X Games Live: Cameras Galore with Sony, CPG, Fletcher, GoPro on Hand at LA Live
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Friday, June 29, 2012 - 9:11 pm

This week at ESPN’s X Games 18 in downtown Los Angeles, there is no shortage of two integral elements: tattoos and cameras. And while the ink is spread across the skin of seemingly every athlete competing at Summer X, the cameras are spread across the L.A. Live complex, positioned everywhere from the overhead grid at the top of the Staples Center to BMX rider Chad Kagy’s helmet to the rearview mirror of a Rally Car.

Sony Back for More
As the official 3D sponsor of ESPN’s Summer X Games for the third consecutive year, Sony is once again a ubiquitous force at L.A. Live, with dozens of cameras spread across the complex for various needs.

A full arsenal of Sony HDC-1500 cameras are being used both in Cameron-Pace Group (CPG) 3D rigs and as standalones. In addition, CPG’s latest rigs feature Sony HDC-P1 and PMW-10MD cameras. ESPN is also utilizing Sony HXR-NX3D1U 3D camcorders for POV and action shots, as well as Sony PMW-TD300 3D camcorders for ENG and behind-the-scenes coverage.

“X Games is without a doubt the most remarkable demo tape you could ever ask for,” says Rob Willox, director of business development, Sony Electronics. “The most remarkable images we get all year long are usually Winter X or Summer X. X Games really [is] breathtaking because it is built around the glory shot.”

In addition, two Sony MVX-8000X switchers are in ESPN’s two mobile units – NEP SS-32 and NEP Denali Summit. The switcher was installed in Denali earlier this month at NEP’s Pittsburgh facilities in order to make the truck 3G-capable for the 3D production.

“X Games serves as a platform to see what is really possible with 3D,” says Willox. “When we do other sports shows like football, we don’t always get the preferred shot. But, in this environment, it is totally 5D, so it serves as a much better platform to showcase what 3D can really look like.”

Cameron-Pace Group Put NAB Teases into Action
With nearly 30 3D cameras throughout L.A. Live, X Games 18 ranks as one of the largest sports show ever for CPG in terms of cameras (The Masters in April still stands as the company largest show in terms of total rigs with 38).  However, it’s not just quantity that CPG boasts at Summer X. The company is debuting several new rigs at the event including:

Three Max Remote systems, which allow CPG operators to adjust back focus and rig alignment remotely from the truck rather than having to manually adjust the camera on-location. CPG debuted the system in April at NAB and has plans to roll it out to more rigs in the coming months.

A 30-foot JitaCam jib hung from the Staples Center overhead grid that provides 360-degree aerial coverage of all Moto X events. CPG and JitaCam worked well into Wednesday evening to integrate the jib’s control system with the 3D rig’s zoom and focus interface.

A dozen of the new two-strand fiber camera systems unveiled at NAB. CPG’s previous 3D-rig systems required four strands of fiber to transmit back to the truck, but these new systems only require two (one for each eye). CPG expects to have all of ESPN’s 3D rigs converted to the new two-strand system within a few months.

Two 3D Nano-rigs that will be utilized for ESPN’s RallyCross coverage. The ultra-miniature rigs were born out of James Cameron’s record setting dive to the bottom of the ocean earlier this year.

Fletcher Chicago Brings in the Phantom v642
Fletcher Chicago is on hand at Summer X supplying two 3D I-MOVIX SprintCam Vvs HD ultra-slo-motion systems (co-integrated with CPG) and 10 robotic camera systems – five 3D and five 2D.

According to Fletcher Chicago manager Ed Andrzejewski, X Games marks the first show in which Fletcher’s I-MOVIX 3D system will feature the recently released v642 of the Vision Research Phantom high-speed camera. The latest incarnation of the Phantom boasts a high-quality color matrix, allowing it to better match regular game cameras.

As for the robotics, Fletcher has deployed a 2D beauty-cam shot, two booth POVs, and two 3D game-action cameras at the X Games Event Deck (for Park, Street, and Vert events). At Venue B (Staples Center, Hot Wheels, and Rally), Fletcher has set up three 3D game-action cameras and two booth POVs.

Be A Hero: GoPro Continues to Come of Age
GoPro is once again providing ESPN with jaw-dropping shots using its unique brand of camerawork. With more than 150 miniature camera systems circulating throughout L.A. Live for ESPN, this is among GoPro’s largest professional broadcast shows ever.

While GoPro and its HD HERO mini cameras have been a staple on ESPN’s X Games telecasts for several years, recent technological advancements – including the ability to control the cameras via WiFi and the ProTune firmware upgrade unveiled at NAB – have allowed GoPro to take their X Games efforts even further.

“The advent of WiFi has added a massive convenience factor for us,” says Bradford Schmidt, creative director, GoPro Media Group. “We can now just put cameras up wherever and turn them on and off throughout the day. It changes the whole [workflow] and gives us a lot more freedom.”

GoPro also boasts what is perhaps the most eye-catching piece of camera equipment on hand at X Games this year – the GoPro array rig. With a total of 40 HD HERO2 cameras synced up across a long pole, the rig is capable of capturing 360-degree-style shots of athletes on the course. Once the footage is captured, these clips take approximately 24 hours in post to turn around for the ESPN telecast.

While GoPro systems are still not functional for live applications, the prospect of using these versatile cameras for a live stream or telecast has many sports entities chomping at the bit.

“We’ve taken that first step in making our cameras WiFi-compatible,” says Todd Ballard, director of sports marketing, GoPro. “So it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other on the way to that goal. But there is definitely a lot of demand for that from a lot of sports entities, so it’s something that we are closely exploring.”

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