Weekly Feature



2015-12-30 / Lifestyles

Snapshots from the sidelines: Pylon cameras capture exceptional footage

by EMILY FARACCA
Reporter
EMILY FARACCA
Reporter

Since Paul Halsey’s career as a video engineer began in 1983, he has moved from freelancer, to small business owner, to inventor of a device that will be used in the upcoming Super Bowl.

In January of this year, Halsey conceived the idea of a pylon camera — an unmanned camera that sits inside the on-field pylons in the end zone.

Eight of his pylons will make an appearance at Super Bowl L, lining the field at one of the most-watched television events of the year.

With two cameras in each pylon, a total of 16 cameras will capture spectacular imagery from the game.

The cameras have been in use on CBS during “Thursday Night Football” throughout the ongoing trial-and-error process, as Halsey continues to perfect the concept.

Halsey grew up in Tonawanda and gained experience as a video engineer working for Channel 2 news, fixing its camera equipment. In 1987, he began freelancing for various television networks. He started his business, Admiral Video, in 1992.


The exclusive vantage point of the pylon camera provides an added perspective to the way football is broadcast on live television. The exclusive vantage point of the pylon camera provides an added perspective to the way football is broadcast on live television. Halsey has been working with networks such as CBS, NFL, ESPN and FOX for years. His Lancaster-based business specializes in network-level, multi-camera production. The concept of a more focused point of view, or POV, camera was formulated two years ago.

Networks have tried several ways to broadcast unusual perspectives from unmanned cameras, specifically in the sports arena. Halsey’s adaptation was based on making the concept “fast and easy.” Most notably, his POV system has captured the camera shot from between the goalposts on several television networks. Using fiber-optic cable, Halsey made it simple to pick up the signal from the unmanned camera to the TV truck. Following this innovation, Halsey worked with CBS to create the pylon camera.


Surrounding the pylon cam from left are collaborators Kevin Giesel, Scott Blair, Joel Curtin, Paul Halsey, Jack Halsey, Mark Scheussler, Gary Machniak and Ian Machniak. Surrounding the pylon cam from left are collaborators Kevin Giesel, Scott Blair, Joel Curtin, Paul Halsey, Jack Halsey, Mark Scheussler, Gary Machniak and Ian Machniak. “I looked for another thing to do with those POV systems and fell upon the pylon cams,” said Halsey.

Reliability, ease of assembly and safety are the primary concerns as the pylon camera continues to evolve in the development stages.

“You have to look at safety as the most primary concern,” said Halsey. “When a pylon is hit by a player who is flying through the air, they can’t get hurt on something that we created.” Through trial and error, the current pylon design contains as much foam and as little of the system as possible while still maintaining the quality of the transmission.

The conceptual development takes place at Halsey’s business in Lancaster. The business is a three-man operation, including Halsey’s son, Jack, who has been with the business since 2011, and Joel Curtin, a graduate of Williamsville North High School.

Curtin became acquainted with Halsey’s business through a freelance job he was working on and started there full time in October 2014.

The project moves from conception at Admiral Video to collaboration and assembly at WNR Pattern and Tool, just a few minutes down the road from Admiral Video headquarters.

Halsey has collaborated with Gary Machniak, president of WNR Pattern and Tool, for about five years. Machniak’s business has existed for 27 years.

“This wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have Gary so local,” said Halsey. “We make changes, we run over there, and he does the changes for us right away. There’s a lot of manufacturers who would take months to complete that kind of process.”

The partnership that takes place between the two companies is ongoing as Halsey continues to improve the design of the pylon cameras.

“We have big-type production stuff coming from a little company,” said Machniak.

Eventually, Halsey hopes to create a design enabling pylon cameras to be reassembled by anyone on the sideline, even a referee or coach, after the pylon has been hit by a player and knocked over.

Ultimately Halsey would like to see his cameras adopted as the standard for every game in the NFL.

In addition to POV systems, Halsey’s company also rents out an HD production truck suitable for full production of live sports broadcasts, concerts and corporate events.

He plans to stay based in Buffalo for as long as his business exists, changing the way the world watches football.

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