Today’s AV professionals have access to broadcast-style high definition camcorders that permit single-camera field recording at a higher quality and lower cost than most professionals would have imagined possible just a few years ago. Today, cost-conscious producers realize that additional cost savings can be achieved by “dual-purposing” HD camcorders for multiple camera (“multicam”) production, so that the cost of separate studio-style cameras can be eliminated. However, connecting these camcorders to a control room for true multicam production often requires a thick, cumbersome bundle of copper cables, limited to a few hundred feet in length due to the high bandwidth of HD signals.
In 2002, camera-mountable HD fiber optic transceivers were introduced, allowing broadcasters, sports venues, and high-end production companies to economically repurpose their camcorders into high-def multicamera applications without the distance limitations of copper cables. These fiber optic systems, at some additional cost, provide a robust fiber optic link between most professional camcorders and a control room or flypack, effortlessly transporting all signals—including digital (SDI or HD/SDI) and analog (NTSC or PAL) program video, as well as all two-way camera control, audio, video, data, tally/call, prompter, multiple intercom channels, and even Ethernet—on a single, lightweight fiber cable or across the built-in fiber infrastructure of a sports arena or other building. Since the fiber carries all signals digitally and optically, engineers are assured of the highest quality video and audio, immune to hum and noise due to RFI, grounding problems or electromagnetic interference.
Over the past eight years, the price of camera-mountable fiber optic transceiver systems has come down enough to make them affordable to almost every AV professional. These newer systems are scalable, and prices track the sophistication and signal requirements of the applications. If you don’t need multiple channels of intercom, Ethernet, or a prompter feed, they’re not in the price. Planning for appropriate powering options can reduce the cost as well. In studios or small production environments, the base station can power the camera over an industry-standard SMPTE hybrid fiber/wire cable, with distances up to 700 feet, or even longer by using higher voltage power extenders. On the other hand, cost can be reduced by locally powering the camera with batteries or an AC supply in conjunction with lightweight, robust, nonmetallic tactical fiber cable providing connectivity up to six miles away with no signal degradation. Since tactical fiber offers unparalleled performance in harsh conditions, it has become the standard in news gathering and other environmentally challenging applications.
The latest generation of fiber optic transceiver technology transforms low cost camcorders into high performance capture tools for a wide range of AV applications, enabling budget-conscious organizations such as houses of worship, educational institutions, and governments to move to multi-camera studio production at a very low cost. Whether transporting video signals from a sports venue to an offsite control room, connecting multiple buildings in a high school or college campus, or transmitting a company CEO’s address to employees in buildings several miles away, fiber makes it possible to get top quality production on a limited budget.