day. Social distancing guidelines were strongly enforced, and masks were mandatory.
To make sure they were in compliance with all safety regulations, the RPS team deployed minimal crew with no camera operators at court level – instead, these cameras were replaced with robots, and the operators worked out of a separate building far from the main compound. The robotic cameras were controlled from a distance, ensuring that the athletes would not come in contact with anyone outside of the bubble at any time. The event was a success, and proved that RPS was able to produce broadcast-quality live sporting events during the pandemic while ensuring the safety of everyone on-site.
NCAA 2021 Gymnastics Championships
Over the next several months, the RPS team’s proven high-quality track record combined with the safety and distancing provided by the robotic cameras made them an ideal production partner for sporting event organizers. The team continued to book events, one of which was the NCAA’s 2021 Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. Like the World TeamTennis event, the NCAA also put an “athlete bubble” in place for the event, so no camera operators were to be allowed near the gymnastics apparatuses on the competition floor.
RPS sent four pan bar control systems with VR600 pan/tilt camera heads, and the standard CAN control distance of 50m made it easy to stay out of the bubble. RPS only sent one robotics technician to the event, but he was able to deploy all four systems in about four and a half hours – a testament to the simplicity of the system as a tool in a fast-paced sports TV environment.
Three of the systems were operated by the director's preferred camera operators, and the RPS team member filled in the fourth position. Each VR600 excelled as a pan bar-controlled head, nailing shots consistently and even turning to assist with coverage of other apparatuses while keeping the operator position compact. The camera operators at the event commented on how it easy it was to control the cameras using the pan bar systems, and how quick and straightforward it was to set them up. The production was a resounding success, which is a testament to the effectiveness and ease of use of the pan bar systems that were used.
Benefits of Robotic Camera Systems
On top of the ability to abide by social distancing requirements thanks to the flexibility and options for camera locations at the events, robotic camera systems offer many other benefits as well. One of which is the fact that event producers don’t need to hire specialty camera operators like they would if the cameras were using joystick controls. Additionally, by using the pan bars, no special experience with robotic cameras is necessary, so there’s no increase in crew budgeting. Furthermore, the pan bars are an excellent option for situations in which producers need to save space on the event floor. They provide added flexibility given their small footprint, which will continue to be useful once the world returns to “normal” post-COVID.
To read about Ross Video’s robotic camera systems, click here.
Click here to read our Customer Success Story on SEC and NCAA Gymnastics.
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