History of the
'Cyber TV Studio In A Suit Case'
It probably all began in
the late 1980's when I was asked if I had any ideas on how
pilots of the US Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds could critique themselves
in the field, immediately following a show or practice performance with just using off
the shelf (read: inexpensive) consumer gear. I had at the time the Sony V-9 Handycam
and the GV-8 TVCR (new 8mm Video gear, see picture / description below). Since I could
carry and demonstrate this on my person, I was asked to join a practice at Andrews AFB
with the Blue Angels. They flew and I shot the video footage. When they landed I simply
placed the tiny tape into the TVCR and the 6 pilots and announcer all watched their 45
minute routine. This system was very simple, very affordable and most importantly was
immediately ready for review and critique as opposed to the often used at the time motion
picture film that required processing, developing and finally editing. They would also get
the added dimensions of live looking TV like color imaging with full stereo digital sound
quality which the #7 Blue Angel announcer especially liked and caused him to say to the
Blue Angel commander, " let's try this system out." I was then asked to offer my assistance
by having my Sony contacts get in touch with the team back at Pensacola. Sony to this day
has been eternally grateful as this was repeated for the US Army Golden Knights & then
finally the USAF Thunderbirds all within months of each other. Today they use much
more sophisticated and expensive equipment now costing tens of thousands $. During the
1990's they actually moved into 'Broadcast' TV news quality 3CCD cams followed by new
digital quality in the late 1990's and today in the past decade they have made the final
move into High Definition, surround sound, ultra wide screen & now 3 Dimension video.
You add in all the edit bench, sound systems, production disks and distribution section
that has been incorporated and you have tens of thousands of dollars & dozens of new
personnel added to the bottom line. What a difference since that 1988 $2,000 setup I first
demonstrated. But, HEY... it is ONLY tax dollars folks !
Two Piece Video cam and TV/VCR combo for airshows
Then, based on my performance on the above, the media challenged me to address a
videographer's worst nightmare; namely Loss and Stolen valuable equipment while on
assignment to weddings, special events, sports games while enroute to or from these
strange locations and especially while at these events. This meant I would have to come
up with some way to maintain positive control (i.e. possession at all times) of high
value camcorders, monitors, VCR's and etc. This can become some what of an involved
situation when on assignment, be it a strange neighborhoods and cities doing weddings,
location shoots for clients or when lugging and carrying this video equipment in cars,
taxis, buses, subways and airports. I found trying to resolve this issue most difficult if
not elusive for months on end. Then an answer to this conundrum came via a new
challenge 'could a new field of endeavor be found that was maybe potentially more
rewarding but less specialized as wedding, legal and general event videography?'
It was at this time, through the success with the military demonstration teams, I was
asked to provide video coverage of a highly classified seminar for the pentagon. The
ground rules surrounding this military event were to say the least, extraordinary. The
event would take place at near-by Andrews AFB at a flight crew auditorium, but there
are no elevators, just stairs. However, I could arrive as early needed, but once there I
would not be able to leave because of security. I could not bring any assistants, helpers
or even my own teenage sons to help out. I would be entirely on my own. It was due to
the classified nature of the briefing and further all editing and production would have
to be 'on premises.' The briefing would be about an hour long. There was to be an army
colonel as the MC, a three star general as the moderator, two four star generals as the
hosts and a Russian 4 star as the guest speaker. A copy of the whole proceedings would
be necessary for all of the above plus any extra copies for a wing commander & the base
commander. There would be an audience of about 100 pilots and a question and answer
session would also take place. All expendable materials such as master tapes, all copies,
all supporting media, pictures and documents would have to be surrendered again due
to the classified nature of the program. I was also informed that all editing, titling and
any other clean-up would be permitted off premises. I decided to take on this project since
no one else when asked including surrounding TV stations said no. I then retreated to the
break water off Waikiki to figure out just how I was going to pull this off. I did have some
current issues of Videomaker and Camcorder magazines which coincidently had articles
concerning the coming miniaturization of making all things video and audio recording
smaller, lighter and more portable. I knew I had my work cut out for me and very few
sources to rely on for some exact choices of makes, models & costs of necessary equipment.
Here is the very first diagram from the Waikiki sunrise break water attempt on how I was to
tape-on-the-fly my military shoot at the Pentagon. This would be a BETA system test proof.
Not even two weeks later and a few months for the video shoot Panasonic announced the
introduction of the revolutionary WJAVE-5 video mixer that finally makes possible my
concept of a 'TV Studio In A SuitCase' first live demonstration. It basically consisted of 1
steamer trunk weighing 85 lbs on wheels looking like an enormous oversized roll-aboard.
Also an assortment of several gym bags for cables, wires and connectors that allowed all
the necessary equipment to be carried by one person in One trip. This then would go a
long way toward resolving all the previously mentioned worries of loss and theft and may
be even creating that New Field of Videography I was asked to look into finding.
Now, back to our military video shoot. The agenda called for me to interview ahead of
time the principles except for the guest. First there would be an introductory greeting
pre-taped by me, then five minutes of motion picture film that I decided to also transfer
to tape ahead of time, there was 36 slides and 24 overhead and 3 key photographs. I then
decided to place all of these on pre-recorded video tape and index them in the order of
their use & be placed on my playback VCR. Additionally all end credits with music back
ground would be pre-loaded in my Videonics Titler memory & my Sony Walkman cassette
recorder respectively. The edit master and all the customer tapes would be preformatted
with headers, lead-in's, logo's, dates, place & titles. Since I was to provide my client with
no less than 6 VHS tapes (one of which in PAL European system) I would have to bring a
VCR for each copy as well as the master a S-VHS tape. This means all my customer VHS
tapes as well as my control desk master would be in fact First Generation quality and all
videos would be complete and fully edited... and All In REAL TIME.
Above is an updated version showing the SuitCase equipment that now fits in a Roll-A-Board
suit case with schematic placement diagram. Flow lines are missing here but, this would go
on to be the set-up used at the first shoot at the Pentagon briefing. This was the Alpha setup.
So, what I rationalized was I would cover my key subjects and my audience with multiple
over lapping tiny 8mm camcorders mounted on light stands instead of commonly used
traditionally tripods. This would eliminate the need for assistants and cameramen and
sound men. The use of the light stands would drastically reduce the space, weight and
could work at higher vantage points that traditional tripods. I would also incorporate
brackets and clamps not only to hold other camcorders, lighting and microphones all of
which are far more portable and less in weight. This helped insure that the best angle
possible could be obtained of the stand up desk. So as not to risk battery issues & power
failures, everything was plugged into a/c wall outlets. Since I was using two wireless
microphones I did not have to rely on inferior camcorders built in mic's. This would then
cancel the need for any long audio cable lines to be run over trafficked walkways. Video
cabling took some experimentation. Using Monster S-video cables would allow me to run
lines about 75' without any appreciable loss of video resolution and would be of sufficient
length. This would be far superior to traditional cables at the time of coaxial, RCA and
BNC type lines as I expensively found out by real world testing. Now let's redirect our
attention to the very complicated control room layout, possible equipment selection and
the choosing just the right balance between light weight, compactness and capability.
First my master control and heart of the system that makes everything happen is my
new audio/video mixer/switcher at first the Videonics MX-1 world's first portable A/V
mivxer followed a couple of years later by the FireWire Panasonic WJAVE-5 with the
docking TTL-6 titler unit. Timing could not have been more perfect in my case.
This allowed for 4 different cameras and therefore camcorder angles, six different mics
and smoothly switched between all While recording On-The-Fly. My primary camcorder
and establishing shot would be the Hi8 Canon L-1 sitting right next to me so it could be
used to redirect if any unplanned event became a part of Murphy's Law. Because the
WJAVE-5 had only two input buses. So I had to add a JVC JXS-900 switcher to the second
'B' bus on the mixer that allowed up to 7 more S-Video cameras or other video type sources
all to be mixed and controlled by the Mixer. I first added my playback VCR, Sony Walkman
cassette audio player and then four of my other camcorders from the briefing room floor. On
my right was stacked all the VCR's I needed for the copies that would be distributed as the
VIP's came off the stage. I could make that happen if I did NOT rewind or need to edit any
of the copies but, just eject and slap them in their professional metal cases, run up to the front
of the stage as the VIP party was shaking hands and leaving. Talk about surprise looks of
shear disbelief. My senior general said "I thought you were handing us an empty tape box
which would hold the finished product at a future date!' Unbelievable and wonderment was
the often heard refrain.
I also had on my right the Sony playback Walkman of back ground music for the tape opening
and the trailer tape credits ending. All the prerecorded video clips were all Queued up as well
as all my camera feeds that go to the mixer and JVC switcher. On my left was stacked my
master record VCR a Toshiba FF-990 creating a Super-VHS master edit. Directly in front of me
was the WJAVE-5 mixer with the titler attached underneath. In front of those items was the
Canon L-1 main cam. The one wired mic which was used for my audience questions at the end
of the briefing was plugged directly into front of the audio inputs on the WJAVE-5. On the
other hand the two wireless microphones were transmitted to my L-1 that could work with a
MM-200 mixing mic that allows the wireless Azden WR-22 Pro to be mixed with the L-1 shot
gun mic. I had a 9" color portable TV to provide me a Program Out monitor while 4 Sony GV-8
TVCR's gave me a color view during camera setup of my isolated camcorders after they were
all raised into shooting positions. There were various small collapsing headphones stolen from
airline seats and a Radio Shack 2 way comm. system to talk to any of the security people that
were detailed to assist me with crowd control. I selected DV viewcams Sharp so I could remotely
focus, zoom, white balance and pan from the floor below while using the screen as a view finder.
Above is the result of several years of successful TV Studio in a SuitCase live shoots.
Key was bringing in a Laptop as a Titler but, eventually it would replaced the VCR's,
Mixer, Controller, Monitors, Back-up memory, Audio mixers and even 1 camcorder. I
called this the definitive set-up and the one I took to CES, WEVA (Wedding Convention),
PC Expo @ Jacob Javitz, Videomaker in Secaucus and Photokina. It also went to Japan.
A note on above diagram, horizontal Yellow line demarcates the Control Room set up at
the bottom while top is the briefing podium area. Note EDL chart on the Laptop screen.
Camera #1 as mentioned above was the sophisticated and then new 8mm Canon L-1 which
I could manipulate remotely including it's powerful 15X lens from behind especially since
it had a pivotal remote sensor. Next was the 8mm Sony TR-81 and three other Sharp and
Hitachi Hi8 viewcams camcorders all on light stands. I made sure one of these camcorders
would be off to one side and shooting back towards the audience which came in handy for
both cut-a-way audience shots and for during the question and answer period. Cams #3 &
#4 were placed for alternate angles and also to cover other areas near the podium. I also
choose these camcorders based on compactness, S-video output, light weight, their good
resolution and even their low light characteristics. All in all, everything worked out OK.
I had the speaker do a dress rehearsal night before to perfect his timing, iron out any bugs
in my equipment hook-up & layout, tuned my audio levels, set up a EDL (edit decision list)
for rough camera switching, shot angles and a head's up time table for all OFF camera rolls
of prerecorded material. Next day and Only Minutes after the final words were spoken and
while the host and guest and MC were still shaking hands with the audience I rushed in &
handed each their 'original' copy of the just completed briefing. Talk about being surprised.
Because they in their hand a finished, fully edited, titled VHS tape that included music back
ground, logo's, a date stamp of the Day, Month, Year, hour and place of the briefing with a
lead in introduction by the Chief Of Staff and well wishes by the Secretary of Defense, all
slides, overheads and other images used during the presentation but in now proper lighting
and not in the dark like it was during the presentation. It should be pointed out here for
dramatic impact the customer tapes were expensive HQ Fuji H471S professional grade VHS
tape recorded on S-VHS VCR's but, at the VHS setting and since I connected with Only Y/C
connections and cables. Remember that both the edit master and the customer tapes were
all First Generation. If you try this your client and your competition will be amazed.
END OF PART ONE
Top Left Complete System in 1 Roll-Aboard & 1 Tote Bag, Top Right First Computer
with 2 DVD Decks for the SuitCase, Bottom Left 4 tiny 1 lb.Pana 3CCD Camcorders
bottom Right 2 pc Porter Case holding the whole TV Studio In A SuitCase, in Waikiki
This combo unit was way ahead of its time as a compact light weight travel solution that not only served
my TV Studio concept well but, also was an answer to loss/theft issues & safety/security concerns above.
Above the original first de-classified public announcement of that first application of this concept. Author Kirby
Carmichael interviewed me from San Francisco. Both Hitachi and Sharp at the same time had their Viewcams
roll out that were both used in this military briefing. Today this all looks stone-age but then it was all Cuting-Edge!
I should point out here that there were 'several' versions of my 'TV Studio.' There is the first diagram above which
I designed at sunrise on the breakwater of Waikiki near the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I had a devil of a time perfecting
and debugging this concept in order to finally work. The second B&W schematic was without the color lines put in
but was basically the one that was used for that first military use of the Studio in a Suitcase. You should notice that
the key item needed was the Videonics MX-1 A/V mixer. Please note the EDL shown right on top of the Sony color
projector. The four boxes along the top were the four preview outs of the 4 camcorders used in the shoot and was
critical in determining what was ON LIVE, what the NEXT shot and the LAST video shot was in the shoot. Again the
bottom area defines my control room and the top area the stage and podium areas. The color schematic was the
basic design of the system that I used for almost 10 years until we changed from the Digital Video era to the High
Definition era. The key equipment THEN became the powerful mini computer. At first it was a Dual Deck CD/DVD
player/Recorder and dual battery. You can see that by itself in front of Diamond head in the shot above. Today we
can used 2 pound Netbooks with built-in BluRay recording capability from Sony and others. I will include an image
here of several of those high end Overseas models. It is true my Beta system would NOT operate at first and many
trial runs had to be attempted. One thing to come up with a grand idea and quite another to get it to work as hoped
and expected. BTW, the set up mentioned in the Videomaker magazine article was what Kirby put together at home
that he had on hand and could be made to work for him and several of his project shoots in San Francisco.
The main difference between the first B&W schematic and the Color schematic above is the first B&W was analog
or S-Video analog video cables while the color schematic used only a few years later the Firewire or Digital Video
(DV) and went on to become my standard setup which I used for a demonstrations for the decade of the 1990's.
Above is 1080p HD, Wide Screen, surround sound, HDMI connections in a ultra small and very light
weight form factor with the added bonus of a extremely low price point for the first time in a PENCAM.
These 'lipstick' video cameras use to be in the thousands and now are in the low hundreds and are
heading to sub $100 price points. Because these are so small and even inconspicuous they can be
placed almost any location and when used in clusters all angles are covered without extra camera
and technical personnel on site except one while yielding professional results similar to a TV production.
Now that we have arrived in the next century and electronics has matured to such a point in the second
decade of the 21st Century with 4D (3 dimension with OUT any glasses), high definition beyond 1080p,
stabilization without the need of tripods, cameras imbedded in cell phones, audio beyond surround and
human hearing and computers with unlimited capabilities of tera bytes of storage, battery less passive power
all compact enough to be stored in a pocket or purse. Tablets & iPads less than a pound screens that expand,
keyless keyboards, lighting a thing of the past and all at affordable cost effective prices everyone can be a
player. You now have perfection and quality only dreamed about by by our parents and unaffordable at any
price just a few years ago that you are only limited by your imagination. I hope this history will provide the
inspiration you will need to be the next director, producer and cinematographers. Seek and you shall find.
Good Luck and May God Bless all of you out there struggling to succeed...
Thank You Very