CCU (Camera Control Unit) Operations
CCU (Camera Control Unit) refers to a range of equipment and operations related to remote control of video/television camera functions. This can include either partial or complete camera control. CCU operations are an important component in many types of television production, in particular multi-camera productions.
The person operating the CCU units is known as a CCU Operator, Vision Controller or (in some cases) a Technical Director (TD).
Partial CCU Control
This is a common method for controlling camera functions in television production. It is a professional approach, allowing for maximum control and quality.
Most of the camera functions (framing, focus, etc) are controlled normally by a camera operator, whilst certain functions (colour balance, shutter speed, etc) are controlled remotely by the CCU operator. This allows the camera operator to concentrate on framing and composition without being distracted by technical issues. At the same time the CCU operator, who is a specialist in the more technical issues, is concentrating on the quality and consistency of the pictures.
In a multi-camera production the CCU operator will usually be responsible for more than one camera (2-3 cameras is common, but up to 10 is possible). Obviously a large production may require a number of CCU operators. For example, a 20-camera broadcast could have 5 CCU operators, each controlling 4 cameras.
The picture below shows a bank of four CCU controllers which are embedded into the desk workspace in front of the CCU operator. In front of the operator are four monitors showing the pictures from each camera. These controls are relatively advanced and allow the CCU operator to:
- Control the iris, shutter speed, black level, gain, etc.
- Adjust colour balances
- Monitor and adjust a wide range of technical parameters
- Send signals to the camera operator
Complete Remote Camera Control
Since the advent of high-performance remote-controlled cameras, CCU can also refer to cameras which are completely controlled by the CCU operator (the camera itself is unmanned).
Such controllers may include any of the features mentioned above, with the addition of pan/tilt, zoom and focus controls.
The Technical Director
The Technical Director is the person responsible for setting up and maintaining the technical parameters of the production's video images. In many cases this is the same person as the CCU operator, but in any case the two jobs are closely linked.
The TD's responsibilities include making sure all vision sources (cameras, tape machines, graphic generators, etc) meet the technical requirements for broadcast, and that their outputs are consistent and stable. In older equipment much of this is done manually by monitoring video signals with a waveform monitor and vectorscope. In the digital era many of these functions are performed automatically.
Although it's not always necessary, a good CCU operator should have a solid technical understanding of how video and television works.