How To Control Your PTZ Camera
Pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras are used in many houses of worship, and there’s little wonder why. These cameras do just about everything that cameras costing thousands of dollars can do, yet they are almost always reasonably priced. When you’re planning to take your sermon or live production to the next level, using multiple cameras is a great way to add a little professionalism and class, and if you’re going to do this, you’ll need a camera controller.
Camera controls are usually small devices that are used to manage and operate numerous cameras at a time, and they can also allow the different cameras to communicate with one another. More often than not, they are user-friendly and easy to learn, meaning even people who are not tech-savvy can be using them like a pro in no time. They usually involve some type of software, which you are often allowed to download for free once you purchase the controller, and they are able to control PTZ cameras that are connected with either an IP or USB connection.
The number of cameras controlled by these devices varies with each one, but many of them can accommodate dozens of cameras at the same time. Most of them come with backlit LCD displays, touchscreen buttons that make operating them very easy, and the ability to monitor cameras of all brands and types. Many of them also come with a joystick or a remote control, or both, so that operating the controller is a lot more convenient for the user.
Other features of these controllers include camera presets that can save you a lot of time the next time you use it, a live video preview mode that also allows you to switch cameras automatically, and image controls for aspects such as hue, luminance, exposure, and contrast, as well as others. These controllers are usually compatible with both Mac and Windows computers and usually offer excellent display resolutions as well. There are also certain features that most of the controllers on the market today have in common, and the following are a few of those features.
It is very common for PTZ camera controllers to have infrared (IR) remote controls included with them. These devices usually operate up to four cameras at a time and even have on-screen display menus that allow you to get your camera settings set up just right every time. Setting up the preset buttons can be done with the buttons on the controller panel, and companies such as PTZOptics always make it super easy to set up your cameras because all you do is press *, #, then F1 for Camera 1; *, #, then F2 for Camera 2, and so on. After the cameras are all set up properly, you simply press the number that corresponds to the camera that you wish to operate; in other words, just press 1 for Camera 1, and so on.
Not only can you control the cameras’ functions with the IR remote device, but you can control the speed of those functions. For example, you can choose a slow zoom or a fast zoom, and so on, and you do this by using a variety of directional keys. Some of the tricks a lot of users use include:
*, #, 1 = display menu in English
*, #, 3 = display menu in Chinese
*, #, 4 = display IP address
*, #, 6 = restore default settings
*, #, 8 = show camera version
*, #, 9 = set mount mode (flip/normal)
These settings are for the PTZOptics controllers and remotes, but as you can see from this example, the remote-control devices are very easy to operate regardless of your level of experience with technology.
Software and Apps
As mentioned earlier, companies such as PTZOptics and others usually offer free software for their controllers, providing you with the ability to access and control each camera efficiently, manage all of your preset buttons, enable the pan/tilt/zoom features remotely, adjust images and settings, and streamline the data migration of your camera. Thanks to this type of software, operators can use these controllers in several ways, including the touchscreen display, a mouse, keyboard shortcuts, and in many instances, a joystick or even a game controller. You truly have a lot of different options when it comes to managing and operating all of the cameras in your facility because of the software.
Many products also offer the opportunity to download an app to your smartphone, meaning you can operate the controller through your phone, with the phone allowing you to do everything the controller can do. This makes it convenient for people who don’t like feeling as though they’re stuck to the controller but instead, who would prefer to be able to walk around some and still control the cameras during a broadcast or other event.
Joystick controllers are very popular and offer a way to control and manage the cameras with one hand, making it an extremely convenient way to do this job. If you take a look at the average PTZ camera controller, it is usually a rectangle-shaped device with buttons and keys on it, similar to what a computer keyboard looks like. The ones that come with joysticks usually place those joysticks to the right of the device, and they are operated much like joysticks that are used in video games.
Today’s joystick controllers are driven by the VISCA over IP protocol, which means they are low-latency joysticks. You connect the camera to your LAN, then set the joystick up to control it. Most are now IP, not serial joysticks, which allows them to control hundreds of cameras and use Power over Ethernet (PoE) for more efficiency. Better still, they can be set up in just minutes and come with everything you need to begin using it immediately. These are 3D joysticks that are often ergonomically designed, which means you won’t suffer any aches or pains if you use them for long periods of time.
If you’re going to use more than one camera on your next production, you need a camera controller so the task is much easier. These controllers are easy to use and less expensive than you might think, making them a must-have item for organizations of all sizes and types.