Water Productions pushes Panasonic, Fujinon gear to extremes

Taking HD acquisition gear worth tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into extreme situations isn t always the wisest thing to do. But for Water Productions, a Canadian sports television production company, sometimes it s the only thing to do.
The company produces three programs for Outdoor Channel 2 HD that have owner (and host of the programs) Kevin Cullen, taking his Panasonic Varicam camera and new Fujinon lens into a wide variety of challenging elements.
Whether on the back of a snowmobile on Sledsense, darting across the water on Personal Watercraft Television or tackling motorsports on Grassroots Racing Television the gear has held on.

“Every camera operator that has used this camera-lens combination has commented on the smoothness and ease of use,” he says of the Varicam/ Fujinon HA18x7.6BERM HD ENG/EFP lens outfit.

“To say we pound this camera is an understatement,” he says. “We have a Portabrace cover and case and also use garbage bags a lot to protect it.”

Cullen says the combination of the lens and Panasonic s Varicam camera has resulted in images that are more accurate to what the eye sees than competing options, particularly when shooting in the 720p format. Color tones were more natural and shooting action sports at 60 frames per second offers slow-motion capabilities that pop.

Cullen’s agreement with the Outdoor Channel HD gives him the flexibility to substitute a standard-definition camera and up-rez material if the risk of damage is too great. But the Varicam has battled through every situation. “We haven t delivered one up-rezed image yet,” he says.

HD has also shown its strengths when shooting snow-based events in Revelstoke, British Columbia. “If we’d shot with a DV camera, the picture would have come out all white, with only a little bit of definition,” explains Cullen. “In the case of the Fujinon HA18x7.6BERM lens and Panasonic Varicam, what you see is what you get.”

Another factor was the weight balance of the lens and camera. “At the race course you must use a combination of ENG and tripod based set ups and running at race pace all over these sites is a very tough job,” he says. “I want my camera operators to have their right arm left at the end of each race day. So although we could on occasion use a longer lens, it wouldn t be a perfectly balance camera.”

Water Productions will soon cover snowmobile tours in Dear Lake, Newfoundland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Helsinki, Finland. After shooting in Helsinki in April, the team flies to Anchorage, Alaska for a watercraft show. In May, they are scheduled to travel to Machu Pichu and Lake Titicaca in Peru. Cullen says that each day using the lens has been a learning experience and the results continue to get better. “Once we were confident in the area of focusing we ve been on a tear,” he says.