Since 1996, New York’s Famous 92nd Street Y Has Captured A Wide Range Of Productions With Robotically Controlled Camera Systems.
From internationally renowned musicians to conversations with famous authors, actors and trendsetters (and everything in between), the IATSE Local 1 Stagehands of the Kaufmann Concert Hall at New York’s famous 92nd Street Y has seen and captured it all on stage with a multi-camera robotic camera control system from Telemetrics. In fact the performance space is on its third-generation system, having first embraced Telemetrics’ technology in the mid-1990’s.
“We like the idea of hanging the cameras from the walls and balcony because it gives us the ability to cover the entire stage remotely and it does not take up valuable seats in the theater,” said Sean Fogarty, Technical Director at the 92nd Street Y. He stated that they installed the first Telemetrics system in 1996 and upgraded that one with a newer model in 2010. Owing to its reliability, this second system is still used in another, smaller performance space, ten years later.
All shows are recorded onto solid state media and archived for later repurposing. Many of the shows are also streamed live and made available on-demand for later viewing.
“The system has been running great,” Fogarty said. “We like it’s ease of use and the smoothness of camera moves that we get with the Telemetrics control panel. We record everything live, so we need to have nice slow movement covering the subjects on stage, which for a live event is critical.”
One of the venue’s three RCCP-1A control panel operators—and the one who completes most of the projects at the 92nd Street Y—is Ellie Fitzgerald, who now completes up to 300 shows per year (many times two per day). She started using the first Telemetrics system back in 1996 and is now very proficient at operating all aspects of the current system.
“The system performs very reliably, and that’s important for us,” Fitzgerald said. “We do a lot of shows nearly every day and it has held up under fire. It’s pretty intuitive and the touchscreen monitor we have connected to the system makes it really easy to use. If we’re doing a show with a musical act and we have to hit a lot of cues, the screen really comes in handy.
Fitzgerald said she uses a combination of presets and live camera moves during a performance, using the right joystick on the control panel for pan and tilt moves and another sidecar joystick for her left hand for zoom and focus. A newer RCCP-2A, with dual joystick controllers and many more features, is now available from Telemetrics.
“I operate the system like a helicopter pilot, with a controller in each hand as I watch the main screen,” she said. “Once you learn how the system operates, it makes it fun to try new things and also stay with the standard way of covering our stage shows that we have developed here by doing it so many times.”
Of course, the new Telemetrics system has a lot more features than the previous generation did. The software includes Telemetrics reFrame™ Automatic Shot Correction technology that locks cameras onto the talent and automatically trims the shot; without the operator ever having to touch the controls. The panel also features a faster processor that supports more complex keyframe based-motion paths, an LCD touchscreen interface, and a series of operational LCD keys that facilitate more dynamic on-the-fly configuration changes as required.
“One thing that amazes me is how tight the system is,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s very responsive to my every move. Being able to change the ramps on the joysticks is very important. This allows me to change the sensitivity of the controllers for The different needs of each production.”
“We feel confident that we can cover any type of show here at the Kaufmann Concert Hall,” Fogarty said. “The elevating pedestals allow us to raise the camera level and get a better perspective of the performers on stage. The pan/tilt head motors are also very quiet, which is key for a classical concert. I’ve listened to other systems on the market and they would not work in our space, where silence is just as important as the performance. With so many performances, we put the Telemetrics system through its paces, that’s for sure.”