HD RTL Belgium is creating a visual radio experience for worldwide audiences, reaching over 1.5 million listeners weekly through its network of French-language radio stations that includes Bel RTL, Radio Contact and Mint.
To do this, video content is streamed live from a set-up of robotic PTZ cameras to audiences via two dedicated TV channels, Bel Vision and Contact Vision. In the morning prime time, it also goes out on main TV channel RTL-TVI and through RTL’s website and social media platforms. Streamed at broadcast-quality, the video adds an extra layer of audience engagement to listeners and viewers worldwide.
PT Cameras and Virtual Director
RTL has purchased 27 Sony SRG-X120 pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras to record the presenters and guests in its Brussels-based radio studios. The Sony cameras are compact and have been discreetly installed in RTL’s studios, controlled by an automated studio system called vPilot designed by Mobile Viewpoint in the Netherlands. The vPilot system, using 3D scanners and running on an AI engine, acts as a virtual director, recognising and tracking presenters’ and studio guests’ motions and then using that motion to control the cameras’ movements in real time.
The 12x optical zoom lens of the SRG-X120 covers a 70° wide angle field-of-view and can capture presenters and guests working inside a fairly limited studio space. This makes it possible for RTL Belgium to produce video for broadcast without using human camera operators in any of the studios, which is more comfortable for the subjects under Covid restrictions. RTL Belgium has six radio studios and each one has a different vPilot system configured, ranging from a 3-camera up to a 12-camera system.
More than Audio
“Today, radio is about much more than audio. Video is an increasingly important part of the enriched entertainment experience, giving audiences the opportunity to see as well as hear,” says John Huybrechs, Senior Projects & Systems Engineer, RTL Belgium. “We’d been looking at other PTZ camera solutions, and the SRG-X120 scored very strongly on 4K picture quality, ease of use and NDI support. Its cost also compares well with other PTZ cameras.”
The crew can define image positions as presets, and capture the presenter's movements accurately with up to 300°/sec pan and tilt movement during preset recall. The cameras also have a Picture Setting File function that applies the same settings across several cameras. The Picture Freeze Preset keeps the image steady while the camera moves to a new preset position, which avoids awkward transitions for the viewer. A Motion Sync function blends separate pan, tilt and zoom movements together to make transitions look smooth.
Image and Interfacing
“The image quality and convenient interfacing of the SRG-X120 camera means it works well with vPilot, our AI-powered live production platform,” Mark Andrews, Global Sales Manager at Mobile Viewpoint. “vPilot automatically switches between different PTZ camera feeds by intelligently analysing images and audio signals from presenters and guests.
“The software learns from an AI engine how to recognise the cues needed to automatically direct the cameras and capture shots based on who is talking and their importance within the discussion.”
Norbert Paquet, Head of Sony Professional Media Solutions, said, “Visual radio is a major trend among broadcasters looking for stronger engagement with global online audiences. Picture quality is an essential element of this mixed approach to creating complementary media channels. More broadcasters are discovering that smart PTZ cameras can also play a role in automating programme production, without adding the expense and crewing requirements of conventional TV broadcasting.” pro.sony
Words: Adriene Hurst, Editor