Neighbourhood Poker Tour: How do we record it?
October 26, 2007 2:49 AM   Subscribe

Custom poker table, with in-table cams, facecams, dealercam. How to build it yourself?

Me and some pokerbuddies would like to build a poker-table sort of like the ones you see on tv, with cameras in the table and on the players faces, so that we can analyse our game afterwards.

How do we build one of those on the cheap? The table won't be a problem, it's the video part we're wondering about. Where do we get the cameras on the cheap, and how do we digitise the simultaneous streams? (For about 9 players we'd need about 20 cameras (facecam + cardcam + table + dealer)).

The platform doesn't really matter, we know Linux, Mac OS and Windows, but we don't know much about the capture cards or digital cameras to use. Anyone has experience with this?
posted by lodev to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
20 cameras! Wouldn't it be more cost effective (and far less time consuming when it comes to taking 20 feeds and creating a narrative from those 20 feeds of the play of a single hand) to have, say, five cameras focusing on the players, and an agreement that each player records their hands honestly as they are dealt in a notebook you can use as a reference later?

If the objective is to analyze your game and your poker face, isn't it overdoing it a little to have hole card cameras? In a hand that takes three minutes to play, the narrative you'd construct with those 20 feeds might make use of no more than four seconds worth of footage from all nine of those hole card cams combined.
posted by peacecorn at 3:33 AM on October 26, 2007

Even if you do go the whole hog, you wouldn't really need a single face cam per player. You'd just need 4 cameras, one covering each quadrant of the table, in order to cover the faces of everyone playing. As lodev says, just managing all that footage would get pretty damn tiresome otherwise.

While your idea appeals to me greatly, the more I think of it, the more impractical it seems. Each hand would generate mountains of footage. An evening's poker will result in an eternity of video shot. Nobody will want to edit it after the first hand, so it will remain unwatchable.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:30 AM on October 26, 2007

Oops. That second line should read 'as peacecorn says'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:31 AM on October 26, 2007

I agree that dealing with footage from 20 cameras is going to be a nightmare.

If you're fixed on a 20-camera setup then a better idea would be to have two or three video recorders and an operator (the dealer perhaps?). The operator would be responsible for switching between cameras and recorders.

Before the deal they switch to the dealer cam. Once that's finished they quickly flick through the individual card-cams. Then once a few players are out they start flicking through the appropriate player cams. I think this would produce a more manageable amount of footage - if you went down to only one recorder then you would be effectively editing on camera.
posted by alby at 5:24 AM on October 26, 2007

I agree with the above comments, and have an additional suggestion: instead of having a different camera for every single player's hole cards, have one window in the center of the table that each player slides his/her hole cards over at the start of each hand. A bit time-consuming, I know, but it would eliminate the hours of irrelevant, empty footage that nine hole-card cams would generate.
posted by googly at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2007

I agree that 20 is a lot of feeds. How about three face-cams, one each per group of three faces, and then two extra cams for the top and bottom of the table. The bottom cam would record everyone's hole cards (as googly suggested) and the top cam (ceiling) would record the flop/turn/river/ cards (and serve backup by also recording hole cards that are flipped at the end of each round).

But if you insist on 20, don't stop there. Get blood pressure and heart rate monitors for each player too, so it can be graphed and displayed with the video during post-game review!
posted by mbatch at 7:44 AM on October 26, 2007

I'm not sure about sliding all the cards across a single cam. Poker is a game of position, and how you play a hand very much depends on what position you're in. Given that, it's hard to see how you wouldn't need nine cams -- plus a cam for the the community cards -- not so much for the dealer though. Have you thought about how you intend to:

a.) link the hole cam to the player, and
b.) track the hands in relation to the blinds for each hand
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:28 AM on October 26, 2007

as has been said, you will never edit this footage if you attempt to edit this in a traditional way. (hell, most people are too lazy to edit footage from a single camera for an event that lasts less than one hour.)

you need to think about real-time editing. you could do it live with someone switching camera shots and only recording a single stream. But if you buy a security camera capture card and can record 16 streams at once, you could switch views in real-time. So, after the game, you sit down with your buddies, and go through it. You show the overhead shot, then once cards are dealt, you show all the hands at once (picture-in-picture?), then move around the table following the betting. And if something is interesting, you can backup and get different views. It would be collaborative editing - and certainly much more fun than editing (and syncronizing) 24 hours of footage.
posted by kamelhoecker at 12:48 PM on October 26, 2007

But if you insist on 20, don't stop there. Get blood pressure and heart rate monitors for each player too, so it can be graphed and displayed with the video during post-game review!

Great idea!

Okay, maybe 20 cams is a bit much.. But the question remains the same for, say, 5 cams. Good ideas on the editing, kamelhoecker.

I'll look into security cam solutions, an obvious route we hadn't exactly tought of yet.
posted by lodev at 2:39 PM on October 26, 2007

One more idea: Ultimately, you don't need separate cams for each pair of hole cards and the flop; you only need one camera that captures the cards that are dealt. If you position one camera under the dealer's station, then the dealer just has to slide each dealt card over the camera and you can easily recreate all the hands. A bit of a pain in the ass, yes, but less so than plowing through reams of footage from multiple cameras, and easier and cheaper to set up.
posted by googly at 8:47 AM on October 27, 2007

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