ESPN this year for the first time aired the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in high definition — a challenging feat given the fact that production of the event requires a wide array of technology to capture HD shots of table play as well a significant number of remote cameras to deliver shots of the facedown cards to TV viewers.
Jeff Christian, the director of photography for the WSOP and owner of video and film production company Reel Sports, settled on Panasonic HD equipment for the event during NAB2007 in Las Vegas. That’s when he saw the company’s GP-US932 HD lipstick camera that could be used for the 12 “hole camera” positions needed to shoot players’ facedown cards.
Reel Shorts provided all of the production equipment, staging and lighting for the WSOP’s Main Table. A group of independent owner/operators handled shooting the outer tables. Each used a Panasonic AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera. Christian also used four AJ-HDX900 multiformat DVCPRO HD camcorders, the 12 HD lipstick cameras, 11 AJ-HD1400 DVCPRO HD VTRs, a AJ-HD1200A DVCPRO HD VTR, six Panasonic BT Series LCD production monitors and 14 9-Series HD plasma displays.
Originally, the plan was to shoot in HD from the gaming floor and upgrade only five table cameras — four of the hole cameras at the main table and the flop camera used for the tight shot of the dealer’s face-up cards. Budget restrictions were going to prevent replacing the remaining hole cameras at the main table and the outer tables. But after discovering the GP-US932 HD lipstick camera and a new look at the budget by the show's producer, the decision was made to make the entire production HD.
The GP-US932 HD remote cameras were installed in the rail of the table and their CCUs in custom-made enclosures affixed to the underside of the table. Players were instructed to view their cards in the usual manner and the hole cameras exposed the cards to the viewing audience.
Christian relied on custom cable snakes made with serial cables to control paint functions of the Panasonic HD remote camera. The camera’s worked well and matched the VariCams and the HDX900 camcorders, he said.
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