Overhead Remote

  • Photo

I've seen these awesome basketball photos in Sports Illustrated taken from over the basket showing players crashing the boards. What a unique perspective. I decided this is the year I would try my own overhead remote camera for the girls and boys state basketball tournaments in Des Moines.

I gathered all the items I would need. Super clamps, Safety cables, firewire cords, ethernet cords, power cords, cords for cords, zip ties, more safety cables, radio remote triggers, two laptops, a wifi router.



I had to have some way of retrieving my photos remotely. Since retrieving the memory card from the overhead camera while games were going on was inconvenient. Not to mention the potential danger to players and fans if something were to fall.

After doing some research. I found an old wireless router that I would use to wirelessly connect the two laptops. A Powerbook G4, with the remote camera tethered to it, would be in the catwalk. My Macbook Pro would be my main laptop. With it, I could access the G4 and retrieve my photos.

My G4 was running some older software, Canon Viewer Utility, that made it a little more difficult to get my pictures down to the floor. The cool thing about the software was I could tweak settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) on the camera from MBP.

How could I do that?

Enter Apple Remote Desktop.

With Remote Desktop, I could control the G4 from the floor as if I was moving the trackpad and typing on the keyboard myself.

I tested my setup in The Gazette building several months ago. It worked like a charm.

Fast forward a few months to March Madness at Wells Fargo Arena. I woke up early Friday morning. I wanted to get to the arena early so I had the place to myself, so to speak.

Setting up the remote camera rig, computer and router was pretty easy. I had my MBP with me in the catwalk. I fired it up and to my relief I saw the G4 appear under the shared volumes. I clicked "share screen" and in a few seconds the desktop of the G4 appeared on the desktop of my MBP.

Now, for the real test. I made my way down to the floor. Standing under the basket. Holding my MBP. I pressed the trigger button on the radio transmitter that fired the remote camera. Eight strobes fired. Good sign. I pressed the trigger button a few more times. I connected to the G4 again. Just as before, I could see the G4 desktop on my MBP. Outstanding! I fired off a few more frames. With a second or two delay, the images I just took appeared in the contact sheet of the Canon Viewer Utility. I selected several photos and copied them to my MBP. A five megabyte photo made the wifi leap from the catwalk to my MBP in about eight seconds. I was in business!

John Davis with the Iowa Events Center was pretty impressed at the technical feat. So was I, to tell the truth. He was more impressed that I would put this amount of time and effort into getting just  "one photo."

I'm happy with the photographs I got. It just adds to the coverage as a whole by providing an angle readers don't normally get to see. I did have a concern about what would happen during game time. All the RF interference in the arena really slowed transfer times to a point where I just had to wait until between sessions to download photos.

Thanks to IT guru Tim Nemc and Mac guru Jim Scharosch for providing technical assistance or just answering my emails from the catwalk). I see other applications for this kind of rig. Home plate remotes for baseball and softball come to mind. I also see several ways to streamline the process by using Eye-Fi SD cards and maybe doing away with having a camera tethered to a laptop.


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