Remote Cameras at the Democratic National Convention
by Rick Wilking
photos by Brian Snyder, Boston Globe image by Jim Bourg, remote camera
In a never-ending quest for the illusive “different” photo Reuters set up remote-controlled cameras at Sen. Barack Obama’s historic acceptance speech in Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver.At any major event we need to provide our clients with what we call “the bread and butter” photos – the pictures that tell the story in a very straightforward way and will end up in history books someday. But in addition to that what we really want to shoot are just very cool images – pictures that grab you by the throat and scream at you in the face or sometimes more subtle images you look at for awhile before you “get it.”
Occasionally one of the best ways to get these killer pictures is to put a camera where you cannot physically be, like in the dirt at a horse track (see previous blog by Jason Reed at the Preakness) or in a secure zone at a campaign event where security just does not want to let you stand. Such was the case in Denver for the Obama speech.
Photographers Brian Snyder, myself and editor Jim Bourg hung 4 remotes at the event,one on each side of the ramp he walked in on, one high up to capture him surrounded by the crowd and another in a head-on reverse spot. I triggered the ramp remotes wired to a switch triggered by my foot and I and photographer Brian Snyder fired the upper ones with radio controls. I used the foot switch as I was shooting three other cameras hand held. We’ve done this type of thing for many years and in most cases we pull the memory cards from the cameras immediately after the event to get them on the wire.
But at the Obama speech time was of the essence with the event coming right on east coast deadlines so we went one better and set the cameras up to automatically transmit the images real time as they were fired. We were “going live” as TV types used to say.
We did this with some software tricks and ultra-portable PC’s connected to the cameras by either a firewire or USB cables depending on the camera model. The computers were also connected to the Internet with an Ethernet connection our techs wired to each camera position.
As the shutter was triggered, the image was stored on the internal card and simultaneously put into a folder in the computers stashed under the stage. A piece of Reuters proprietary software was watching that folder and automatically sent a thumbnail of the pictures to a server in New York whenever an image was transferred by the camera.
Editor Jim Bourg sitting up in the press box at the event was dialed into that server to watch the thumbnails come in and when he saw something he liked he “pulled” the full-size high-res version of the file off the PCs and from there it was on the wire, often within minutes of being made.
Whenever you set up remotes the stars have to line up just right to get the image you are hoping for. In the case of Denver we were expecting the candidate to be brightly lit with spotlights and we aimed the cameras to capture what we were told would be a fantastic fireworks show erupting over his head. Neither really happened as advertised but we still got some unique images our competition could not match. Photos editors noticed with one of the best examples being the Boston Globe using one of Jim’s pictures taking up most of the top of the front page the next day.
Here’s hoping for more good camera karma.