The stakes have been raised for high-quality HD video coverage at racetracks nationwide. At New Mexico's Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino, simulcasting horse races to 800 locations around the world relies on the DTV-ready imagery of Canon BU-45H remote-control robotic pan-tilt-zoom HD camera systems, from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging.
Already familiar with the dependability of Canon robotic cameras from previously installed SD units, Sunland didn't hesitate to add the outdoor-ready Canon BU-45H camera into their HD production equipment complement. The racetrack installed the BU-45H in their paddock where horses and jockeys are viewed by fans just prior to the race. The remote camera captures the entire paddock presentation as the jockey mounts the horse to give viewers a close look at each horse right before the animals compete. Prior to installing their Canon BU-45H, Sunland had needed a manned camera and tripod inside the paddock. With the introduction of the robotic BU-45H inside that area, Sunland was able to assign control of the camera to an operator in their control room, allowing maximum use of their existing human and technical resources.
"The Canon BU-45H camera has been a tremendous addition to our toolbox," said John Nichols, video manager of Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. "The video from this camera is outstanding. We have a set shot that we can guide remotely from our control room, and we can shoot our talent live for a compelling action shot prior to each race."
A MediaZoom PT controller was already in place to control their two older Canon NU-700 SD cameras in use elsewhere in the facility. This enabled Sunland to simply connect their BU-45H to the controller and go to work.
"The MediaZoom controller has capabilities for up to four cameras, so we were able to quickly integrate the BU-45H into the system and allow our control room operator to perform PTZ functions for an additional unit," Nichols noted. "The Canon BU-45H is about a quarter-mile from our control room. We laid down CAT5 cable to connect it, and then converted that to RS485 to extend the run. It worked right out of the box. The PTZ performance of the camera is very fluid and smooth; we have a broadcast look panning from horse to horse."
The product of Canon's years of experience in the robotic camera business, the BU-45H combines an advanced Canon three-CCD HD camera with a Canon 20X optical HD zoom lens (4.5 - 90mm), a sophisticated remote-control pan-tilt system, and a weatherproof outdoor housing. The camera portion of the BU-45H employs three 1/3-inch (1,670,000-pixel) CCDs to originate 1440 (H) x 1080 (V) 16:9 HD video. The camera also includes a remote-control three-position ND (neutral density) filter. The lens incorporates an advanced Auto Focus function, and sophisticated Canon Image Stabilizer technology.
The Canon BU-45H remote-control robotic pan-tilt HD camera provides genlock input for broadcast video-system synchronization. Outputs include serial digital HD-SDI with embedded audio for HD recording, and an analog composite NTSC for monitoring. "The multiple I/O allowed us to connect a monitor so the talent could see themselves, as well as a microphone system," Nichols says. "We can send embedded audio via the BU-45H's HD SDI cable, which is convenient."
Powered by an external 12V DC supply, the camera's control protocol is non-proprietary and open; users or system integrators can interface the camera with their own control system or that of third-party providers to create a versatile robotic control system. The BU-45H can be operated in automatic or manual mode. Short and long-distance control systems interface via RS-422 connections, and an optional third-party E/O (electrical-to-optical) converter is available for connectivity via fiber optics (or connection to Canon's Canobeam DT-150 HD wireless Free Space Optics video transceiver for HDTV transmission at distances of up to one kilometer).
Offering exceptional controllability and smooth pan-tilt motion, the BU-45H camera's remote-control robotic mechanism is capable of extremely smooth pans of 340 degrees and tilts of 80 degrees (30 degrees up, 50 down). The pan-tilt mechanism also allows for simultaneous termination of pre-set pan, tilt, and zoom operations, which allows the BU-45H to perform movements on-air. The BU-45H's outdoor pan-tilt head and weatherproof housing are designed for operation from -15 to +40 degrees Celsius (5 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit). The BU-45H's housing also meets the IP-45 specifications for dust- and waterproof-efficiency, and it has a "windshield-wiper" blade to keep its lens port clear during inclement weather. The total weight of the pan-tilt system, camera and housing is 17 kg. (approx. 37 lbs.).
"We have months where it can be very windy with sand blowing through the air, but we've seen that we can set the Canon BU-45H out in any environment and not worry about it," added Nichols. "It's totally sealed and self-contained, and the windshield wiper really helps if it rains. You can leave this camera on 24/7 if you like."
With a background in broadcast news prior to producing in-house video for racing, Nichols is acquainted with Canon's unparalleled support. At Sunland Racetrack & Casino, the customer service commitment of Canon and the precision remote-controllability and excellent HD video quality of the BU-45H camera are helping him to build a better simulcasting system for viewers.
"We love the challenge of the engineering process," Nichols says, "designing, building and putting into operation systems that improve people's enjoyment of live sports. Canon's robotic cameras have leaped us forward to the front of this industry. With the BU-45H camera we're getting better shots, improving our performance, and increasing our productivity."
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