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The Connected Camcorder: Pros and Cons of In-Camera Wireless Capabilities for Live Delivery

As we enter the "Internet of Things" era, when all sorts of "things" are directly reachable over the internet, it should come as no surprise professional camcorders are coming along for the ride. They are actually somewhat late to the game, with smartphones already providing the ability to send a video out over the internet from the same device that captured it for quite some time. But connected professional camcorders have a lot to offer users looking for a streamlined professional streaming solution that video-capable smartphones can't deliver.

As we enter the “Internet of Things” era, in which all sorts of things are directly reachable over the internet, it should come as no surprise professional camcorders are coming along for the ride. They are actually somewhat late to the game; for quite some time, smartphones have been able to send a video out over the internet from the same device that captured it. But connected professional camcorders have a lot to offer users looking for a streamlined professional streaming solution that video-capable smartphones can’t deliver.

The quality of the video delivered by smartphones has, for several years now, achieved a quality level acceptable for “connected” news and other services. A reporter can show up on the scene armed with a decent smartphone and LTE service and be able to provide good video to viewers, while also being able to hear production direction and more.

But even the most video feature-rich phones lack capabilities that all prosumer camcorders offer: excellent optics; long optical zooms; multiple, discrete, balanced audio inputs; manual control for each audio channel; shutter, iris, and gain controls; and built-in or add-on neutral density filters, among a host of other features. These enable the operator to determine how he or she wants the shot to look, as opposed to the smartphone’s “auto” mode overreacting to something and not doing what you want.

Camcorders also offer greater control during an event. With a LANC remote zoom, a 7" monitor, and house feed for audio, it’s easier to follow a speaker around a room with a camera than with a smartphone.

Traditionally, a “microwave truck” sent the remote camera’s feed to production. Then it was backpacks with multiple cellular USB modems bonded together to provide not only more bandwidth, but redundancy for the production to ensure the signal gets through. Then the backpack became a small unit the size of a deck of cards (Figure 1, below).

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Figure 1. The Teradek Bond bonded cellular broadcast solution

It was inevitable that such capabilities would eventually be integrated into the camera itself. JVC, Panasonic, and others now offer a USB port right on the camcorder for either a USB Wi-Fi stick or cellular modem to provide the network connection needed for pushing the video stream out (Figure 2, below).

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Figure 2. The JVC GY-LS300 ProHD camcorder with internet link via Wi-Fi stick

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Free upgrade for all current GY-LS300, GY-HM200, and GY-HM170 owners adds log gamma setting and a unique Prime Zoom feature to the GY-LS300, as well as a histogram and new 70 Mbps 4K recording mode for all three camcorders
In Part 2 of this review we'll focus on image delivery, comparing the JVC LS300's HD and 4K image-making capabilities with the Panasonic DMC-GH4, focusing on its handling of deep shadows, bright backgrounds, variable sensor mapping, depth of field, sharpness, and aliasing.