Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, is proud to announce that MLB (Major League Baseball) Network chose four of Canon’s ﬂagship XJ27x6.5B HD studio lenses and two HJ11ex4.7B portable HD lenses for its broadcast studios in Secaucus N.J. In addition, MLB Network supplements its studio originated video with HDTV content from multiple Canon BU-45H remote-control pan/tilt outdoor cameras installed at many MLB ballparks nationwide. MLB Network launched in approximately 50 million cable and satellite homes on January 1, 2009 as the largest debut in cable television history.
“We did extensive research regarding the lenses that would go on our cameras,” stated Mark Haden, vice president of engineering and IT for MLB Network. “Canon continues to upgrade and improve their product. For quite a long time I’ve been impressed with the way they’re staying ahead of the curve. Anything that broadcasters want, Canon seems to deliver.”
“We are very pleased that this important new network has chosen Canon’s DIGISUPER 27 HD studio lens ,” noted Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive, Broadcast and Communications division, Canon U.S.A.,
“Canon continues to upgrade and improve their product. For quite a long time I’ve been impressed with the way they’re staying ahead of the curve. Anything that broadcasters want, Canon seems to deliver.”
“The XJ27 – and its ‘sister’ lens, the XJ27AF Auto Focus – are the successors to Canon’s XJ25, which was one of the industry’s most popular HD studio lenses. These two new ‘XJ27’ lenses are the evolutionary ‘next steps’ in ultimate HD studio lens performance. The XJ27 is wider, has a greater zoom ratio, and features newly developed multi-layer optical coatings that dramatically reduce ghosting and ﬂaring while also increasing lens contrast. Combined with enhanced MTF performance, this produces stunning overall picture sharpness. The lens is the result of Canon’s advanced technologies in optical design and manufacturing processes, including computer-aided design techniques and special new optical materials. The XJ27 lens delivers the very best in image quality to the high performance HD cameras selected by MLB Network.”
“Our timing was fortuitous because the XJ27 was basically a new product when we acquired it,” Haden added, referencing MLB Network’s January 1, 2009 television debut. “It’s a nice improvement over the previous HD studio lens that Canon had offered. In the past I’ve used Canon lenses in the ﬁeld, and have always had good results, especially when it comes to quality. We’re also concerned with the edge of the image. As a true HD facility, you have to be careful of ‘vignetting’ and ‘port-holing’ with optics. The XJ27, however, offers us clarity from raster to raster, which is something you don’t always get. There is virtually no edge distortion, which is important to us.”
One of MLB Networks’ HDTV studios sports a high-tech look, while the other resembles a half-scale inﬁ eld of an actual ballpark. “We wanted an HD lens that would be fast, because we are trying to control the depth-of-ﬁeld in both the high-tech studio and the ‘retro’ studio,” Haden continued. “We found that we would be shooting wide and tight. The Canon XJ27 seemed to give us the most range with the clearest image possible. Because we are a start-to-ﬁnish facility we wanted the best possible image going into the CCD’s in our cameras, and out to our fans.”
Haden cites another feature of the Canon XJ27 lenses that may be needed in the future. “This lens comes with positional-data functionality, so we have the option of someday adding virtual signage, holograms, or 3D imagery, where you’d need precise tracking. That’s something we can grow into without having to do wholesale changes to our optics down the road.”
Of MLB Network’s two Canon HJ11ex4.7B wide-angle portable lenses, one is mounted on a stabilized camera rig and the other on a jib arm. Capable of more than 91 degrees of horizontal angle of view in the 16:9 image format, the HJ11ex4.7B is engineered for wide-angle shooting with minimum chromatic aberrations and geometric distortion, while also providing lightweight operation and exceptional picture sharpness and contrast.
“The HJ11 gives us what we need,” Haden explained. “Our high-tech news/highlight studio has a lot of different areas where we shoot ‘in-the round.’ The HJ11 enables us to ‘hop-scotch’ from area to area and gives us nice, tight, close-up capabilities while also being wide enough – even when shooting through prompters – to do transitions among the six separate areas of the studio. The lens gives us a lot of ﬂexibility and the smooth hand-held freewheeling motion-look that we want.”
“Both of these lenses are very ﬂexible in how tight and wide they can go,” Mark Haden noted regarding the XJ27 and HJ11. “When it comes to image quality, Canon is second to none.”
In addition to the HD programming viewers see from MLB Network’s two new studios, there are also live HD ballpark-cam “look-ins,” dugout interviews, and centerﬁeld shots from Major League ballparks across the nation. This video is captured by multiple Canon BU-45H remote-control pan/tilt outdoor HDTV cameras in each ballpark. Darrell Wenhardt, president of CBT Systems, in San Diego, oversaw this multi-level BU-45H camera deployment. (CBT Systems also acted as consultants for the design and build of the MLB Network’s studio and broadcast facilities.)
“We looked at 12 different cameras in the industry, and chose Canon to cover this part of the ballpark,” related Wenhardt. “The Canon BU-45H is an integrated solution that gives us a camera, robotic pan and tilt, and an environmental package. The BU-45H’s aluminum enclosure gives us both durability and shielding, not only from RFI, but also from the elements.”
“One very impressive fact about the Canon BU-45H is that, in a small compact camera, we actually have a 20:1 zoom lens,” Wenhardt said. “This gives us really good wide-angle shots, and sufﬁcient ability to zoom-in for the close-ups that we need from the dugout. In addition, we are quite impressed with the camera’s performance in varying – and especially low – light levels. It’s a very quiet camera, so it allows us to peer into the dugouts and at the same time turn around and get out to the ﬁeld. Its dynamics in that regard are very good, as well as its colorimetry.”
Remote control via IP for each ballpark-deployed Canon BU-45H resides at MLB Network headquarters in New Jersey. “We’ve subcontracted with Telemetrics, one of the exclusive distributors of the BU-45H camera, to provide us with the necessary interface, and they wrote custom software for this application,” Wenhardt added. Each BU-45H is ﬁxed to a custom Telemetrics “elevator” mount that can raise from heights of 4 to 12-plus feet, allowing the camera to move up for ﬁ eld-level interviews and above the lip of the dugout for seating-area shots.
“The BU-45H is a durable, all-in-one solution,” Wenhardt concluded.