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|| News Item: Posted 2000-06-28

Round 2: Using Airport for Remote Cameras
By Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

Mark Terrill of the AP wrote in last months Sports Shooter about using Apple's AirPort wireless networking to get images from a remote camera in the catwalk to a PowerBook on the floor. Bert Hanashiro and I decided to take this one step further for the NBA Finals. Problem: there were only two of us, so we did not have an editor to man an editing PowerBook on the floor. I would be shooting, and Bert would be back in the pressroom editing after a short time shooting. So how to get the overhead (catwalk) image into the pressroom?

Photo by Robert Hanashiro & Bob Deutsch/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro & Bob Deutsch/USA Today
If we put the AirPort base station in the catwalk, connected to a PowerBook via ethernet, that meant the Pismo (Firewire) PowerBook (it has an AirPort card installed... the receiver) had to be at court side where the signal would reach. It would not work in the pressroom, under all the concrete. But you cannot connect an ethernet cable to network it back to the pressroom, as that would mean setting up AppleTalk as both an AirPort and ethernet network... a no-no.

Another solution would be to connect multiple base stations as "repeaters" to get the signal back, but AirPort base stations cannot do this (Note: I'm told the Lucent WaveLan base will). So the base station had to be at courtside, connected to a PowerBook in the pressroom via ethernet.

Problem: if the base is at courtside, the Pismo with an airport receiver card installed had to be up in the catwalk, connected to the camera. But...the DCS520 can only connect to a PowerBook via Firewire, and Kodak has not updated the firmware and host software to allow this... version 9.0 of the acquire plug-in (with firmware 3.0.14) does not see the camera via Firewire.

Kodak did make a beta available of both the firmware and plug-in, but it was very slow. We decided to use it anyway, rather than try an old dcs3 with an Adaptec SCSI PC card.

So on game day in Indy, we arrived at Conseco Fieldhouse at 10 am and attached the AirPort base to a seating rail, ran AC to it, and began running 250 feet of ethernet cable back to the press room. The building manager was a dream, telling us only to be careful and neat. He let us string the cable with the NBC cable runs along the ceiling, all the way back to the photo edit room.

Try that in Madison Square Garden!

Then we went up to the catwalk, where we connected the Pismo to the DCS 520 with a Firewire cable. The camera had AC power, and we had Timbuktu remote software running on both the catwalk Pismo and the PowerBook 3400 in the pressroom. This allowed us to see and acquire the overhead images remotely from the edit room.

We also used a mini ethernet hub in the pressroom to network the 3400 (the one running Timbuktu and talking to the Pismo in the Catwalk), a second Pismo for editing the game, and another PB3400 running TeleFinder (so the transmissions would not be slowed by editing). We also needed the hub because the ethernet connection to the AirPort base needs to be a crossover cable, and no one sells 250 feet of crossover! The hub eliminated this problem.

Now was the big test...on the 3400 running Timbuktu in the pressroom, we told the Pismo in the catwalk to take a picture and it did...very cool! Same for the Pocket Wizard Max, it also fired the camera reliably, so when I hit the remote, the image appeared in the pressroom almost instantly!

Bert was able to watch my images pop up as I shot, and grab one and transmit it within minutes of the start of the game. He could also shoot pictures via the "take picture" command in the plug-in while watching the game on TV...but the various delays in the wireless LAN, Timbuktu, and TV delay made this a bit difficult.

One problem arose ...the Pismo in the catwalk locked up 45 minutes before the start. We ran up and reset it, but the service elevator guy who promised to stop back up didn't. We were stuck there! We could have shot the overhead remote, sent it via cell, but nothing else! Luckily, we found a back stairway that got us all the way down, just in time. Then the plug-in crashed and locked again at half time, so we were done for the day with overhead.

For the second game, we used a Newer Tech Firewire-2-Go PC card adapter to get a Firewire connection to the Pismo, and that worked beautifully with the older (non-beta) firmware and plug-in. The combo of AirPort, Firewire card, ethernet, and Timbuktu all worked perfectly. We sent 6 overhead remote pictures before the 1st quarter was over!

It was a lot of work, but if you are on a tight deadline it gives you another angle very quickly, especially if you do not have access to the camera until half time.

Important note: Using 2 or more AirPort bases can interfere with each other. If so, you must coordinate channels. Each base uses up to 5 adjacent channels of the11 available. So if one is set at ch3 (1-5), and the other is set at ch9 (7-11) you should be ok. Three will require pooling.

(BTW...if anyone needs 250 feet of orange ethernet cable, it's still hanging in Conseco's yours!)

(Robert Deutsch, a self-avowed geek, is a staff photographer with USA TODAY based in New York.)

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