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Portfolio: "seeing the unseen"
Critter-Cam System Design


Introduction
The concept of the critter-cam system was to create a novel 'dynamic' way of enabling a spectator to observe the game of underwater hockey, from one unusual and striking / quirky viewpoint, as comfortably as possible.



By nature, the very function of a 'dynamic' camera system would put a spectator in a quirky view-point. The premise is not new... think of cricket and the quirky view out from within a cricket stump, also motor racing with the cameras on the cars/bikes themselves. Dynamic view points are not for watching the 'big-picture' of an event, primary cameras provide that. They do not tell (show) the big story, they are usually, in production, used as short inserts, just to add interesting perspective for the interest of the spectator.

Concept and Reasoning
In this project the concept was to get a spectator 'up close' and 'in-the-game'. The problem was how to offer this 'experience' without causing the spectator to feel 'uncomfortable'. Get it wrong and the spectator would experience a significant amount of annoying discomfort, usually followed by an expression of dismay aimed at the camera/production crew. Get it right and the spectator would simply experience what was within their view-field, comfortably..... and few, if any, would ever consider the blood sweat and tears that went into the 'behind-the-scenes' effort of thought and design!

The usual and obvious place for a personal dynamic camera system is from a 'hand-held-camera' or a 'head-cam', but the game involves continuous hand and head movements whilst looking around at play options. Reasoning considered it would be horrendously uncomfortable for the spectator to be subjected to continuously swift direction changes if the camera was attached to either the hand or head. Reasoning considered it would be good to place the spectator in a position to actually watch these continuous movements of the players hand and head in relation to the actual game action going on around.

Design and Build
A good spectator view-point was envisaged: To frame the players' continuously moving head and work-arm as well as the game-play, all within a fixed field-of-view . This should put the spectator just behind the head and work-arm... then the spectator can 'sit-comfy' and watch the players' moving head and work-arm, whilst their own actual view-point is being kept comfortably stable.

A point around 30cm behind and above the players work-side-shoulder was chosen. Lenses were selected to give desired field-of-view. Anatomy was studied in order to work out a way of attaching the camera-mount to the player in a manner that would create minimum 'camera-sway' whilst the players' head and work-arm articulated all the continuous play movements. All equipment was designed to pack into a self contained waterproof and pressure resistant system.

System pool-side set-up and test
When all the above was completed, the concept system was applied to a 'test-player'... Go test!


1 •  A team go on site to test the underwater critter-cam system. It's the boss's research, so he had to wear it because it is eventually secured by loads of Gaffa Tape... which is ripped off at the end.
2 •  The camera mount is engineered to rest around the right shoulder and is carefully placed by an assistant... whilst the view angle is being monitored for precision.
3 •  The camera mount is carefully and precisely located, then held at first with a little tape.



4 •  The right arm is flexed to check that the camera mount is not affected by the movement of the arm joint or muscle.
5 •  Then, the main taping around the torso begins...
6 •  This is going to hurt later...



7 •  All taped in place and wearing the waterproof recording unit in a waist belt, this self-contained critter-cam system 'waddles' towards the water.
8 •  Togged with fins, mask and snorkle... Go see if it works.
9 •  Done. Still attatched. No crackles or fizz-pop-bangs were heard, so presumed still all water tight.



10 •  Camera has been cut away from the back and the waist belt has been removed..... this next bit is rough.... "Do it fast! ok!"
11 •  "Crickey! That's awfully tingley as my skin burns and my chest hair... the little I had... is removed". (Not a true quote... what was said at this moment, was a much shorter expression!).
12 •  Then, (True quote!)... "There! I didn't cry!... I'll find somewhere private and out-the-way in a minute to release a blood curdling screem... but for now, thanks team, it seems to have been a success".

Video footage results from test
Here is a short video comprising samples of footage edited together with a bit of music to go. Remember this dynamic view point is not designed to show the spectator the big-picture of the game. It is to develop a concept enabling an interesting view point... without making the viewer feel too uncomfortable.
The results were deemed to be "fairly acceptable" for the desired concept. A little bit of subsequent fine tuning would tweak the results, in a few areas, to better further test results.



Special thanks to:
Production: Matt, Ben, Jackie.
Poolside Imaging: Sam, Gary, Steve.


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