Insane Olympic Wire Cam

I was a shooter long before I was a projectionist so watching the olympics takes on a whole different significance. I use a robotic camera system where I work and robocams have been a fascination of mine for years, starting with the venerable Sony EVI-D30. My current rig is 3 Vaddio HD19′s but they pale in comparison to some of the robotic/wire cam work of the London games. Watching women’s rowing the other day, I kept noticing the cut-away shot to the overhead camera. At first I thought maybe blimp or aerial cam, but on the dolly shot from shore it was clearly a wire cam. Then I looked at the length of the race- 2500m! What the hell kind of rigging would you need for over 2.5 kliks of distance on a wire cam????? Well- two x 95m high towers and 2500m of cable- that’s what. Pretty sure this is a record……


imagery courtesy Cam-Cat Systems

At the start, the camera which can rotate 360 degrees, is 85m above the athletes’ heads. At this level it can zoom in on four boats. As it follows the race it gradually drops closer to the water, hovering a mere 8m above the water at the 1,100m mark at its lowest point. Finally as the athletes are gasping at the finish line, the camera will zoom back to the start at 70km per hour for the next race. “The buzz of the overhead wire camera is going to put rowing into a completely different realm for showing our sport,” said David Tanner, Performance Director for British Rowing. Stefan Boisjoly, the broadcast venue manager at Eton Dorney, told the Washington Post: “To us, rowing is one of the most magnificent sports and the fact the lake is so long was a challenge,” “We always wanted to be able to show the full length of the lake. You can do it with a helicopter, you can do it with a blimp but our goal is to have something that is more flexible, that we can use race after race after race. The images coming out of there are just unreal. It is so beautiful.”
And the athletes agree. After been shown the shots that the camera produced during a training outing, Nathalie Dell of the USA women’s quadruple sculls said, “That’s so awesome!”
The camera was developed by Cam-Cat Systems to film a documentary on St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. The Austrian-based company quickly realised the potential of the technology for sport. The Cam-Cat system has been used to film ski jumping, Formula One racing, and in previous Olympic Games. There are five other systems in use for the London Olympics, including two in the main Olympic stadium, mountain biking, equestrian, white-water canoe and kayaking, and one across the River Thames.

The shots achieved by all the robo-cams, (and the real-life shooters) are nothing short of outstanding and I can give credit to them for making the Olympics watchable, despite NBC’s rather lame coverage and presentation.

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