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High-speed Cameras Catch the Action

April 17, 2020

There’s a Keystone in every great invention.

The Cornovirus pandemic has put what matters most into perspective – and our thoughts go out to those affected. The United States and the world sadly remain at a standstill from the health crisis. This includes the world of sports. Although not the most important aspect of our lives, it is hard not to reflect on the delayed and canceled sporting events that typically take center stage for a moment in our lives and culture. This includes the NCAA basketball tournament, the Masters golf tournament, and spring baseball. The technology that goes into covering these events is staggering. This includes the high-speed cameras that take high-resolution pictures for broadcasting all over the world.

Humans have long endeavored to capture and transmit images. Even the ancient Egyptians had a method for projecting images. The evolution of modern projection is a long and fascinating road with many milestones. Advancements in broadcast engineering include the switch from  black & white to color; transition from analog to digital, and now the high-definition televisions that we take for granted.

Around 300 B.C., ancient Egyptians used a camera obscura to project images from the outside onto a viewing surface inside. Using a pinhole or lens to project, the image appeared upside down and was obviously not recorded.

Broadcasting Beginnings

The first video cameras were developed for use in broadcast media. The first experiments in image transmission were completed by John Logie Baird in the early 1900s. The Scottish engineer developed a variation to an older device known as a Nipkow disk, a mechanical device that breaks an image into singular lines using a rotating disc with holes cut into it. However, the limitations of this mechanical system were very apparent from the beginning.

By the 1930s, two new all-electronic designs were introduced by Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zsworykin, respectively. Based on a cathode-ray video camera tube, the electronic scanning system was widely used until the 1980’s.

The 1960’s brought color to our television sets. The move from grayscale to color came with a significant camera. The RCA TK-40, followed by the TK-41 had three image orthicon cameras sandwiched into one case. These cameras were used to broadcast some of the world’s first televised sports programs on programs like ABC's Wide World of Sports. The cameras weighed several hundred pounds, and it took four people to carry them up to the top of a stadium to cover an event.

Analog to Digital

The early 1980’s brought the beginning of the digital revolution. Sony’s Mavica single-lens camera had rotating magnetic disc that could record up to 50 still frames for playback or printing. From there, true digital cameras were launched by Kodak, which led to a revolution of handheld consumer video cameras. From here, cameras continued to improve in size, weight, resolution, zoom/focus and data storage technologies.

Higher Speed, Higher Quality

Camera technology is now capable of capturing hundreds of thousands of images per second, but 1000 - 5000  frames-per-second is optimal for most HDTV motion applications. Cameras now have the capability for ultra-slow motion, electronic recording for immediate play-back on high definition 4K resolution high dynamic range (HDR) televisions. The picture is brighter, crisper and often makes us feel like we are in the stadium. The next leap could be 3D cameras as a standard in any home, or maybe virtual reality systems that actually put us in a stadium seat to watch the game.

Keystone Products Perform

A wide range of Keystone products can be found in the electronics used to capture, broadcast and watch sports programming including cameras, transmission equipment and televisions. This includes LED holders, spacers and lens capsfuse clips and holdersPCB test points and terminalsspacers and standoffspanel hardware and PCB plugs, pins, jacks, and sockets and more.

 


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