Carry-Coders give cameras wireless freedom to roam

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cutting the umbilical cord between a broadcast truck and a live event is growing easier thanks to wireless digital transmission systems that are so small and light they fit into a backpack or even a briefcase with a shoulder strap.
Broadcast Microwave Services, based in San Diego, introduced its Carry-Coder last year at the National Association of Broadcasters convention. This year the product offers an analog return option that allows users to completely control virtual triax-cabled cameras wirelessly. The device is about the size of a hardcover book and sells for about $50,000, including a transmitter, receiver and backpack.
Competitor Tandberg Television is also offering a “backpack” solution, an integrated DVB-T modulator/upconverter providing 2.4 GHz RF output. The Voyager Lite weighs 4.5 pounds and is designed to be carried on a camera operator’s back. It is similarly priced. Both devices emit about the same radiation as a cellphone and pass standard SAR tests.
Because they are digital, these camera systems eliminate the need for the line-of-sight access that analog microwave requires. The mobile broadcast truck can be up to 1,000 yards away from the camera operator, who is free to walk around without trailing wires and without remembering to notice whether there’s a building between him and the truck. Older analog wireless systems required a “pointer” to accompany a camera operator to make sure the truck was always in sight. These devices eliminate the need to double-team.
David Ayotte, sales manager at Broadcast Microwave Services, said his product is particularly good for covering crowded events. It was used this year in Rio de Janeiro by Brazil’s TVGlobo to report on the Carnivale-a notoriously wild, crazy and crowded affair. And for viewers who watched speed skaters at the Olympics, the pool camera, mounted on a motorized track, used a Carry-Coder to keep the feed from fading when the skaters flew around corners.
Tandberg has sold its Voyager Lite solution to Mexico City-based Televisa, which tested the product at a Mexican Soccer League semifinal championship match and at “Teleton 2001,” a nationally broadcast telethon held at the city’s Aztec Stadium. Televisa reported good-quality connections when the broadcast truck was parked as far away as a quarter-mile from the camera operator.
William Aguirre, director of satellite operations for Televisa, said Voyager Lite allows camera operators to roam freely, getting better angles, closer range and generally stronger material. “Voyager Lite provides far more range for our outside broadcast crews than they are normally accustomed to,” Mr. Aguirre said. “Our producers create views now that were never before possible. We plan to use the system as often as we can in as many different situations as possible.”
Sam James, news operations manager for WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston, was testing two Carry-Coders when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl.
“It made a major difference,” Mr. James said. “It allowed us the freedom to roam around. And we could do a relay back to the truck and then back to the receive site. Usually when we do something like that, we have to send it through the chopper and then to the receive site. This freed up our chopper to get wide angles.”
Mr. James was so pleased that he used the cameras again when the Olympic torch passed through Boston. “We put the camera on the truck in front of the runner and relayed the picture 40 miles with no problems,” he said.
After those two good experiences, he’s put a request to buy both Carry-Coders into his budget. “I’m hoping,” he said.