How to update a Skyhawk endzone camera to HD video

The unfortunate thing about the Skyhawk endzone camera is that you spend all that money for a really bad, sub standard video camera and it’s completely self contained which means you can’t upgrade the camera. With how inexpensive HD camcorders are and how fast camera technology improves…this rig was not designed very well, considering how much it costs ($8,000+). If you bought one of these rigs, don’t feel to bad…it was a great rig 5 years ago, but oh how technology changes. I’m gonna help bring you into the world of HD video. If you think it doesn’t make a difference, then you’ve never done HD before and I strongly encourage you to join the real world. HD makes a HUGE difference and is the standard we all now live by. Last year I implemented an HD endzone system and before my O-line coach even saw it he thought why does it matter. Now he doesn’t know what he’d do without a great HD tight copy and he’s been checking in periodically with me to make sure our new rig get’s done.

The team I coach for had this rig, so I was both excited to have an endzone camera, yet disapointed about the quality of video produced. Here at VidSwap.com we support and strongly encourage HD video, so I set out to see if I could retro fit the Skyhawk with an HD camera, rather then buying a brand new rig completely.

Unfortunately the only part of the entire rig you’ll salvage is the pole itself. I ended up taking off all of the self contained electronics , cables, and control board because they were designed specifically for their camera (which is no different then a security camera you might see on the ceiling of any retail store). With that in mind, here we go…

Here are the parts you’ll need, which can all be found on Amazon.com and B&H Photo:

1) Bescor MP101 video motorized head , $129.95

2) Bescor 50′ remote extension cable, $36.95

3) 7″ LCD monitor, $183.21

4) Monitor mounting clamp, $22.99

5) 50′ HDMI Cable, $34.95

6) HDMI coupler, $14.38

7) Kata Video Rain cover, $39.99

8) 50′ LANC cable, $34.14

9) 1/4″ tripod mount screws, $6.35

10) Sony Remote commander, $39.99

11) 4″ zip ties

12) 1/4″ quick link

13) 3/8″ spring link

14) electrical tape

15) 4″x 8″ wood board, that’s either 1/4″ or 1/2″ thick

16) Velcro strip

17) 1 plastic chess pawn

At this point, your total cost is roughly $500-600…without a camera. You’ll need to use an AVCHD camera with a LANC connection. If you need to purchase a new HD camera, I personally recommend Canon’s and they just came out with a great new line that records directly to 720p MP4 files, making upload and playback really easy.

18) Canon Vixia HF M500, $549

19) Canon BP-727 battery, $108.87

20) Lens hood, $9.80

21) Canon LANC adapter, $84.95

22) 16 GB SD card, $14.24

Now’s let’s go through how to put this contraption together (a picture gallery is also located below):

1) Take off the helmet and camera from the top of the pole, you’ll need a socket wrench to do this. There are 3 pieces to remove…the helmet, the camera, and the mounting bracket on top that connects the helmet to the pole.

2) You’ll notice the top of the pole has a nice flat surface with 2 mounting holes. This is where you can mount the motorized camera head with a 1/4″ tripod screw. The camera will mount directly on top of the motorized head just as it would on a tripod. I included a rain cover in the needed parts and you’ll almost always put that on…just in case. As you know, to get the camera down the entire rig has to be tipped over so you wouldn’t want to have to do this during a game if it starts to rain.

3) Now you’ll want to bundle all of your 50′ cables together using a combination of electric tape and 4″ zip ties. Make sure you have all the male ends on one end, and the female ends on the other end. On the male ends that plug into the top of the pole, camera, and motorized head, you’ll attached the quick link to the cable bundle with zip ties, then tape over them…give yourself a good foot or so for where you attach the link. The spring link then clips right on and will be used to clip to the old XLR hole near the top of the pole. This keeps unwanted pressure off the camera so it can move freely without the cables restricting it. The HDMI coupler is used to connect the 50′ HDMI cable to the 1′ HDMI cable connected to the camera.

4) Now you can pull out your carpentry skills and cut a 4″x8″ board. This board will be used as your control board for the pan/tilt and camera’s zoom & record. You’ll then cut a 1.5″ x 1.5″ square roughly an inch inside the top right corner of the board. You’ll want to use a hand power sander to smooth out all of the edges and sides so it feels nice in your hands.

5) Take the velcro strip and attach to the left side of your control board. Take the other side of the velcro strip and attach to the bottom of the motorized head controller. The motorized controller now velcro’s on the board, in the position you prefer. Now you can clip the Sony LANC controller into the square that was cutout of the top right corner. Lastly you’ll want to super glue that one chess pawn to the top of the motorized head controller button. You don’t have to do this but I have found that making it a joystick makes it much easier to control then without it. You now have a custom control board that fits in the palm of your hand just like a game controller.

6) Lastly, take the monitor mount clamp and screw into the 7″ LCD. This allows you to mount the monitor anywhere.

I’ve skipped a couple of assumptions like connecting the cables to the devices but that is fairly straight forward and if you’ve made it this far…you don’t need my help with that.

VidSwap.com is a web-based video editing and analysis application for sports organizations, specializing in game exchange, video sharing, and game analysis. We serve HS, amateur, college, youth, and pro teams.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the article. Great idea and we are in the process of trying this. I was wondering given the +- 15 deg tilt angle, does it still allow you to set the camera up with 10′ or so of the goal post? The tilt angle seems limited but obviously you have done this. I wanted to understand before we purchase more of the parts… Thanks!

    1. Hi Brad,

      Yes the tilt angle is not great. We end up putting the rig about 15-20 yards behind the goal posts. Also, the Canon camera I recommend needs the mini hot shoe for the lanc which Canon discontinued, so you may need to consider a different camera if your looking for that too.

      Check out this post about a wireless option:
      https://blog.vidswap.com/2012/12/19/how-to-make-a-wireless-remote-controlled-hd-camera-for-football-basketball-soccer-hockey-and-any-other-sport/

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