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  • Three-CCD Camera Captures Novelty Images

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2001
Brent D. Johnson, Senior News Editor

For several years, amusement parks have been snapping photos of thrill seekers as they take the plunge on rides with names such as Traumatizer, Mind Eraser and Oblivion. The expressions of glee or terror captured in these prints make popular souvenirs.

High resolution is what sells digital images to thrill seekers at amusement parks, but shooting a roller coaster also requires fast frame rates. In an attempt to encourage more sales, one system integrator turned to DuncanTech for a solution.

Kevin Jackson of Jackson Digital Imaging has several photography installations at Dollywood Smoky Mountain Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Jackson is the designer and manufacturer of the Thrill-Pix system, a digital network package that allows park operators to rapidly capture, process and print images as patrons exit the ride.

As the roller coaster drops from the top of the 170-foot Tennessee Tornado, a digital camera captures a full-color image and stores it in a computer. At the end of the ride, the images appear on an array of eight monitors. Thrill-Pix software performs noise filtration, saturation, scaling, cropping and close-ups. If a guest likes a picture, the operator simply hits an icon on the keyboard to produce a print.

Jackson's operation had used a single-chip DVC 1300 camera that had plenty of speed at 12 fps, but he needed better resolution, which is the key to selling prints. He said that plenty of cameras have fast frame rates, but that they just don't provide the quality required to produce 5 × 7- and 8 × 10-in. prints or larger posters.

DuncanTech's MS3100 three-CCD camera gave him what he needed at 10 fps and 1392 × 1040-pixel resolution: 4.3 million pixels of data.

"I don't know that there are any similar cameras," said Jackson, when asked to compare its performance with competing models. The MS3100 will replace the DVC 1300 and the Sony ST5. He said he will continue to use the Sony camera -- which has a slower frame rate -- on the park's log ride.

The only drawback to the system is that a computer must be near the digital camera mount. In this particular case, that means exposing the computer to a hostile environment 170 feet up on a wooden ledge, which makes for difficult maintenance. The camera's light settings also need to be adjusted throughout the day as lighting conditions vary.

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