The final piece of the HD production puzzle is in place. A slow-motion camera is being debuted by Thomson Grass Valley this week. The LDK-6200 (based on the company's LDK-6000 mkII HD camera system) captures images at 120 frames per second, allowing them to appear to be in slow motion when played on air at 60 frames per second.
"This camera removes the reason some broadcasters may delay doing to HD sports," says Jeff Rosica, vice president of strategic marketing and technology for Thomson Grass Valley.
Thomson, still awaiting patent approval, is hesitant to discuss details. Rosica did say that most of the technology resides in the camera head, some in its base station. The video is captured on a third-party device, such as the EVS video server that records standard-definition slow-motion video in sports production vehicles.
The camera can be switched between the slow-motion mode and regular mode. It supports both 720-line progressive (72p) and 1080-line interlace (1080i) HD formats with three 9.2-million-pixel HD-DPM CCDs for imaging and 12-bit analog-to-digital converters to maintain high-quality pictures. It also can store operational and image settings on low-cost smart cards and works with either Thomson Grass Valley TriaxHD or FiberHD transmission systems. The Triax system supports cable runs up to 3,300 feet; the Fiber system can handle longer runs.
Fox Sports has delayed HD sports because it did not want to compromise production values. Early HD sportscasts tended to be the equivalent of a high-resolution 1960s-style telecast. Graphics devices were lacking, certain angles were impossible, and the higher cost of the cameras made it difficult to roll out a large contingent. And, of course, there was no slow-motion capability.
"Early on, we were leery of producing sports in HD because we were taking a step back in production value," says Andy Setos, president of engineering, Fox Group. "This new camera pierces that veil and delivers to the HD sports producer a better tool for slow-motion rendering."
Setos has yet to see the camera in operation, so he can't give the actual camera a seal of approval. But he sees it as an important step: "One more important domino has fallen, and if you want to produce a sporting event in HD, you don't have to compromise when it comes to super slow-mo."
The camera has already found a customer: Europe-based AlfaCam will supply outside broadcast vehicles for coverage of the Summer Olympics and the European soccer championships.