For the TV broadcast of the Grammy Awards, which were held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on 14 March, RailCam Robotic Systems premiered the new RTS MagCam paired with a NEWTON stabilised camera head. The MagCam is a remote-controlled wheeled dolly with telescopic tower that follows a magnetic tape line on the floor. This tape can be attached or adjusted in seconds, allowing for very quick and agile installations of remote TV cameras with repeatable moves.
This year’s Grammy Awards – the 63rd in its history and hosted this year by comedian Trevor Noah – incorporated five equally sized stages arranged in a circle facing inwards, with one of the stages for presenters and the other four for performers. The TV production crew worked from the centre of the circular set, and as soon as one performance ended the next stage became active. Due to Covid-19 the show was a mix of live and pre-recorded performances as a fully live show would have involved too many crew members – but the whole show was made to feel entirely live.
Along with German partner Rail & Tracking Systems (RTS), RailCam Robotic Systems is an acclaimed provider of moving camera systems to live TV events around the world. RailCam supplies RTS-manufactured telescopic rail systems in the US, with a recent project entailing the supply of 4 RTS systems with NEWTON stabilised camera systems to the Super Bowl halftime show with The Weeknd. Then, at the recent Grammy Awards, Railcam undertook the world premier of RTS’ new remote camera dolly, the MagCam.
The RTS MagCam is a wireless remote-controlled wheeled dolly with telescopic tower that follows a thin magnetic tape line adhered to the floor. This tape can be attached or adjusted in seconds, which allows for quick and safe installs of repeatable moves along a determined path that can be made in curves, straights, circles and forks. If conditions change, it is also possible to switch to free-running mode and steer away from the magnetic path.
The new product proved to be highly practical on the Grammy Awards set, as RailCam’s Brian Sheid explained: “There were a lot of cameras in a small room that needed to keep up with very quick stage changes. A dolly on rail tracks would have been too cumbersome and would have required many timely rebuilds, but with the MagCam we just needed to tape a new strip on the floor in the path the director wanted.”
For the Grammys, the MagCam system was operated by Dave Eastwood, who drove the dolly with foot pedals and controlled a Sony HDC-P50 camera and Canon HJ14x4.3 lens with a NEWTON stabilised camera system. Eastwood also provided two telescopic camera towers with NEWTON stabilised heads through his service company, Fluid Pictures Inc, whilst a 4th NEWTON system was provided by RailCam on a Chapman dolly.
Offering further reflections on the evening, Eastwood added: “The four NEWTONs used on the show all performed wonderfully, and it’s always a pleasure to operate ours. This was my 25th year as camera operator on the Grammys, and I wish NEWTON had been around back in the day as well.”