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 World Series of Poker Title

World Series of Poker


As you could probably ascertain from my last newsletter, there is a lot to learn with new technology. I grew up on NTSC broadcast television with much real-world experience with commercial TV production, small and large remote TV broadcasts and live television. Of course I really loved the simplicity of ENG / EFP remotes as well.

This shoot I was invited on (World Series of Poker 2007), a very big shoot with a very big client (ESPN), involved about 10,000 poker players playing over a near two month period. The big set that you see broadcast had 24 HD cameras, each recording to tape simultaneously during the games. Tapes were logged and edited on non-linear editors after each game.

There were four crews, equipped with Varicams and AJ-HDX-900s, shooting interviews and other footage for the production. To say the least, this was a very intricate set-up with stakes as high as the players' hopes.

Jeff Christian, of “Reel Shorts”, did a great job in setting up all the technical aspects, set, and lighting for this production. He has been supplying these ESPN shoots for several years now, shooting in SD, with Sony BVW-400s and SD lipstick cameras. This was the first time it was produced in HD, requiring all relatively new HD gear.

Obviously this required a tremendous amount of time spent in the design and building for just the video technical end. He was also responsible for the set design and lighting.

For this particular shoot, he wired up a rack of terminal gear to supply the signal flow for studio monitoring, the video shading area with proper scopes and monitors, video distribution of signals and time code generation and genlocking capabilities.

The video monitoring was done with Evertz multi-image display gear, which put multiple cameras into an array of Panasonic Plasmas in the tech area and around the set. Using such a system reduced the monitor count and wiring drastically.

My duties were to set-up and match all 24 cameras, and assist in the other technical aspects of this shoot. I came a week after the location set-up began, worked three days and left the day before taping began.

The initial lesson that we can all get out of what I experienced is that planning and preparation is critical to a successful production. A successful production is one that makes money and helps in securing your future with more productions.

The first thing I was impressed with was the choice of gear used. It was the best money could buy for this application. Starting with the Panasonic HD cameras, LCD and Plasma displays, to the Leader LV-5750 waveform, vectorscope, Evertz monitoring units and clock / sync generators. From the set design to the hiring of the crew, quality matters. I was so happy and honored to be invited to be part of such a cool production! Part 2 will follow soon.

Part 2

Part 1 of this series was an overview of the second HD shoot I was fortunate to work with. As most of you know, my business life at Macie Video Service primarily involves camera alignments with matching, and camcorder and deck service. Over the last few years HD has become the fastest growing part of our business.
I have been blessed with a great staff, which is now allowing me to venture out into possible new aspects of our business.

As I mentioned in part one, preparation is critical. Having the right gear, and proper wiring must be done before the shoot. What does take time is the actual technical set-up and debugging. It is very rare that everything works perfectly after being plugged in. I’ve had decades of experience with that truth.

What was a challenge to me and Jeff Christian was the integration of new HD gear that we had no experience with. The twelve Panasonic HD medical cameras were shown at the NAB exhibition just a month before. They were a new model with little documentation upon delivery. The solution here was the two Panasonic representatives that were on this location to help make everything work. They were of course needed.
Genlocking of all the Panasonic Varicams and AJ-HDX900s was not a problem. The new HD medical lipstick cameras were. We could not get them to genlock. Was it the cameras, distribution of signals, or the generator itself? We started the troubleshooting with this problem. As we learned, cameras, and other gear that require genlocking, must have a proper input signal to lock. The Varicam must have 720P tri-level sync as its signal. The HVX-900 can either use tri-level sync or NTSC black. Of course if you’re in the 720P mode you need to supply it with a 720P genlock signal, not a 1080i signal.

Unfortunately, we did not have information on what signal the lipstick cameras required. There was no available information on these units at this time. We ended up calling every Panasonic engineering person we could. None had experience on this new model of camera. What our reps did was to e-mail Japan our request for information. About five hours later, we got the information we required.

Once we knew the signal required, we concentrated on the clock/genlock signal generator (we verified the cabling already). This product was the most versatile unit I had ever seen. You could output NTSC, and every sort of required HD genlock signal you could imagine. We had the manual with us, but could not understand what combination of menu buttons to hit to get the proper 720P signal out of the BNC. It turns out that on the same bank of outputs, the signals feeding the big Varicams was set to 720P and worked. The next output was actually sending out a 1080i signal to the distribution amplifier that fed all the lipstick cameras. Now where was it clear that the second output had a different signal?

Because of the delivery of these cameras, there was no way to check this back at the shop. A call to Evertz prompted them to send a field technician from LA the next day. After a short explanation of our dilemma, he ran us through the menu and viola, every camera genlocked perfectly.
There was a problem with one of the Varicams that kept taking hits in the picture every few seconds. It genlocked properly, and the hits went away with the removal of the genlock signal. What looked like a camera problem turned out to be cable problem. It required a replacement cable to solve this problem. The camera was mounted on the top of a large jib arm, and resulted in an extremely long cable run. The tri-level sync signal deteriorates, the longer the run. The moral to this story is to use the best cable you can for long runs, that means the cable with the lowest internal loss. All cables have specifications for this loss by the way.

Lessons learned here: New gear is often very complex in operation and requires good documentation and training on proper operation. Just look at any new program you add to your computer. Some require lots of training. I’m trying to build a database driven website upgrade for . It’s quite a learning experience!
On purchase of any gear, demand operating manuals, and get telephone numbers of tech support representatives to be called as emergencies arise. Both Panasonic and Everz should be commended on this. Both were very helpful.

In fact when I first started performing camera alignments on Panasonics AJ-SDX900 camera, I did not have a maintenance manual to show how to make a particular alignment. I called five technical contacts I met, and each and every one returned my call. That shows they are trying to be your next camera company!
I’m winded enough for this article. See you soon for more.

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