NAB Perspectives: Vision Research’s Ott de Vries Sees New Phantom Cam as Sports-Production Game-Changer

Several new ultra-slow-motion high-speed cameras are making their first appearance at the NAB Show this week, and Vision Research’s latest Phantom Camera, the v242, is among the most hyped for sports production. Although the Phantom Cam has been a regular production element for high-profile sports telecasts for years, it has recently made its way into more regional and second-tier sports shows. As a result, Vision Research, which started as an industrial-oriented company, has placed a larger priority on the live-broadcast market.

“Vision Research has always been a company that shoots high-speed across many different markets, but the 642 is the first that we truly geared towards broadcast from day one,” says Manager, Broadcast Business, Patrick Ott de Vries. “We believe the 642 has set the standard for ultra-high-speed [cameras] in sports.”

The main addition in this latest version of the Phantom Cam is Multi-Matrix Color Correction Technology, per the demand of v641 users over the past few years. This technology allows for accurate color matching to normal-frame-rate cameras, leveraging independent adjustments of saturation and hue of each of the 16 axes. Working with video-matrix, hue, gamma, and chroma adjustments enables the Phantom v642 to color-match with normal-speed cameras during live sports coverage.

“We don’t have the color matrix in any other camera; it was designed specifically for this camera,” says Ott de Vries. “You’re going to get a better color representation and better color separation. We can now match when you cut from a live broadcast camera to the 642. In the past, when you cut to the Phantom camera during a live broadcast, the color was sometimes off a bit. Now that is gone. You can cut to the Phantom, and no one will be able to realize it with the naked eye.”

The v642 is supported by a custom-designed ultra-sensitive 4-megapixel 2K sensor that can record full-resolution frame rates of 1,450 frames per second and be leveraged to support pan-and-zoom applications for live sports. It is capable of playback speeds as high as 90 times slower than live action at 720p and 1080i broadcasts and is capable of 2,560 frames per second at 1080p. The v642 features shutter speeds down to 1 microsecond and a global electronic shutter to prevent image blur or motion artifacts.

The v642 includes 8 GB of built-in high-speed dynamic RAM, with 16-GB and 32-GB versions also available.  A unique segmented-memory feature allows users to divide images into as many as 63 segments, creating multiple back-to-back shots without the need to download data from the camera.  In addition, users can record into one segment while playing back a slow-motion clip from another.  One segment is always recording the live action.

This feature gives the v642 flexibility to support environments with and without playback-server support. The v642 can be connected to a controller in the studio or OB truck, which can access the camera’s memory for playback while the camera operator is framing and recording the live action. The v642 comes standard with a PL mount for full sensor coverage (2560×1600 pixels). Native support for 1080p using customized B4 adapter options.

“The color matrix is the next step in this current generation of camera,” says Ott de Vries. “This is our third generation in the broadcast market. Expect to see more from us, because we are firmly committed to this market.”