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News & Insight

Robotic Cameras Get In On The Action For The 2016 Rio Olympics

By Shivani Reddy on August 9th 2016

Coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio has started off with a bang, giving viewers around the world front-seat access via photo & video media. Every second of action is being sourced by the powerhouse of stock photography, Getty Images, and the images will vary from the gritty to the Sports Illustrated cover worthy. Among the surfeit of Canon gear provided to photographers, Getty has added a new gadget to its arsenal of tech – the Robotic POD system.


POD software being run on a Microsoft Tablet - Image by Johnny Simon of Mashable

POD software being run on a Microsoft Tablet – Image by Johnny Simon of Mashable

No, we haven’t stepped foot into Will Smith’s ‘I, Robot’ plot, where robots take over all of our jobs, although that movie is set in 2035… so check back in 19 years to see if we are there. This brand new robotic technology was developed by Mark Roberts Motion Control and is devised to “extend the reach of Getty’s photographers” for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. MRMC’s experience lies in building robotic rigs for broadcast and film cameras, but their newest development is a prototype for a robot mount for still cameras.

The all-in-one bodies made by MCMR, dubbed the Robotic POD System, are connected via a single cable that both powers the rig and the camera and carries an Ethernet cord, hard-wiring the camera to networked computers at the venue or an Internet hub to send to an off-site Getty photo editor.

The prototype is on its fifth version and is currently being tested in partnership with Nikon, which is a bit of a shocker here considering Canon has been getting all the love at the Olympics.

Getty Photographer Streeter Lecka demonstrating the traditional remote controlled camera operation - Image by Johnny Simon of Mashable

Getty Photographer Streeter Lecka demonstrating the traditional remote controlled camera operation – Image by Johnny Simon of Mashable

Now, remote cameras are no novelty for seasoned sports photographers, however, they lack control in terms of manual focus, exposure, composition, and angle – so basically everything that makes up a picture. Pictured above is a Pocketwizard Plus III being used to transmit a signal from a handheld camera to remote secondary camera, triggering the shutter when a photo is snapped, producing two images from different vantage points.

GIF Captured By Johnny Simon of Mashable

GIF Captured By Johnny Simon of Mashable

This is where the MRMC Robotic POD system comes into play, controlled by a couple of clicks on a tablet using the POD software. According to Getty VP for Sports Imagery & Services Ken Mainardis’ interview with Mashable, Getty plans to have over a dozen of these “in the hands of their photographers at about 20 Olympic venues this summer, giving photographers shooting events more control over remote secondary cameras” allowing them to capture 360 degree views, zoom in and out of action packed events, and even trail subjects for video footage.


These robotic rigs have appeared before at The Academy Awards, another staple event covered by Getty photogs, enabling a remote editor to “follow red carpet arrivals and re-adjust the camera as needed”.

Consumers, unfortunately, don’t have the luxury of being able to own one of these ‘Robotic Romeos’ just yet, as MRMC hasn’t released any for mainstream purchase. My apologies to all the soccer parents out there vying for this bad boy to be a part of their collection, your IPhone’s will have to do for now.

All images were provided by Mashable and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge or Mashable.

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Hagos Rush

    This is actually pretty darn cool. Especially the ones that are in the pool for video and photos.I love this.

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  2. JC Montero

    We love technology… ;)

    JC Montero

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  3. Njoi Fontes

    Just to add some information, that “surface tablet” is a surface pro 4, a fantastic hybrid for any photographer. I highly recommend it to any photographer who want a extremely mobile platform for full photoshop/lightroom with the extra ability to turn into a tablet to show off photos to clients.

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  4. Paul Wynn

    Wow more confirmation that advances in technology continue to expand creative options for photographers.

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