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I record lots of user group events. Typically the output file is a composite of the slides and the speaker. This works if the speaker stands still, but quite often the speaker frantically oscillates on stage and I'm struggling to follow them and furthermore, compositing this is a real pain!

So my question - is there any technical solution that solves this problem? The two things that I would consider are:

  • A motorized tripod head that turns to follow the speaker based on some tracking device they are wearing. Is this even possible?
  • A software solution! What if I record to 4K and then decide to crop out - is it possible to detect speaker position automatically through some software algorithm?
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High-end sports productions have cameras that can pan, tilt, and zoom their way to tracking a golf ball when driven 300+ yards off a tee. Such systems are well beyond the budgets of typical user groups. A system called SoloShot costs less than $1000, and might have the spatial resolution needed for your application.

Recording in 4K gives you a 2:1 punch-in for FullHD and around 4:1 or 5:1 punch-in for SD. The problem with a 2:1 punch-in is that it only cuts your peripatetic speaker's travel by 2x, which means if they are dashing 18' from one side of a 12' screen to another, their apparent motion will still be as if walking 9' across the view, which is still distracting. If you are OK producing with SD-ish video, a 5:1 punch-in will keep their motion to reasonably within frame. The open source software Blender has motion-tracking software that can effectively steady a camera around the subject of interest (your speaker). But you should check that it has the video codec support you need. Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve also has a tracker that can do this, but the free download version works only on Mac and PC, not Linux.

Another problem with using digital shot cropping is that at 24fps or 25fps, you might see lots of motion artifacts that seem strange: the speaker stays in the middle of the frame, but they are constantly blurring left or right, whereas the background is whipping back and forth but it's perfectly sharp otherwise. Your eyes will tell you "that's backwards!".

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    There are are couple of systems where you pin a beacon on the speaker and the camera follows them automatically. I remember receiving a NAB newsletter where one of those systems was announced. A quick googling didn't let me find them again, but it exists. While probably not as expensive as the solution Michael mentions I would assume that this "robotic" studio system still comes at a price not feasible for people on I tight budget. Generally speaking, I guess it would possible to build a system on your own but this needs a lot of research. – Hans Meiser Apr 7 '16 at 11:59
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    And a DIY solution would also not be cheap since you need very precise transponders to aquire position, very silent servos for camera positioning etc. I think that may be one of the tasks where as of now just hire a human being with its excellent sensory skills and let him / her do the job :) – Hans Meiser Apr 7 '16 at 12:02
  • @HansMeiser what kind of money are we talking here? – Dmitri Nesteruk Apr 7 '16 at 12:58
  • I just added info about SoloShot to my answer. Might be what you need for approx $500 – Michael Tiemann Apr 7 '16 at 13:42
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In addition to SoloShot, another product to consider may be TecNec ITP-1 In The Picture - Robotic Camera Panhead

Ref: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/490975-REG/TecNec_ITP_1_ITP_1_In_The_Picture.html

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