PTZ stands for pan/tilt/zoom and typically describes a small tabletop device as seen in the picture at right. They often have 1/4″ sockets on the bottom allowing tripod mounting as well. they are quite often used for security purposes or in fixed installations (such as county government chambers) where unobtrusiveness is important. But they are VERY well suited to low-manpower live event video production.
In the “old days” (about 20 years ago) PTZ cameras were fairly rare and rather expensive and there was really only one major manufacturer (Sony) offering them. Fast forward to today and there are myriad options from numerous manufacturers at quite affordable prices. If you don’t know what I am talking about, a PTZ camera is basically a small camera designed to be operated remotely and offering control over it’s Pan, Tilt, and Zoom functions (hence PTZ). Many of them excel in low-light situations and feature fast accurate auto-focusing. Using a remote control interface it is possible for a single operator to control numerous PTZ cameras simultaneously, they can even be given presets that make it possible to change from one “look” to another within a very short amount of time by simply pressing a single button, allowing the camera to go from say a tight close-up to a wide overview, both perfectly in focus, almost instantaneously.
What makes PTZ cameras so inviting are two main features: 1) they are small and compact and can be deployed very unobtrusively and 2) a single operator can control a number of them at once, vastly reducing the manpower needed to cover an event. It is not uncommon to see only 2 people at the controls of a live event video shoot; one person handles the switching/streaming/recording (typically done within a dedicated computer) and the other wields a small hardware device that allows remote control of ALL of the cameras deployed for the shoot. (See picture at left).
Another major advantage of PTZ cameras is that some have the ability of automatically tracking the subject as it moves, extremely useful for some situations. This is a rather rare feature at the moment (iSmart is the only manufacturer offering it as far as I know) and the primary applications are for lectures and security but still, it is a nascent technology that offers great promise in the future.
Finding enough quality camera operators for a live production can be problematic (not to mention expensive). PTZ cameras eliminate that need (and expense) and help amortize their initial cost quickly. Put 2 or 3 PTZs up, add a few GoPros in strategic positions and you can easily create a professional-looking production with a minimum of manpower, making it possible to underbid the competition and win the job. And that can only help your bottom line.
If YOU would like to get started with PTZ camera production, we have everything you need.