Five Q-Ball robotic minicam systems from Camera Corps have successfully completed a nine-month voyage aboard a televised reconstruction of Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.
The 35-part series was shot aboard the clipper Stad Amsterdam as it traced the course of Darwin’s round-the-world journey on the 200th anniversary of his birth. Beagle was produced by Netherlands-based VPRO broadcast network and transmitted to audiences in Belgium and Holland as well as being globally viewable via the Internet.
The show produced more than a thousand hours of reality television in 1080i HD, running from September 2009 to its completion in June 2010.
The Q-Balls simplified the difficult task of capturing video efficiently from many angles and in all weather. The equipment tolerated salt water spray in conditions that at times exceeded storm force 10.
All the supports were manufactured from stainless steel and needed to be easy to mount. Holes could not be drilled into the ship’s masts or decking. Each Q-Ball consists of an HD camera and 10-to-1 zoom lens in a machined-aluminum sphere. The complete head is about the size of a cannonball.
HD video from all four of the permanently-mounted Q-Balls (the fifth was a spare) was recorded 24 hours per day, seven days per week to an Avid AirSpeed from which content was selected and edited.
The outputs were also sequentially switched and downconverted to a 175kb/s Windows Media stream transmitted by satellite to VPRO’s Hilversum headquarters. This was the basis of round-the-clock live Web coverage throughout the entire duration of the voyage.