Photographers' Blog

Robo-cams go for Olympic gold

July 4, 2012

By Fabrizio Bensch

Is it possible to get 11 photographers into a box and put them in a position where you could never place a photographer? Normally, it would be absolutely impossible. But nothing is impossible when it comes to the Olympic games.

The London Olympic summer games will produce huge emotions, records and we as the Reuters photographers team will catch it from any extraordinary angle. When athletes from around the world compete against each other for the glory of an Olympic medal, hundreds of photographers try to capture the one and only moment which makes the Olympic games so unique.

On any sports event where there isn’t a place for a photographer or there is a need to freeze a moment from different perspectives we use remote technology – cameras triggered by cable wire or with a wireless transmitter. We wanted to make impossible things possible; just like the athletes at the Olympic games.

Reuters photographer Pawel Kopczynski and I have been developing since the 2009 athletics World Championships in Berlin a new technology, which enables Reuters sports photography to shoot pictures from unusual angles and make them available to our customers around the world in minutes. We tested the technology at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea and at the world indoor athletics championships in Istanbul.

At the upcoming Olympics for the first time we are using robotic cameras made specifically for the high elevated roof positions that can only be covered by a remote camera and not by a photographer.

Over the next few weeks until the Olympic Games open on July 27, I will install our new robotic cameras, often using climbing equipment. From now on, getting up early in the morning and spending more than 12 hours at the various venues is my daily business as a photographer to make this picture dream come true.

Even before the boxing arena is completed, I have installed the first of several robotic remote cameras at the Excel arena (one of the Olympic venues) with the help of our technician Colin Dowson.

The robotic camera can be released by a photographer over wireless transmitters or externally triggered by a cable. All images are directly transferred into our Paneikon remote editing system and from there can be transmitted on the wire.

Moreover, the movement of the camera can be controlled along each axis and the camera operator can control the zoom lens remotely with a joystick.

A lot of athletes will look into these robotic cameras but they will never see the photographer behind the lens. They will only see the image when it has been sent around the world.

Comments
13 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

This right here; a fantastic example of the future of still photojournalism.

Posted by thewtb_ | Report as abusive
 

Amazing, post. Lovely gear ;)
And a nice job.

Posted by Mirko.Jankovic | Report as abusive
 

Love all the 1DX’s!!! That’s why they got delayed so much.

Posted by bigdog28 | Report as abusive
 

Good work Mr, Dowson and co! Will you be using these just for stills, or do you have some video plans as well? Seems it would work just as well for that..

Posted by Colin_de_Silva | Report as abusive
 

Very interesting. One thing is still not clear to me: will you use live-view, and thus contrast-detecting autofocus? Or remote manual focus? Or “quick”(mirror down) autofocus?

Posted by SBEP | Report as abusive
 

I like the system, however how many photographers are controlling those 11 cameras? is it 11?

Posted by Charles_photo | Report as abusive
 

Love it – Hate it : Being a Professional photographer for 40 years and a Mechanical engineer I love this to bits. Being a human who loves interaction with other humans I hate it. ( I also hate supermarket checkout robots and airport checkin robots ), Photographers fighting for the best spot/shot on a small platform , photographers chatting together after the eventin a bar , borrowing each other’s lenses, robots can not do that. But as a photographer looking at the impossible image results I love it again. So the balance is positive and I which. you guys best of luck with all the fallible technology. Look forward to see the most impossible images coming true. Great job !!! Kind Regards: Jacob Roskam in Australia

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

Love it – Hate it : Being a Professional photographer for 40 years and a Mechanical engineer I love this to bits. Being a human who loves interaction with other humans I hate it. ( I also hate supermarket checkout robots and airport checkin robots ), Photographers fighting for the best spot/shot on a small platform , photographers chatting together after the eventin a bar , borrowing each other’s lenses, robots can not do that. But as a photographer looking at the impossible image results I love it again. So the balance is positive and I wish you guys best of luck with all the fallible technology. Look forward to see the most impossible images coming true. Great job !!! Kind Regards: Jacob Roskam in Australia

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

It is a great development, I wish you good luck with it and I hope you will make a video of them in work too.

Posted by volgyiattila | Report as abusive
 

Canon should develop a completely stripped of version camera with a good remote interface for this purpose. Also to be used for timelaps shooting.

Posted by clarenburg | Report as abusive
 

great gear :) Mind giving me one of them canon telephoto lenses? I promise ill make good use of it. It can even be worn. I dont mind hehe

Posted by Josteinsen | Report as abusive
 

Cool system. Are you only using self-developed robots?

Posted by Olastuen | Report as abusive
 

Jeez, that’s some major camera hardware. Who is controlling all of those cameras? Is it automatic? Anyway, founds new images to pay with on picpastry.

Posted by Gatsbe | Report as abusive
 

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