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Old August 26th, 2010, 06:29 PM   #1
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Does this camera exist?

Hi there,
I'm from an audio post-production background - so don't know much about cameras.

But this question is in regard to my day job anyway.
I work in AV at a University and we need a camera to film lecturers. Don't need amazing quality, what I do want to know is if there is such thing as a "subject tracker", in the hope we can set the camera then leave.

With HD and digital zoom and all - is there a way to frame and follow a subject with digital zoom, a person moving around with the camera set in a wide static position?
Maybe even using a sensor - similar to a lapel mic - which attaches to the person's clothes.
I know its a strange request but surely this may exist somewhere, albeit may be expensive.
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Old August 26th, 2010, 06:51 PM   #2
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Oh yes...

PolycomŽ PowerCam? and PowerCam? Plus Cameras - High-Resolution Video - Products - Polycom

We have a few of these, but don't use them any more.
DVX100, PMW-EX1, Canon 550D, FigRig, Dell Octocore, Avid MC4/5, MB Looks, RedCineX, Matrox MX02 mini, GTech RAID, Edirol R-4, Senn. G2 Evo, Countryman, Moles and Lowels.
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Old September 2nd, 2010, 01:28 AM   #3
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Great thanks for that. Unfortunately that is a little out of our price range.

Also, I was actually hoping for a hand-held option, well, more portable option, set up on a tripod.
It will be more for filming in a lecture theater rather than a conference/seminar.
And will need to be moved from one theater to another.

But thanks.

Any handhelds?
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Old September 2nd, 2010, 12:31 PM   #4
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from a practical standpoint, lots of cameras have face recognition which should in theory cover white balance and focus, and maybe that's what you're asking for when you say a wide static shot? I have yet to see a camera with auto framing and "tracking" to cover the "tight shot".

Framing is subjective, do you want a wide or a tight shot (I'm presuming you're thinking a tight shot, tracked as the speaker moves). This function is better served by a human operator, at least at the moment.

Tracking is even trickier, and would have to be linked to a power tripod head with 3 axis motorized movement somehow, if your subject moves very much. Optical image stabilizing systems (built into the camera) will adjust for minor moves, Sonys active system is the most agressive I've seen, but it's not going to "track", rather it's designed to get a stable shot.

In real world operation it's hard enough for a good human operator to frame and track a highly animated subject while maintaining close up framing, I believe this is why they invented "the podium" <wink>.

If you know the exact area of a stage the speaker will "use", and can set your wide shot to that area and get a usable shot with an HD camera, then track it in post, but that's a lot of work too...
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 12:52 AM   #5
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Yes - Autoframing a tight shot is exactly what I meant.
I figured I'd be asking a little too much but thought I'd give it a go.

I'm sure there is the technology to effectively frame a lecturer pacing the front of the room, but it probably isn't in a great deal of demand and filming lectures surely makes up only a minuscule percentage of the camera market.

But thanks anyway.
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 11:59 AM   #6
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Actually it would be a mighty handy invention for a lot of event videography... but the only way I can even think the tracking could be implemented would probably require the "target" to have a dot on their forehead <wink>.

Framing a tight shot live is a bugger, any way you slice it. It looks great in movies, where every move is carefuly mapped and planned... but pulling it off on an unscripted unpredictable live speaker or artist... that's a whole other special skill, and not one that IMO plays well to even a highly evolved computer algorithm, although I'll admit the small consumer cameras are already "smarter" than the operator in many cases!

Many small consumer cams already "auto track" using facial recdognition and adjust white balance and exposure for best results on the faces, so it's not impossible, and I wouldn't be surprised to see something like you suggest in the future. My Sony CX550V already has a pretty agressive Optical Image Stabilization system that you can see physically "moves" the framing to remove handheld shake, to a surprising degree.

Sony has a "party cam" accessory that you stick one of their small P&S cameras on, stick it on a table, and it pans and tilts, going around the room snapping off stills... again using the facial recognition... not too far off from your concept really! All you'd really need was a bit more controlled and limited tracking range designed to keep a face in a certain portion of the frame, and heck the P&S cameras shoot pretty good HD video already! If you could hack the party shot, it'd probably be doable! HMMMM... the mad scientist in me is threatening to come out... too bad my "mad scientist budget" has been cut back due to the economy!!
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Old September 11th, 2010, 08:48 PM   #7
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Let me add my agreement that tracking a tight shot on an unpredictably moving target is a nightmare. Consider the likely scenario - as you start to nod off from the boredom of listening to someone drone on about something in which you have no interest whatsoever, subject suddenly darts to the left - caught by surprise you react about the time the subject is almost off the left side of the frame and whip the camera to catch him - most likely overshooting as he stops and makes a quick U-turn which leads you to whip the camera back in the other direction again - and if it's a lower end CMOS based camera, all this whipping around will induce "interesting" varying distortions in the image - the dreaded "jello-cam effect.

Best I can think of would be to shoot moderately wide (ie wide enough to just cover the expected range of motion plus a bit) and zoom and track in post. Time consuming but probably not as time consuming as sitting there during the lecture and trying to get it right and failing.

Besides being hard to do, automatically keeping something in the center of the frame would produce a rather strange result - locking the center of the frame on the moving object can give the feeling that the object is stationary and the background is moving around - sort of what it would look like if you shot a kid moving up and down on a merry go round from the center of rotation. Kid would be going up and down and background would be moving horizontally. Ugggh! And if you kept the kid vertically centered in the frame it would get worse - stationary kid and nausea inducing background motion. Double Ugggh!
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Old September 11th, 2010, 10:38 PM   #8
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My only thoughts were that this sort of a thing would be found on a security robot apparatus. Which would already be on wheels, making it easily movable. It's also self powered off its own battery.

Might want to remove the weapons mount, though, as it would be a tad disconcerting for the speaker.

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