Nikon WT-4 Wireless Transmitter in OyOy’s South Beach PAT Studio
This post traces the development of the solution to have live images as the shoot progresses presented on an HD screen in my Miami-South Beach PAT Studio for the creative team (makeup, hair, wardrobe, art direction, etc.) to review – especially at the start or at checkpoints during a shoot.
The solution allows for real-time copies of in-camera images – from up to 5 simultaneous bodies or shooters – to be copied to a share point on the studio WiFi computer network, while all normal in-camera images and backups remain on the high speed in-camera data cards for normal post-production workflow, backup and redundancy.
A dedicated ThinkPad laptop computer is configured to monitor the share point and manipulate the queue of images received across the network, and uses an external Samsung large screen HD television as an extended monitor to display thumbnails or quick edits of images transmitted to the creative team.
The discussion below discusses the design, evolution, and implementation of the solution.
I have been sorting out a new solution for “checkpoint” viewing of images by the creative members of the production support team for my PAT Studio in Miami-South Beach.
Makeup styles and techniques, hair and skin treatments, even wardrobe issues all merit a look on the HD monitor in-studio as a control before the actual shoot begins, and sometimes during a shoot as modifications are made.
This allows answering questions such as: Does the makeup foundation match the underlying skin tone? Does the lighting technique accurately display the intricacies of the garment and fabric? Do the accessories in the image show sufficient detail and brilliance? Difficult questions to answer from the on-camera monitor.
The problem is how best to quickly and accurately get the in-camera image to the monitor and allow view of actual on-set images and quick manipulations which conform to post-production workflow techniques?
We looked at propositions from a number of vendors (including all the usual suspects), but for various reasons decided to remain with a native Nikon solution.
The key hardware component of the solution includes the Nikon WT-4 wireless transmitter. This device essentially connects the camera body and transmits images – as they are taken – across our LAN network (either WiFi or via cabled Ethernet) to a share point on the network.
Some key reasons for this solution:
5 – the number of discrete camera bodies that can simultaneously be transmitting images to the central control point for review. This means that more than one – and up to five – separate camera bodies can be simultaneously updating the central image queue. OyOy often uses more than one camera body, but with the addition of second or assistant shooters doing backstage or behind-the-scenes, the client or art director can view simultaneously all creative output either on-set or backstage.
Wireless – the ability to transmit images via WiFi wireless provides important flexibility, particularly for range or distance issues.
Speed – the option to connect via cabled Ethernet cable offers important high speed options to comparatively lower speed WiFi connections.
Reliability – again, the option to shoot ‘tethered’ (WT-4 and camera body directly cabled to nework) via cabled Ethernet connection is clearly more stable, reliable, and faster than WiFi network connectivity.
Understanding the Nikon WT-4
The WT-4 is a transmission device – it has an antenna for WiFi connection to a network, and an Ethernet port for cabled connection to a network.
However, the WT-4 has no real intelligence. It connects to the Nikon camera via USB cable, but all configuration settings are in the camera. The WT-4 itself is essentially a pass-through device.
The WT-4 has 1 GB of internal memory. This serves as a buffer for images being transmitted across the network, and also serves up the thumbnails of images as they are captured. This memory is managed from the camera, with normal operations such as ‘format memory’ done from the camera menu interface.
Although the WT-4 may be used in a number of ways, my use is in the Thumbnail Select mode. This allows near-realtime thumbails of shoot images to be viewed on a computer n the studio, selecting and pulling full size copies as desired. Management of the images during a shoot remains in-camera however – I did not want to change the normal image file management from the primary and secondary in-camera memory cards.
Configuring the WT-4
It may seem odd, but configuring the WT-4 has nothing to do with the WT-4 equipment. You do all the configuration for the WT-4 in your Nikon camera body. There is no configuration to be done on the WT-4 itself (it is either on, or off and either connected or disconnected from the computer network).
This brief resume of steps is to add a new network connection to be used by the Nikon camera with the WT-4.
- Install the WT-4 Configuration Utility software using the CD that came with the equipment onto your computer, and be sure to select the option to install the Thumbnail Select viewer software.
- Start the WT-4 Configuration Utility and immediately go to Help-Check for Updates and load any updates from Nikon
- Get your exact and detail WiFi login credentials (the login, password, security scheme for connecting to your wireless network)
- Prepare to connect the Nikon camera body which will be connected to the WT-4 (camera body with charged battery, USB cable to connect the camera to the computer) but do not turn it on yet
- Start the WT-4 Configuration Utility software and select
- Connect the camera to the computer via USB, turn the camera on when prompted
- Follow the wizard to manually set up a new Ethernet/WiFi connection with your LAN and WiFi details.
Start and Connect the WT-4 to the Network
It is important to start the camera and WT-4 in the correct sequence of steps for Thumbnail Select mode.
- Turn off the camera and WT-4 and install fully charged batteries, or connect to a mains power source.
- Cables – connect the camera to the WT-4 by USB cable; if using Ethernet, connect the WT-4 to your Ethernet network.
- Turn on the camera
- Choose “Thumbnail Select” mode for the WT-4 in the camera setup menu and choose your network connection in the list of networks
- Turn on the WT-4
You may now view the network connection status of the camera and WT-4 on the camera.
Cabling and Connectivity in the PAT Studio
This diagram shows the cabling and connectivity of the solution I chose to use in the PAT Studio.
Viewing Shoot Images
Starting Thumbnail Select on your computer will give you the option to discover a WT-4 and camera across the network. Keep in mind that the software allows simultaneous connection of up to 5 cameras (each with a WT-4 connected of course).
The thumbnails are generated and stored on the internal memory of the WT-4, and displayed on the computer in the Thumbnail Select viewer software.
To view an image full-size, click the check box on an image and then select to “Start Transfer”. The full image will be brought across the network.
In the PAT Studio the images are transferred to a watched folder where very basic and elementary initial editing is automatically performed (contrast, sharpening, etc.) and displayed on a large HD screen in the studio.