BlackTrax Puts “Smart” in “Smart Studio” at NAB 2019
Sandra Lau May 1, 2019

Toronto, ON. CANADA, May 1, 2019 – From April 8 to 11, 2019, NAB Show 2019 was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. To show off the latest features of CONVRG, CAST Group of Companies’ new ecosystem designed for broadcast, BlackTrax took part in Panasonic’s Smart Studio demo at this year’s NAB Show. Visitors saw players of Giant Jenga and mini golf being followed by studio lighting, cameras, broadcast robotics, and augmented reality graphics.

Andrew Gordon and Harry Patel (Panasonic) explain BlackTrax’s role in the 8K ROI system.

CAST Group of Companies Inc., makers of BlackTrax, proudly announced the introduction and addition of CONVRG, which was demoed for the first time at Prolight + Sound 2019. BlackTrax’s latest integration with broadcast cameras has evolved to become an entire ecosystem consisting of camera control, automation functionality and enablement of Augmented Reality for live and broadcast productions, and post-production positional data capture.

Inside a crowded Panasonic booth, BlackTrax representatives facilitated visitors’ curiosities by explaining the inner workings of this automated studio, of which tracking played a central role. For the sake of redundancy, 12 BlackTrax Sensors were set up around the perimeter to keep a constant eye on the talents, all three of whom were equipped with one Beacon connected to two Stringers (tracking points) each.

BlackTrax enables 8K ROI, PTZ and broadcast robotic control

Positional data collected by BlackTrax was used by lighting fixtures (2 x Clay Paky Sharpy’s) to follow the talent. This same data was also sent to Panasonic’s award-winning (Product of the Year, NAB 2019) AW-UE150 PTZ cameras to control and automate the cameras’ pan, tilt and zoom settings, while Tecnopoint’s broadcasting robotics used the positional information to control the PTZ’s position on the totems and dollies.

Using the Zones function, BlackTrax was able to send commands to each of the Tecnopoint totems and dollies, triggering their movements and directions as each talent entered a specified Zone.

Custom-made Giant Jenga blocks, designed and built by BlackTrax experts. The Xbox controller was used as a fun and easy way to control the PTZs.

This was coordinated with the movements of the PTZs to ensure that talents were always in-view, providing thorough coverage of the entire demo floor. With smoothing algorithms built into CONVRG’s software, the PTZs followed each talent closely while maintaining the flexibility of a real cameraman.

Just for fun, BlackTrax experts also concocted a way to control the PTZs through an Xbox controller, showing the simplicity and myriad of possibilities when integrating with BlackTrax. The versatility and ease of connectivity of the system made it possible for our experts to test and integrate, onsite, with one of Tekskil’s teleprompters at the Panasonic booth, allowing it to move and rotate so that it is always facing the talent.

In addition to BlackTrax’s integration with Panasonic PTZs, the system was also an integral component in Panasonic’s 8K ROI system demo, which relied on BlackTrax to automatically track moving subjects in the studio to create 4 individual HD crop sources using an 8K sensor. This integration minimizes the number of cameras needed to obtain full coverage of any space without distortion, and significantly simplifies the setup of any broadcast studio.

The 8K ROI can produce up to 4 individual HD outputs with the help of BlackTrax.

Augmented reality showcasing BlackTrax in a broadcast studio setting

Using BlackTrax’s 6D positional data, real-time 3D graphics by Brainstorm Multimedia displayed relevant player information in bubbles that stayed afloat above the players as they moved around. Custom-made BlackTrax Giant Jenga blocks were also placed throughout the Jenga tower to enable real-time moving augmented reality graphics using object-tracking. Designed and built by the BlackTrax team, two beacons and six stringers were housed in each block to especially accommodate for this unique demo.

In addition to BlackTrax’s presence inside the demo space, CAST Director of Business Development, Andrew Gordon, took part in a special panel presentation, “Panasonic Smart Studio: Economically Adding Production Value,” hosted by Michael Bergeron, Senior Product Manager at Panasonic. Alongside representatives from Brainstorm and Tecnopoint, Andrew gave audience members useful insights into how a Smart Studio setup decreases production costs while increasing its overall value and achieving ideal results.

From left: Tecnopoint, BlackTrax, Brainstorm, and Panasonic representatives.

“By knowing the shots you want to take, you can program them in advance and have them executed reliably, each time. Rehearsal time decreases. Decrease post-production costs by having Augmented Reality happen in real-time. There is less time spent in the studio, less chance for human error, the ability to improvise on the fly and the result is a versatile, yet consistently high-quality production.”

– Andrew Gordon

The collaborative effort at NAB 2019 by Panasonic, BlackTrax, Brainstorm and Tecnopoint proved the practicality of the Smart Studio solution in reducing studio costs, labor, and general headaches.

Automated studios provide the type of flexibility and accuracy that would otherwise require immense amounts of manpower and attention to detail. Moreover, with the addition of 3D graphics, Smart Studios can generate AR content in real-time to expand the space, both physically and creatively, of any broadcast set. Inside a studio setting, the power of BlackTrax becomes multiplied and refined, especially when integrated with third-party systems.

We extend our gratitude and congratulations to all our wonderful technical partners at NAB, and to everyone who came to speak with us about BlackTrax, CONVRG, and studio automation.

Stay tuned to see where BlackTrax and CONVRG take us next!


Learn more:

About BlackTrax

About Panasonic


About CAST Group of Companies Inc.

Established in 1994, Toronto Canadian-based software and hardware developer, CAST Software is a member of the CAST Group of Companies Inc. CAST Software serves its core markets in entertainment production, special events and meetings.

CAST’s award-winning flagship software products are wysiwyg – lighting design and previsualization suite, and Vivien – Event Designer and the new real-time tracking technology, BlackTrax.

All products are designed and created in-house and supported by an established global distribution and re-seller network.