AJA Solutions on the Interactive Oceans Visions' 11 Expedition
The Expedition is part of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative, which is building a cabled infrastructure on the seafloor to enable scientists to better study the area. The University of Washington School of Oceanography organized the one-month Visions’11 Expedition to explore the region using specialized underwater cameras to capture 24x7 video and archive it for ongoing study, to map and create a photo-mosaic of the seafloor and to provide a range of real-time video-based educational opportunities for researchers, students and the general public.
Video Project Manager Ed McNichol is the contractor hired to design, build and run the Expedition’s video production system on the Thompson. AJA’s FS2 universal frame synchronizer/format converter is at the heart of his toolkit, along with AJA Ki Pro digital recorders and Mini-Converters.
He said, “The mission throws many, many different things at me. I need a device that can take a wide variety of formats in and do a multitude of processing that I couldn’t possibly define when I built this setup. We’re miles out at sea and I can’t run to a rental house. I need one tool that allows me to instantly step up to the challenge. The FS2 allows me to handle absolutely anything.”
The Thompson is equipped with a giant remotely-operated robotic vehicle (ROV) with two HD cameras that capture video miles below the ocean surface. The feed comes up via 5,000 meters of fiber optic cable. McNichol uses two Ki Pros for interleaved recording of the camera feeds, and AJA HD10DA Mini-Converters to distribute the signal to encode into two streams - MPEG-2 for the scientific community and Apple ProRes for editing in Final Cut Pro, archiving and streaming - both live and pre-produced, to the Expedition's website.
To ensure a 24x7 video portrait of the Expedition, in the rare moments when the ROV is not capturing, McNichol utilizes SD video of shipboard activities from the vessel’s surveillance cameras, which he feeds to the FS2 to upconvert to an HD signal for streaming. He also uses FS2 to plug in an HDMI cable from an Apple Mac mini to convert Apple Keynote presentations and output HD-SDI for the video stream. He has also uses it as back up in case of a failed embedder.
Most importantly, the FS2 protects the Expedition’s key asset – the video captured for scientific purposes. He explained, “Video from the bottom of the sea is not entirely stable. All of the devices I’m recording on will stop if there’s a break in the video signal. The FS2 is upstream of that chain, and it’s able to stabilize the signal and freeze it if it’s lost so I don’t lose any scientific data. One of the primary deliverables of this mission is the video that I record. When the stakes are this high and there are no other options, I want an FS2 by my side.”
He added, “When I was building this system, I had to work within some unique budget and space limitations. Considering bang for the buck, small form factor, and a trusted partner that’s been around for many years, equipment from AJA was the obvious solution.”