Westpac Stadium Takes The Big View With Panomera
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand
Integrator, Surveillance Services, with support from CRK and Dallmeier, has installed multiple Dallmeier Panomera units as part of an ongoing CCTV upgrade at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, NZ. The recently completed solution is the first application in which Panomera has been calibrated not only to view stands in a stadium, but to cover an entire field in order to provide situational awareness during major events, such as concerts.
EVERY security manager faces a serious dilemma when trying to apply video surveillance technology to wide, deep spaces. All must make decisions about which image parameter is most important to them, situational awareness or depth of field. But for some end users there is no acceptable trade-off and a solution must be found that delivers operators situational awareness across an entire angle of view and throughout an entire depth of field. It was this paradox, highlighted by an incident at Westpac Stadium the previous CCTV solution failed to record, that drove management’s openness to a surveillance solution the likes of which has never been seen before.
According to Amirali Pirani, account manager CCTV, CRK NZ, the Panomera installation at Westpac Stadium began 18 months before commissioning.
“The first work we did at Westpac Stadium was supplying cameras for installation in the car parks,” he explains. “These worked well, and Westpac Stadium management was happy with performance. I then showed them the 4-sensor Panomera running through a VideoNet box plugged into one of the TVs on the concourse. The system came up and working straight away, and because Westpac Stadium management was interested in trying to get coverage of seating around the entire bowl, with everything always in focus and everything recorded, they gave us the opportunity show them a Panomera solution that could meet their needs.
“We used 6 Panomera units to cover the whole stadium, which was perfect,” Amirali says. “When we did the demo, Westpac Stadium management said, ‘that looks great but now we also want to cover the field (for events)’. So, we re-did the design with 8 additional Panomera units to cover the field. We then re-did the demo so management could see what the system would look like from an operational perspective once installed.”
According to Pirani, Panomera is not something you simply take out of the box and switch on – it’s a multi-sensor system you create with a design that evolves and scales to meet the demands of the application. Getting setup right during calibration is vital to ensure complete coverage after commissioning, he says. That meant plenty of involvement from CRK and from Dallmeier engineers in Germany.
“Robert Kennedy came over from Melbourne and we used a high-resolution laser scanning system to create a 3D scan of the stadium, then Trevor Joseph and James Williams from Surveillance Services spent 2 weeks mounting a Panomera unit at every planned location around the stadium bowl in order to establish the system’s exact view so we could map the image combinations that would be required.”
What is Panomera?
Before we proceed, it’s worth answering an important question: What is Panomera? The key thing to bear in mind with Panomera is that it allows objects very deep in a scene to be viewed in the same high resolution as those objects in the foreground and the angle of view can be very wide or very deep or both. At the core of this technology is the simple fact that using different focal length lenses allows a wide scene to be broken up into multiple areas, each covered by 1 camera, all of which are in very sharp focus. Fundamentally, Panomera is built around hardware and software, with the hardware being Dallmeier’s own Lowlight sensor cameras, carefully calibrated to ensure that each provides an in-focus image of a designated part of the scene.
Panomera software processes multiple image streams in real time and combines them into a mosaic – from this mosaic of footage, motion can be analysed. Dallmeier builds optical solutions itself to supplied site specifications to ensure there’s no errors built into it, making the most challenging part of the solution much easier for installers and end users. A strength of Panomera is that it’s shape is malleable – users can have rectangular or horizontal or halfway in between – that was ideal for Westpac Stadium, with its oval shape.
Importantly, powerful compression means Panomera delivers simultaneous full resolution recordings of huge scenes at up to 30ips across an entire array. While this technology has an optical heart, it’s the power of the Panomera software that brings it all together into a workable solution. That’s because the Panomera system is built on multifocal and multi sensor technology – each sensor being an individual Dallmeier camera with a dedicated focal point and angle of view.
Thanks to the Multicast capability of Panomera, multiple users can view the images from Panomera simultaneously, without requiring repeated transmission of the data via network. This reduces the necessary bandwidth significantly and it explains the centralised nature of the Westpac Stadium surveillance network with workstations in the rack supporting remote viewing stations via Ethernet.
We start out in the network room with James Williams from integrator Surveillance Services and Amirali explaining the layout of the new system. First the boys show me a new mini PC that’s just been installed in the CCTV rack to allow remote connection via 4G. It’s an addition that makes it very easy for an authorised engineer to undertake remote maintenance or adjustment of the system from anywhere in the world.
Next, I get a walk-though of the system itself, which is built around a well-optioned rack in the network room, with 4 machines supporting 4 remote workstations via Ethernet. There are 3 NVR arrays in the same rack. The management systems is Dallmeier SMAVIA, which supports the Panomeras, as well as PTZs and fixed cameras mounted inside and outside the stadium, as well as in the carpark. There’s a handful of analogue cameras handled by encoders that will be upgraded to IP cameras, and moving forward, the SMAVIA clients will be replaced by a SeMSy video management solution.
There are 14 Panomera units located around the Westpac Stadium bowl, with each 7-sensor Panomera unit carefully calibrated to cover a section of the field or the seating opposite. As mentioned, this is the first stadium in the world to cover seating and the field using Panomera – that means there are more Panomera units than usually installed in order to handle the huge increase in coverage. One of the beauties of Panomera is it means that in the stadium there’s no need for many additional cameras – coverage is complete, with some overlap, and the addition of a couple of PTZs allows the security team to look for specific details at very high resolutions – things like patrons bringing in glass bottles. A key issue for Westpac Stadium was ensuring the new solution gave coverage of the field area during night concerts – they wanted to go with the NightLine Panomera, which has strong performance in low light.
“There are 4 workstations in the rack, 1 serves the network room and other 3 others are the same PC-over-ethernet delivered upstairs to the game day control room,” Williams explains. “You can see the 3 storage servers in the rack holding hard drives – NVRs 1, 2, 3 – all the fibres from the Panomera units come into the rack – different colours for different things – workstations, servers. We’ve made it in such a way the client can pull it out and swing it around, so it has a long tail from the point of view of cabling – it’s not as tidy as it could be but it’s much easier to work on as the cabling and terminations are more accessible with the rack spun around.
“We use the IPS 10,000, which can support up to 100 channels and it can extend to a JBOD – this gives Westpac Stadium 90 days storage. We also created a switch for them – here it is on the desk – so they can switch from constant recording, which they would use during an event, to motion automatic recording on all channels – with one flick of a switch.”
According to Pirani, there’s a fibre backbone.
“All the Panomeras are linked by fibre to this backbone – this is the first stadium in NZ to go with the Connected Venues Project, which means they can deliver free Wi-Fi to around 15,000 patrons at any given time (34km of fibre supporting the Wi-Fi system – every sector has multiple Wi-Fi points),” he explains. “And the installation of Panomera was tied into that – the cablers doing the Wi-Fi also ran the single mode fibre to the Panomeras and James the installer hooked them up, each unit being powered locally as well as by local UPS.”
There are 22 LG cameras in the carparks, all streaming via wireless with WiFi links coming in on one fibre link from a local network point. Surveillance Services also changed the existing cameras to IP PTZs around the concourse – these are Uniview 20x PTZs. We have a look at a big Uniview 44x zoom mounted externally and facing back down the harbour towards the CBD. It’s very powerful and although the camera is firmly mounted on its cantilever pole, you can see movement increasing as you zoom in.
There’s a simple reason for the camera shake – it’s application specific and relates to the impact of prevailing easterly airstreams squeezing down between the relatively high ground of NZ’s North and South Islands. Flying over the white-caps of Wellington Harbour the day before, face pressed to the Airbus window, my first sense was the rugged green of circling hills, coalescing to a point in the squat, oval shape of Westpac Stadium. My second sense was the buffeting of a relentless wind. On visiting day it was blowing at a steady 25 knots, with gusts of 40 knots on exposed parts of the harbour. Geography makes Wellington a tough application for externally mounted surveillance cameras and especially tough on big-zoom PTZs.
The Westpac Stadium installation took place in March 2017 and the commissioning was completed shortly after. Same as upgrades to any existing stadium, there was an existing system in place and the cutover of this system to the new solution had to be carefully managed. Surveillance Systems handled the physical side of the installation with support from Westpac Stadium’s own cablers. While Dallmeier and CRK were not involved on the installation side, on the engineering and programming side they had a lot of input.
According to installer Williams, from Surveillance Services, there were a number of challenges with the Westpac Stadium installation.
“It’s obviously a large site and part of the complexity of this stadium is that it’s not rectangular but an oval,” he says. “This means it’s more difficult to calibrate the Panomera units because the angles of view are always variable – you can’t set up multiple units with the same settings as you might if every unit had an identical depth of field.
“Scaffolding was another challenge – moving the scaffolding around the bowl during this process was time consuming, as it was more than 5m high and had to be handled by an authorised team,” he explains. “And when we were putting the Panomeras into the bowl, there was some construction going on so there were parts of the bowl we could not work as hammer drills were creating vibration through the structure, which could have interfered with calibration.
“There was a tie in with the guys doing the power – we needed special powers supply for the Panomera units and we needed to keep them close to the power supplies. Westpac Stadium has its own cablers and they were in the process of cabling for the Wi-Fi as well as for our stuff, so everything had to be tied in and then done in stages. From the point of view of our cable infrastructure, there’s one big cable tray that goes right around the stadium which our cabling runs through. Important, too, there are cabinets and PoE switches all around the concourse, so we can add cameras very readily by connecting cabling to that infrastructure.”
Another quirk of this installation was that when the units are installed under a roof line, as they are at Westpac Stadium, they are top-mounted and don’t have the sunshade installed over them. This meant the word Panomera would not entirely visible on the housing.
“The client wanted Panomera to be clearly visible to patrons and thought it looked better aesthetically, so we needed to retain the shade,” says Williams. “This required custom cutting of grooves in the shade, so they could be bolted to the underside of the housing to ensure they would not interfere with the top mounting brackets – this was careful metal work that had to be done one unit at a time on site. I used an aluminium lathe to cut out the grooves required.”
Williams says that his side of the control room installation was not that complex.
“The cabling came in, I installed the in the racks, the cabling was terminated to the hardware and, when we were allowed to, we took the cameras off the old rack (which is still running) and patched them into the new one camera at a time,” he explains. It took a day to install the rack – the components weight a ton and the higher they need to be lifted the harder it is. Some of the units have 3 power supplies – each of the power supplies is served from a different, individual power source to give redundancy – one has a UPS. It’s a very robust solution.”
“There’s an encoder for analogue cameras in the rack and that part of the commissioning was tricky, because some of the cabling to the encoders is suspect so there was trouble connecting. The legacy analogue cabling was inappropriate – RG6 Sky TV cabling had been used – such cables are not good for CCTV as the tin foil coating causes issues. We even found an RG 11 cabling run in the system – getting BNCs for the cable was a nightmare as it’s so thick.
“The process was time consuming. You’d connect a camera and it would not appear, so you’d start trouble shooting and it’s a huge site. You’d re-crimp the terminations at one end or the other and it might work, or not. There are about 14 analogue cameras left on site and these will be replaced by IP cameras moving forward. We also replaced some external PTZs with Uniview PTZs.”
Driving the System
Operationally, Panomera is a revelation. Typically, with a wide angle view you rapidly drill into softness and pixellation but as you shoulder your way into a scene with Panomera – moving between the different focal lengths and angles of view – there’s a slight distinctive flutter in the image as you change from one camera to another then the system serves you up the perfect high-resolution image you were looking for. The result is a virtually seamless viewer that in the case of Westpac Stadium, gives profound depths of field all the way from hyperfocal distance of the first sensors to the maximum distance of the cameras calibrated for distance work.
Typically, a stadium would have hundreds of cameras for operators to navigate – comparatively, the Panomera solution at Westpac Stadium, delivers operators virtually complete coverage of the bowl from a single interface. There’s no need to manually switch cameras by clicking on tiles on screen – instead you just steer around the view using a PTZ control while the software does all the camera selection under the surface. It means there’s less need for huge video walls as you’re not showing hundreds of distracting cameras in the control room. As Pirani points out, if you put 16 cameras on any monitor, the viewing tiles are tiny, while Panomera means there’s a single scene on the screen and you just swoop in and out and around about, all the while the entire scene at full angle of view and full depth of field is always recorded.”
“The good thing with Panomera is that it takes the whole 3D image of the curved stadium, but it appears flat on the monitor and in consistent perspective despite the fact there are multiple sensors and each sensor is stitching itself to the other without distortion or loss of detail,” Pirani explains.
“The longest point is around 180m and we can get good recognizable shots at that distance. With Panomera, each sensor is looking at its own respective area and these areas are then stitched together by the software. When you zoom in it’s virtually seamless, same with panning – the process is not visible to the operators. Instead the experience is of an image stream that always stay in focus no matter what operators are doing. And of course, the same scenes with the same in-focus depths of field are always being recorded so nothing is ever lost – that’s the beauty of Panomera.”
As Pirani drives the system its intuitive nature is immediately apparent. He selects the units he wants to view, steers around them, zooms in and backs out, then spirals away to the other end of the stadium, backing out a little for context then diving in to grab individual seats underneath the corporate boxes on the far side of the bowl. As he does so I can read seat numbers. As he steers around the site it occurs to me that with Panomera Dallmeier has made individual cameras disappear.
The End User Perspective
According to Mathew Hellyer, operations manager, Westpac Stadium, the new surveillance system has multiple operational roles to play during ordinary work days, as well as at big events.
“We are a cricket oval but are multi-use and the CCTV system is about the safety and security of our stadium patrons but it’s also about our site,” Hellyer says. “We have some site tenants and there are other users in and around the facility – it’s 24 hours constant access. Given the nature of our site – it’s on a main arterial road – on a big event day it gets heavily congested and the new system also gives us great views of our entry, the street approaches and the concourse area, showing the queue length. It’s very helpful. We also now have great, constant coverage of the corporate boxes.
“And, of course, we have those big game days, which come with their challenges, as well as major concerts. Low light during concerts will add a whole new layer of challenges – the dark areas, the bright areas, the flashing lights, patrons all over the field, not only in seats. It’s meeting those big demands that this solution is all about.”
According to Hellyer, there was always an element of flying blind at past concerts.
“As soon as the lights go out you have the bulk of the crowd is on the field and you really can’t see anything at all,” he explains. “At such times you are relying on the skills of your staff the quality of the communication systems you have in place to support them. Visibility with cameras – if we can get any visibility of the field – is a bonus. In the past with the PTZs, it was pick one of many, zoom in and pan around, try to find the incident and then focus on the people involved. And when you are zoomed in it’s so easy to get lost. With the Panomera system the entire scene is always there, it’s easy to find on-screen and if we do miss something, it’s still recording in the background for later investigations – that’s perfect for us.
“When we look back at incidents we’ve had in the past, before this system was commissioned, what’s been obvious is that the lack of complete coverage impacted on our investigations,” Hellyer says. “Those incidents were the catalyst for this solution. We’ve since had another incident with an attempted pitch invasion on a game day and we were able to jump back in a few seconds and see exactly the circumstances that led up to the event. This was a great advantage from the point of view of our initial response and our subsequent investigation.”
According to Hellyer, Westpac Stadium goes its own way when it comes to managing the surveillance solution in real time.
“Operationally, we do things a bit differently,” he says. “We don’t have a dedicated security monitoring team that only runs the system on a game day – instead everyone pitches and helps as required. Our comms officer is the central person on the cameras and the other 2 workstations are supplementary. Members of the team will get on and off the system as they need to. And efficiency is a point worth making. We have found operations to be faster thanks to this system – time consuming searches are a thing of the past – if you know the general area you can zoom in and out and pan very quickly without losing context.
“Installing was a time-consuming process and there was plenty of involvement from the manufacturer. Because of the shape of the dome there were technical challenges to overcome – we needed eastern and western, and northern and southern views to ensure every single access point was viewable. To achieve this, we split the Panomera views into blocks, so if there’s an incident occurring within seconds we have eyes on scene. As you’d imagine, there was a lot of calibration during setup in order to ensure these views are right but now they are right, the system is very powerful.”
Hellyer says there was some operator training required during the transition to the Dallmeier solution.
“This is very different to the more traditional CCTV system we had with lots of fixed cameras and PTZs to navigate but we are all now very used to jumping onto Panomera, though I do notice some security team members still favour the optical zooms they are used to for certain long-range tasks.”
Meanwhile, Westpac Stadium’s facilities manager, David Royer, who wears the security management hat, says that although he’s only recently come on board it’s clear from his experience that the Westpac Stadium surveillance solution is special.
“From what I have seen this is an immensely powerful solution,” Royer says. “Looking at footage from game days it’s possible to see what the capability of Panomera is. From an operator’s perspective, you can go from the entire field almost down to a single seat without losing the clarity and sharpness of its perfect focus and there’s no pixellation. My experience in the past has been with fixed focal length lenses and this is something quite different – the level of detail is incredible.”
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