And on the West Coast, veteran Steadicam operator and DP Charles Papert has used the system on a variety of shoots. Last year, he used it as a DP on an Internet series called The Nebula that included considerable Steadicam work, including a long and winding shot that moved from interior to exterior locations.
Papert brought in a Steadicam operator for the project, which was shot with a RED ONE HD camera. He linked the Steadicam to his station on the set with the CAM-WAVE unit. "Once the link was set up to the Steadicam operator, he had complete mobility," says Papert. "I had the luxury of having a perfectly good signal without a cable. I forgot about the unit—it was like shooting film."
According to Shaun Halladay, whose company Watermark HD (www.watermark-hd.com) has developed HD flypacks for corporate shows and similar venues, he always takes a CAM-WAVE system with him. "CAM-WAVE always allows you to get those shots when you couldn’t have afforded to have done that before," he notes.
Halladay mounts roughly two shows a month, and the CAM-WAVE system is more often than not a tool in his arsenal. At this year’s CES show, it was used as a roving camera assist for the Monster Cable Awards closed-circuit show in Las Vegas, featuring Diana Ross, among others. It also was used on the Visual Effects Society Awards shoot at the Century Plaza Hotel, which honored Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy; it was tape-delayed and seen globally on broadcast TV.
According to Halladay, the CAM-WAVE system isn’t without its share of problems. "It has no built-in genlocking," he says. "You can’t control the camera’s colorimetry in a live shoot, and using the public spectrum places a definite limit on the distance from the base station [maximum is 150 feet]; its signal can be susceptible to other devices also on the public spectrum."
But virtually every issue is solvable with good engineering. "Color-balancing all cameras before a shoot generally will make any CAM-WAVE-equipped camera in balance with wired cameras," he explains. "Instead of genlocking the camera’s output, a frame synchronizer can compensate all cameras; the offset is perhaps a single frame delay and would be all but unnoticeable to viewers. And while engineering purists might protest, the idea that a $6,000 wireless unit can do much of the work of a $100,000 unit with creative engineering is an attractive proposition."
HD wireless is still in its infancy. The best systems are expensive to own or rent, while the low-end systems may not satisfy the needs of multimillion-dollar productions. But the idea of wireless HD production, of cutting the wire tether and placing HD cameras wherever a production wants them, is becoming a powerful aphrodisiac to today’s production professionals.
Now they have tools to do it all.