Pittsburgh Thunderbirds Set Up

Last year we had the opportunity to work with Dave Onomastico and his team in the equipment set up for the inaugural season of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) team.  We utilized a few tripods, some PAN bars, and a couple XA20 cameras.  But this year, Dave wanted to step it up quality wise, shooting in 60 frames per second, in low light, while outputting to a broadcast set up.  Luckily, he gave me plenty of lead time and here’s what we came up with.  

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  • Core Equipment
    • Sony FS-700R - This was pretty much a no brainer for starters.  While the FS700R is an older cinema camera at this point, for high frame rates it cannot be beat.
    • Metabones Speedbooster Adapter + Canon EF 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens - Admittedly, I never would have thought of this lens as an option, but Dave suggested it after contacting some other groups and now I see why.  It’s a great focal length, especially when used with the Speedbooster, to cover the whole field.  The key though is that with the Speedbooster, this lens remains a 100-400mm lens (no crop factor) AND it becomes a 2.8-4.0 lens on the aperture range.  That one extra stop, especially in lower light, can make a huge difference.  
  • Capture and Output
    • Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q - We wanted to do two things.  1) Shoot in at least 60 fps 2) Give Dave extra resolution to work with for cropping in in post.  What we decided to do was to shoot the entire game in 4K at 60 frames per second.  The Odyssey was the only way to pull this off.  It takes the 4K RAW output from the FS700 and stores it as ProRes 422 footage onto the SSD drives.  With 2 1TB drives, we could get three hours of footage in regular ProRes 422 format.  
    • Atomos HDMI to SDI Adapter - As I mentioned above, this camera was going to be part of the live stream feed for the game, so we had to do two things.  We had to meet Dave’s requirements for recording but also produce something that we could send to the truck for video streaming.  The bonus of the FS700 is that it has both the HDMI and SDI ports is that we could utilize the SDI port for recording (outputting 4K RAW) and use the HDMI port to output a regular 1080i60 signal for streaming.  
  • Support and Power - With the core taken care of, we had to figure out how to support it all and make it quick to move from a tripod configuration to a shoulder configuration
    • Manfrotto 526/545 Fluid Head Tripod - Manfrottos high end broad-cast style tripod was ideal for this as it offers smooth pan and tilt while being sturdy enough to support the weight of it all.  
    • Zacuto (Everything) - Almost everything else came from Zacuto.  We started with the Zacuto VCT Universal Baseplate which doubles as a shoulder pad.  Pair that with the VCT Tripod Plate and it was easy to move from a shoulder setup to a tripod setup.  We used Z-rails, Zacuto Top Handles, and the Z-Axis to mount the Odyssey securely to the camera.
    • Powerbase-70 V-Mount Battery + Plate - Finally, we had to power it all.  The Powerbase-70 mounted easily to a set of rear rails and when coupled with a V-mount plate gave us D-Tap connectors for powering the camera, the Odyssey, and the HDMI to SDI converter all from a common power source.  

All in all, this was an incredible project to tackle but truly shows how far Pittsburghlenses.com has come since our early beginnings.  No one else in the AUDL is capturing in 4K @ 60fps - heck, most pro sports teams aren’t doing that.  But we were able to make it happen.  Thanks to Dave for the chance to partner together on this project.  

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