Maintenance: Video cameras
Maintenance: Video cameras
Cleanliness is key, reports Frank Wells, when it comes to keeping camera performance at its peak
Video cameras are complex devices but, fortunately, modern cameras and camcorders are largely free of the twiddling and calibration tasks that once were essential for peak performance. Aspects that affect what the camera captures, like white balance, are largely automated and policed by the internal electronics. Camcorders now use solid state memory on cards, eliminating the maintenance required by the electro-mechanical tape-based recorders of old.
Thus, routine maintenance returns us to the familiar theme of cleanliness, starting with the lens. Video lenses, as the eyes upon the worship stage, must be kept free of dust and grime to provide a clear, sharp image for display within a house of worship sanctuary, and for sharing electronically either live or on-demand from video archives.
Keeping camera lenses clean is a relatively simple task. Cleaning kits are available that often include a soft brush along with a rubber bulb that can be squeezed to produce a burst of air, helping to dislodge dust as it’s brushed away. Microfibre, lint-free cleaning cloths are also essential in a camera cleaning toolkit, used after any major dust build-up is brushed away to further clean lenses, and to polish away any fingerprints or other smudges that can interfere with capturing a clear, crisp image. After significant use, cleaning cloths can acquire a build-up of skin oil or dust, so should be washed regularly to keep their usefulness optimised. Soap will remove the oils, followed by a thorough rinsing to remove any soap residue. In general, cleaning cloths can be just thrown in a clothes washer with laundry, though fabric softeners or other laundry cleaners that leave a residual component such as a scent should be avoided. Let any cleaning cloths dry completely before using them once again.
Should a humid environment result in dust engrained grime on a lens, cleaning liquids can be used to loosen debris for removal. Commercial window/glass cleaner can be too harsh for camera lens use; eyeglass cleaner or chemical mixes made specifically for lens cleaners are gentler and formulated to protect the coatings that are often a part of lens manufacture.
When spraying lens cleaner directly on a lens, spray bottles that produce a light, tight application of cleaner should be used. If the application of lens cleaner produces any drip of fluid, the spray that the applicator is producing is too coarse, and the solution should be sprayed onto a cleaning cloth, not onto the lens itself. Care must be taken to prevent any liquid penetration into the camera housing where it could harm electronics or mechanical components.
Lens cleanliness should be inspected regularly – a good task to add to your weekly, pre-service checklist of maintenance tasks. Don’t neglect the lenses on PTZ remote controlled cameras even when they may be mounted where the lenses are harder to get to for inspection and cleaning.
Camera housings and controls should also be kept dust free. Bulb and brush tools can be effective for removing light dust, though remember that dust becoming airborne can settle back onto the camera and lens. A vacuum mounted brush might be a better choice.
Camera controls can accumulate skin oils and other build-up from the operators’ hands. A cloth lightly dampened with water or alcohol (never dripping wet!) can remove such debris.
Most houses of worship leave cameras mounted in position so that they can be rapidly put into use. There’s nothing wrong with that practice in general, though it does leave the cameras open to dust build-up. A soft cloth bag can be placed over cameras not in use to protect against dust.
Where HOWs have interior climate control, some houses of worship economise by turning off heating and air conditioning when their facilities are not in use. In humid environments, warm, moist air can produce condensation on the outside, and even on the inside, of video cameras, which can be detrimental to long-term performance. In such an environment, a plastic bag can be placed over the camera when not in use, even when it remains mounted. The better such a bag can be sealed with twist ties or such, the better that penetration of warm, moist air can be avoided. It is best to remove the protective bag when climate control has brought the room back to operating temperature. Porous bags of moisture absorbing desiccant, such as are found in the packaging of new electronics, can be placed inside the camera protection bag to help control moisture. In extremely humid environments, it may be best to put cameras in sealed cases when not in use, also including a desiccant.
Keep it clean!
This article was first published in the November-December 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship