Minicams invests in Quadrus to re-define TV production facilities

Minicams adopts Quadrus Ingest Machine to add multi-channel recording to its TV services.

Ingest Solution Pix - Website News

In the last year, the surge in fixed rig production has seen countless series filmed using discreet camera heads and installed PTZ cameras. Production specialist Minicams has been at the forefront of this revolution, with recent credits including Secret Eaters, Hotel of Mum and Dad, Motorway Cops and Barely Legal Drivers. Now the company is extending the remit of location production and fixed rig facilities by adding multi-channel recording to its inventory.

“Traditionally, multi-channel recording has been the preserve of OB facilities and broadcasters. By investing in Quadrus Ingest Machine, we can now offer secure 8-channel recording to an HD codec that suits the customers’ workflow.” Said Nick McLachlan of Minicams.

The Quadrus system, distributed by Holdan, has already been used for Channel 5’s GP’s:Behind closed doors, where four individual streams were captured as Avid DNxHD. This system was selected for a number of reasons: firstly the intermediate recording format does not need to be transcoded prior to editing, secondly it integrates with Avid ISIS storage and finally it has the capability to check clips into the Interplay asset management system.

“Alternative technologies are non-starters for fast turnaround location shoots. Racks of VTRs are bulky and inflexible. Likewise, broadcast servers are very expensive and cumbersome, best suited to use in a dedicated studio or OB truck. Quadrus, on the other hand, records Avid-compatible files and is PC-based so it’s light, portable and easily maintained. It works with local or network storage, and as it runs on a standard workstation, it can be configured to our changing needs.” Continued McLachlan.

Minicams purchased the Quadrus system from Altered Images, fully configured on an HP Z820 workstation. The solution removes the need for individual decks to record each camera output, an approach that requires regularly swapping out recording media and the drawn-out process of manually ingesting and logging files from each card. With Quadrus, each channel is recorded to a central storage silo, with production management systems able to manage every asset during the shoot. The software also supports chase editing which enables post production teams to cut the programme even while cameras roll.

The next stage of development for Minicams is to integrate the software more fully with its portable production units (PPU).

“Currently the ‘Live Cut’ feature allows us to create a basic EDL on the fly via a keyboard which can be read by most NLEs. We’re now working on ways to tie the vision mixer into the live recording workflow. By creating dynamic sequences as well as an EDL at the production stage – instead of in the edit suite – the director will potentially save considerable time in post production.” Concludes McLachlan.

Minicams appoints Operations Manager as PTZ Productions Explode

Caroline Cass has joined Minicams as operations manager, a new role created to manage the dramatic increase in productions requiring portable production systems and specialist camera equipment.

Formerly with IMG, NetPlay TV and Associated Press, Caroline brings considerable production experience in live events, television and streaming. Her previous positions have seen her manage  projects such as London Fashion Week, the launch of ESPN in France and Italy and Supercasino on Channel 5 .

At Minicams, Caroline will oversee services and facilities hired to programmes, such as BBC 3’s Barely Legal Drivers and Hotel of Mum & Dad, and ITV‘s Happy Families.

Carolines ability to work in the high pressure environment of television production will help us deliver a great service to our customers. Production companies need to react at a moments notice; and Caroline has the skill and experience to make things happen, said Minicams MD, Nick McLachlan.

Based west of London, Minicams services offer broadcasters and production companies fixed rig production systems, in-car camera units, covert filming and infra-red production facilities.

The new series of Hotel of Mum and Dad, a production on the run

HOMD - Series

The new six episode series of Hotel of Mum and Dad is, in every respect, a production on the run.

“Securing the agreement of the couples and families to film is no easy task in itself. But, moving them into a rented property of their choice, rigging the house or flat for an extended fly on the wall documentary, completing the shoot and then quickly clearing all the gear out – all within a week – is really challenging.” Notes Deby Pinnock, production manager with Mentorn.

The BBC Three-commissioned series follows the real-life drama of young couples who have forsaken independence and continue to live under the family umbrella. The transition from this cosseted lifestyle to sudden autonomy (and the inconvenience of managing a small budget) brings a mix of emotions for all parties, ranging from relief and excitement to anxiety and frustration. For parents, offspring and their partners, while the end result is unpredictable and different for each episode, the change in circumstances makes for fascinating viewing.

Stylistically, the program has an edgy reportage approach: families speak directly and frankly to camera, the crew shoots on the move for a realistic, unscripted style and mini cameras are positioned high to give a kind of CCTV feed.

“We used small and discrete technology wherever possible”, comments Pinnock. “Rented flats can be small and full-size cameras can be very disconcerting, especially in programmes where we are doing our utmost to put participants at ease. Canon’s XF305 serves as the main camcorder – it’s light, agile and produces great pictures.”

The interplay of different styles produces a fast paced and slightly unsettling effect which perfectly mirrors the trials and stresses the couples are undergoing. Essential for the production is Toshiba’s 1K-HD1 miniature camera head that delivers broadcast quality HD via its 1/3” CCD. The slight mismatch in colour, depth of field and shooting angle from the mini-cam compared with footage captured by the Canon camcorder is a device the production company uses repeatedly to keep the audience’s attention and remind viewers of the realism of the situation.

To supply, rig and manage the miniature cameras, Mentorn engaged specialists from London-based Minicams.

“We worked closely with Minicams to develop a workflow and an installation routine that could cope with our extremely curtailed turnaround times both in terms of preparing properties for the shoot and sending files for post-production.” Continues Pinnock.

To enable the crew to work with a single recording format, Minicams captured footage from the Toshiba camera heads onto Convergent Design NanoFlash. Consequently the technicians had only CompactFlash cards for both sets of cameras, making data downloading onto external drives especially straightforward.

NanoFlash is a mature and proven system, totally reliable and easy to operate.” Remarks Nick McLachlan, MD of Minicams. “The files it produces are compatible with editing systems so the producers on set could simply dump data from the cards onto external drives and bike them instantly for post-production.”

Shooting locations included Cheltenham, Swansea, Cardiff, Glasgow, Kent, Bristol, Manchester and Lincoln. Working on a restricted budget and to a tight schedule, transporting kit that was as lightweight as possible was a key consideration. Even more important, however, was the need to install an extract kit fast. Pinnock reflects:

“Only a few years ago, we simply couldn’t have considered this kind of production. Rigging poor quality minicams, installing VTRs, recording to full-size tape and the need for lighting rigs meant for a slow production, excessive transport costs, the need for on location storage and a lengthy tape ingest process – all this would have made the production of unworkable. Now, with the Minicams guys able to install discrete cameras in what seemed like a matter of minutes, and tapeless technology letting us from location to location with a minimum of kit, we can produce great TV at a fraction of the cost and in half the time.”

However, tapeless technology with Hotel of Mum and Dad is not just about production efficiencies and carefully managing budgets. The production manager reports:

“Because the workflow of files from camera to laptop is so slick, we can make the participants for more active within the programme itself. We can put clips of the couples struggling for their independence in the rented property onto a laptop to show their parents how their offspring are faring in their new life. This added dimension increases the drama and can give a real poignancy to the production, as the older generation is shown their child coping with freedom the first time.”


HD PTZ Cameras Used To Capture A Murder Trial For The First Time

The Murder Trial Made UK TV History

The Murder Trial Made UK TV History

As a UK first, remotely-operated cameras have been placed inside a British criminal court to capture a criminal trial in its entirety.

Broadcast on Channel 4, Windfall Films’ feature-length film explores the process of justice in a Scottish High Court like never before, using five Panasonic AW-HE120 remote cameras to document the case of Nat Fraser, a man accused of murdering his wife.

The shoot was undertaken without additional lighting so low light performance was a key requirement. So as not to interfere with the normal day-to-day running of the court, the crew required small, unobtrusive cameras that could run silently.

“Initially the crew considered using ball-type camera heads,” says Nick McLachlan, MD of specialist hire company Minicams. “Unfortunately, most popular models are based on the Sony FCB-H11 camera module which is limited to 10x optical zoom lens and performs at its best in well-lit environments. Because of these factors, we suggested that the crew go down the Panasonic PTZ route.”

On Minicams’ advice, Panasonic 3MOS AW-HE120 cameras were used to film the documentary, remotely controlled using serial RS 422. Compact, quiet and with a built-in 20x zoom, they were positioned discreetly throughout the court and delivered excellent picture quality. The wide range of angles and focal distances, the pan-tilt flexibility and the 20x zoom lens contributed to the extraordinary footage seen in the film. Their silent operation and inconspicuous form factor meant that there was no disruption to the proceedings of the courtroom.

“When filming The Murder Trial it was vital to use equipment that would not intimidate or inhibit those involved in the case. We needed equipment that was discreet and operated remotely from outside the courtroom. The quiet and compact design of the Panasonic AW-HE120’s allowed us to capture compelling footage whilst remaining unobtrusive” said Gillian Goodlet, Production Manager at Windfall Films West.

Also used during the production of the documentary were the AW-HS400 video switcher, AW-RP50 camera control unit and AW-HCK10 camera head coupled with the AW-HMR10 portable memory card recorder.

Minicams Launch Turnkey Portable Production System For Fixed-Rig Filming

HF Blackburn 10

Minicams have launched the Mini-Rig portable production unit (PPU), a new multi-camera mobile HD unit for fixed-rig filming with robotic cameras. Designed to be installed fast in any location, the rig features sophisticated integration of multiple audio channels and HD video streams, yet is easy to control thanks to its fully customisable graphical user interface and touch screen control panel.

Compact, mobile and with broadcast quality results, the system has already been used on observational fly-on-the-wall documentaries for national TV in the UK, including ITV’s forthcoming Happy Families. With development and field testing now complete, the rig which can support in excess of 24 cameras is available to programme makers looking to benefit from rapid deployment in any location.

“We have been trialling the system on major television projects for some months, fine tuning every element, as well as the core interface. We are delighted that we can now offer the Mini-Rig to any production that needs a PPU with a small footprint, multiple fixed camera positions and multi-channel audio in tight spaces.” Commented Nick McLachlan, MD of Minicams.

The PPU is based around a compact and transportable rig that controls, monitors and switches between groups of Panasonic HD PTZ cameras which can be fixed in any location in minutes. Up-to 64 microphones with remote-able pre-amps are routed into the MADI-connected system; 32 mics can be assigned to the control surface at any one time, allowing the production team to monitor individual inputs, mix sources and record broadcast-quality sound. Minicams’ implementation also allows up to 8 channels of audio to follow video automatically. The cameras, microphones and talkback system can all be controlled from an adjoining location or mobile production gallery.

At the heart of the rig is the company’s new Mini-Core control system which integrates all of the equipment together under a central administrative interface. This unlocks new levels of scalability and powerful functions, such as the ability for up to 8 switched channels of audio to follow each video stream, or to expand the system by cascading routers but with a single operational control.

“Our experience in fast-turnaround TV has been vital in developing the PPU. Mini-Rig can be installed quickly in any space, helping production companies shoot, record and transmit events and broadcast productions cost-effectively and with no compromise in video or audio quality.” Added McLachlan.

With a variety of camera heads, customized housings and robotic systems available, Mini-Rig can be used for a very broad range of applications. Moreover, the impressive efficiency of the cameras and the PPU allows Mini-Rig to run from a domestic power supply – no supplementary generator is required.

The Mini-Rig is now available as a complete service, with Minicams able to provide everything from installation, specialist crewing and electrical installation, to bespoke optical cabling, on-site carpentry, live production services and lighting.

NEW HD Infra Red robotic camera with 20X Lens from Canon

We are very excited with the announcement from Canon of the new XU-80 High Definition Robotic Camera.

Whilst providing outstanding HD images under normal lighting conditions, this camera also has the ability to film in Infra Red mode, with the removal of its IR cut filter. This function can be operated remotely from the versatile RCP, making it ideal for wildlife and specialist filming projects.

This is a product we have been eagerly waiting for, as not only does it offer Canons outstanding video quality with 20 X optics, but also makes shooting in Infra Red easily achievable and affordable.

This camera will provide the best option for anyone wanting to film in Infra Red, surpassing all current cameras currently available on the market.



TRAFFIC COPS: Worse for Wear. In-car HD minicam system provided by

Traffic Cops latest series has its first airing tomorrow night at 8pm on BBC1!

Last summer saw minicams provide 5 in-car HD minicam systems to Mentorn Media, for the highly successful filming of their latest series of Traffic Cops: Worse for wear.

Using the outstanding Toshiba IK-HD1 camera and custom system housings, minicams supported 10 flawless weeks of continuous filming, capturing all the in-car footage with combined audio.

Using specially designed high capacity battery systems, the crews were able to film for up to 9hrs a day without having to worry about losing power! This combined with other key system features resulted in a highly stable and fault free filming platform.

In car kits get better and better!!

Minicams is rapidly building a reputation for the provision of high quality, robust and reliable in-car HD minicam systems. The HD systems are based around the Toshiba IK-HD1 cameras, which have consistently performed to provide a solid filming platform for continuous and uninterrupted in-car filming.

All camera and recording components are securely housed in  compact and lightweight peli cases, being easy to deploy, whilst achieving stunning results.

With flexible powering solutions and remote control management of the camera CCU functions, everything is ready to go with minimum fuss!!

Key features are:

  • Based upon the awesome Toshiba IK-HD1 camera (click here to see why this camera is so good)
  • Wide choice of lenses
  • Your choice of solid state recorder
  • Built in audio mixer with up to 4 mic inputs
  • 4 channels of embedded audio
  • Remote control of CCU functions for easy access to camera setup
  • Flexible powering options
  • Up to 10hrs run time from single battery

Minicams capture keyhole surgery with remote HD camera system

We have just spent the weekend filming at a private medical facility to capture cutting edge keyhole surgery techniques.

We used three remotely controlled Sony BRC-H700 robotic cameras and a Toshiba IK-HD1 minicam, recording to three NanoFlash  recorders.

There was limited space in the operating room, so minicams installed bespoke ceiling mounts for two of the Sony BRC-H700 cameras, with the third robotic camera being mounted on a compact floor stand.

The floor mounted camera provided coverage of the Surgeon, offering suitable eye-line shots and alternative close ups of his hands. This combined with the ceiling mounted cameras gave superb access for detailed shots of the procedures happening below.

The final camera, a Toshiba IK-HD1, was cheekily mounted on an existing monitor, to offer an excellent geography shot of the room layout and staff positioning below.   Just goes to show that we can mount cameras anywhere!

A live RGB feed was taken from the Ultrasound machine and converted to an HD-SDI signal using a TVOne scaler. If anyone wants live HD images recorded from any medical equipment, please let us know, as we have become masters at this process!!

We setup a small gallery upstairs, with all cables being run unobtrusively  through various false ceilings and piping ducts. Everything was recorded in glorious HD on the NanoFlash recorders at 50Mbps (Long GOP), using  a multi-viewer processor and large HD  LCD screen to view all camera feeds simultaneously.

In-car HD minicam systems prove big hit with Mentorn Media’s Traffic Cops

Minicams have provided multiple in-car HD minicam systems for Mentorn Media’s  ‘Traffic Cops’ and spin off show ‘Motorway Cops’.

Using up to 5 of our HD in-car minicam systems at any one time, the Traffic Cops team have recently completed a hugely successful run of filming with our Toshiba IK-HD1 minicams.

The compact in-car systems, with built in NanoFlash recorders and specially designed battery systems, have once again proved extremely reliable and robust in the field.

Please get in touch for more information on our in-car HD minicam systems, or to arrange a demo.

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