Sony BRC Series HD Cameras and the EVI-HD1 – Their Impact on Future Video Conferencing Trends

Infocomm 2008 kicked off their 3-day conference last Wednesday (June 18, 2008) with a vengeance. Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I had the opportunity to fly out for their opening day to see what the latest trends are and to get a first hand glimpse of new products in action. Upon arrival to the LVCC, the size of the convention was overwhelming to say the least and that was before thousands of people flocked to the doors after the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Broken up into two different halls and occupying over 1,050,000 sq. ft., there were at least 950 exhibitors showcasing their latest and greatest audio visual and electronic products to a floor of at least 15,000 people in attendance. This number does not include the plethora of meeting rooms being used for several technology seminars and workshops in addition to key note speaker presentations.

Although there were several different products showcased, one of the primary buzzwords for the conference was “Telepresence”. “Telepresence” is defined as “a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location other than their true location.” ( Wikipedia 2008 ) In a nutshell, the term “telepresence” is an updated term that seems to be replacing “Video Conferencing” as technology continues to advance. With telepresence, the person not in the office comes through in almost a 3D fashion making it seem as though they are actually present when they are not. Video conferencing is less technical and the people on the other end are included in a video fashion.

Walking through the “Telepresence Pavilion”, the two new and most popular VC systems came courtesy of Polycom and Sony. Although the Polycom telepresence systems were exhibited in abundance, the Sony EVI-HD1 and BRC series of cameras were equally showcased as the latest and greatest HD cameras available for video conferencing/telepresence applications.


Built upon the great success of the EVI-D70 and EVI-D100, Sony’s first high-definition EVI robotic camera was designed for videoconferencing, distance learning, houses of worship and corporate training. This single chip-based, pan/  tilt /zoom camera features multi-format capabilities to output both standard- and high-definition video so users can easily migrate from standard-definition to HD.

The new EVI-HD1 model uses a 1080i CMOS sensor that delivers exceptional high-definition resolution in 720p, 1080i or 1080p. The camera can be used with compatible codec’s and systems from other manufacturers, due to its ability to output standard-definition video (YC and composite), high-definition analog component (Y, Pub, Pr) or digital HD-SDI. For companies outfitting conference rooms with 16:9 widescreen displays, the EVI-HD1 camera outputs 16:9 images in 480i or HD formats. The camera also incorporates a 10x optical zoom lens with a 70-degree horizontal field of view and is equipped with high-torque, high-speed direct drive motors that enable smooth, fast and quiet pan/ tilt  operations, making it ideal for conference rooms and courtrooms.

The camera’s pan/ tilt /zoom controls can be operated by an easy-to-use supplied IR Remote Commander® unit or via the RS-232C interface (VISCA(TM) protocol) with a host of commercially available controllers. The EVI-HD1 can also be controlled from an optional RM-BR300 Remote Control Unit. The ergonomically designed joystick and feature-rich control panel of the RM-BR300 provide superb operability in various remote video-shooting applications.


The Sony BRC Series consists of three revolutionary Pan/ Tilt /Zoom (PTZ) color video cameras, each especially designed for remote video shooting applications. Both the BRC-H700 and BRC-300 have already been highly successful worldwide, satisfying user needs for high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) applications, respectively.

With a number of useful features and excellent picture quality, the BRC Series is ideal for a variety of remote video shooting applications, such as in houses of worship, auditoriums, teaching hospitals, corporate boardrooms, and at sporting events, trade shows, and concerts. Furthermore, it is an excellent choice for broadcast applications, such as the recording of television programs or as a weather camera. Since the BRC Series consists of three cameras each with specific benefits, users can choose the most appropriate solution for their specific application needs.

The Sony high definition BRC-H700 offers high picture quality and high sensitivity with three 1/3-type HD CCDs and a resolution of 1,120,000 total pixels. It is ideal for users demanding extremely clear HD images with great detail, and because of its high sensitivity, it can be operated in shooting environments without ideal lighting. Furthermore, it has the widest viewing angle in the BRC Series, allowing users to capture wide areas of a scene such as audiences at concerts or in auditoriums.

The Sony standard-definition BRC-300 incorporates three 1/4.7-type Advanced HADTM CCD sensors with a total of 1,070,000 pixels. It is an ideal camera for cost-effective SD applications – and it can capture images in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, the latter offering a wider viewing angle. Furthermore, the BRC-300 is the smallest camera in the BRC Series, making it ideal in environments that require the camera to be positioned unobtrusively.

Sony also recently introduced the new HD/SD BRC-Z700, equipped with three 1/4-type HD ClearVidTM CMOS Sensors. This camera is both HD and SD capable, enabling versatile operations and allowing users to easily migrate from SD to HD picture quality. What’s more, the BRC-Z700 incorporates a newly designed smooth PTZ mechanism for precise camera control.

On display at the Sony booth last week, the BRC-H700 and BRC-Z700 gave visitors an inside look into why these two cameras are rapidly becoming the true leaders in the High Definition Video Conferencing/ Telepresence world:

  • The BRC-H700 and BRC-Z700 each have sixteen presets (BRC-300 has six presets) to which predefined Pan/ Tilt /Zoom positions and other parameters can be allocated. These presets can be recalled at the touch of a button to easily capture video from pre-specified areas. They can also be controlled from either the supplied IR Remote Commander(TM) Unit or optional RM-BR300 Remote Control Unit. The ergonomically designed joystick and feature-rich control panel of the RM-BR300 provide superb operability in various remote video-shooting applications
  • Users can transmit uncompressed digital data including external sync and camera control signals via an optical multiplex unit such as the BRU-H700 and BRU-300. With only a single cable connection between the camera and the HD optical multiplex unit, the system is extremely easy to install.
  • Flexibility
    • Third party switchers and multiplexers work very well with the BRC cameras.
    • Sierra Video Systems and AMX switchers and multiplexers were on display at the show and work very well with the BRC cameras.
    • Sony adaptor cards are available or third party adaptor cards can be used to accommodate the user’s video interface
  • Users can run fiber cables up to:
    • 500 meters in length for the BRC-300 and
    • 1000 meters in length for both the BRC-H700 and BRC-Z700.

With everything the Sony BRC series of industrial cameras has to offer not only for HD Video Conferencing/ Telepresence but for a plethora of other applications, an increasing number of people are beginning to integrate these cameras into their current video conferencing set-ups. The new HD cameras from Sony are changing the dynamics of video conferencing due to the drastically improved picture quality one sees when moving from standard definition to high definition.

Another reason to consider moving to a Sony HD camera is the impending mandatory change of broadcasting from analog to digital in 2009. Due to this change in technology, it may prove beneficial for users to begin looking at their current technologies early enough to assess where they need/want to be in conjunction with what they have to do in order to get there. Displays are quickly moving towards HD-capable which could leave analog users in a bind if they do not follow suit with compatible equipment. Whether it be purchasing an analog to digital converter box or replacing the company’s analog equipment with HD, the fact remains that technology is moving forward and those who sit up and take notice will be the ones to succeed over the competition.