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Case Study: Adding Mobile Camera Systems to Brooklyn Academy of Music’s New Experimental Theater


Challenge

BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is the oldest performing arts space in New York City, and it might also be its most vibrant. Over the years, BAM’s opera house has introduced Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson and many more to New York audiences. 2012 saw the opening of the Fisher Building, designed to provide an innovative space to match the artistry found in their Next Wave festival.

BAM reached out to AbelCine to help them design and install a multi-camera switching, recording and control system that was as modular and mobile as the design of the space itself. The approach to design had to adhere to the house rules: to be flexible and portable, while providing higher-end production values.

BAM Fishman Studio

Rita K. Hillman Studio – Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Each element of the Fisher Building is designed to be as adaptable and reconfigurable as possible. This philosophy extends to the control booth, which has a minimal amount of installed gear, allowing each production to use the space as needed. BAM needed to record performances for archival purposes, but wanted to do so in a more sophisticated way than having a single tripod- mounted camera for each show. They also needed to configure the system to be completely mobile, so it could be easily moved out of the control room, or broken down into a smaller package for single camera recording.

Solution

A mix of high quality PTZ cameras and handheld cameras were chosen to give the BAM archival team the best mix of unobtrusive and intimate recordings. Panasonic’s AW-HE120 PTZ cameras fit the requirements, and these were mixed with Panasonic AG-AC160s for handheld or tripod-mounted work.

To address the requirements of portability, AbelCine designed a portable rack to house as much of the hardware as possible: AJA Ki Pro Rack file recorders, an openGear frame from Ross Video with distribution amps and audio embedders, ISO monitors from Marshall, a custom PC for Blackmagic’s UltraScope, a Blackmagic Videohub, a Mitto scan converter from Ensemble Design, and a Mac Mini running LiveGrade software by Pomfort. The rear of the rack features I/O plates custom designed by AbelCine and manufactured by BTX Technologies.

Fishman Space – Photo: Francis Dzikowski

A portable table supported the Panasonic HS410 switcher, AW-RP50 PTZ controller, BT-LH1710 monitor and a Mackie analog mixer. The multi-viewer built into the switcher fed a 37” Panasonic plasma screen on a rolling stand.

The BAM control room had pre-existing equipment racks on one side of the room. These racks housed the termination points for all of the video and audio cables that were run as a part of the original construction earlier in the year. A big challenge for the project was that the designated video switching and control area was on the opposite side of the room from the racks.

To solve this issue, AbelCine used the ProBlox multicore cabling system from BTX Technologies to send 16 HD-SDI video signals, six analog audio lines and two Cat-5 lines, all in one cable assembly with a single connector plugging into the portable rack. Supplemental audio lines were run with a more commonly found 25-pin multicore audio cable. This technology would allow for incredibly fast setup and break down time.

BAM also wanted a “light” setup for recording from only one camera. AbelCine designed a breakout section of the rack case housed in a smaller 4RU travel case. This housed one Ki Pro Rack unit and used a supplemental video line without the multicore cable. The rack design was made even more flexible by creating a separate panel that would allow BAM to take the whole setup to other locations and plug camera lines directly into the rack.

 

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