Doing IMAG with remote pan/tilt/zoom cameras

I recently did a gig where we used the built-in remote control pan/tilt/zoom cameras in the venue to do IMAG. The gig was a big (250 people) choir with a very small band and some soloists and speakers etc. Audience of 1000 on two nights.

Using PTZ cameras is becoming a popular configuration in some church installs due to the low visual impact of the PTZ cams compared to manned cameras on tripods, so I was curious to see how well it would work for a live switched IMAG gig going to the projection screens. Read more to see how it went…

There were several reasons for using the venue system in this case:

  • There was VERY limited space on stage, due to a very large choir taking up most of it, so we had no room for lots of manned cameras.
  • The venue had a nice brand new digital SDI system which we were allowed to use.
  • It would save on setup/teardown time to not have to set up and take down 4 of the cameras.
  • We were very restricted in running cables through the venue, and had to use their tie-lines.

Here’s how the onstage cameras were set up:

Camera positionsSo we had:

  • one PTZ camera each side of the stage
  • one manned camera (XL1) on side of stage near band
  • one fixed camera pointing at conductor
  • one fixed POV camera looking along piano keys
  • one PTZ camera (not shown) at front of balcony.

All three PTZ cameras were operated from the control room by one person using a common controller unit with joystick control of pan & tilt with one hand, and zoom and focus with the other, as shown here.

control room

(Notice the Sony Anycast box, which we only used as a glorified switcher – bit of a waste, but we couldn’t use it as the final mixer since all inputs were used up with SDI camera connections.)

Here’s the wiring schematic for this gig, if you are interested in that kind of thing.

Notice that this shows the PC output switched AFTER the MX50. In fact we didn’t do this as it wasn’t necessary.


The setup went quite smoothly and it certainly helped having some of the kit already set up.

I had one fairly experienced camop working the camera remote control unit while I mixed the show next to him.

Some things we noticed:

  • It took quite some time to get familiar with operating the PTZ remote unit. The controls need careful operation and don’t lend themselves to fast movement.
  • Focus is tricky, since you only have an ‘up/down’ switch rather than a continuous wheel.
  • the ONLY way to really make it usable was to use the presets to store known good shots for us to come back to later.
  • It can be confusing having all the cameras operated from the same controller, but there is an option to have one monitor that shows what the currently selected camera is, and this we found very helpful.
  • We had a couple of cases where the audience still getting into their seats was causing vibration and making the cameras wobble at full zoom.
  • If you cued up the wrong shot, and you didn’t have a preset for the shot you wanted, it could take a LONG time to get a camera lined up for a new shot – up to 5 seconds by the time you had framed, focused and were ready to go live. In IMAG this is an eternity.

Overall it worked out OK and it certainly helped the teardown not to have four additional cameras to pack away.

As far as use in a church setting, I think it could work well, provided you have a remote controller with presets, and you have operators who do it regularly enough to get comfortable and I would still want at least ONE real camop to get you out of any problems

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