[Church Production] First Impression: BZB Gear BG-Commander Jr. PTZ Camera Joystick Controller
The Commander Jr. has the function you need without the intimidating interface.
04.07.23 | BY MARK HANNA
While PTZ cameras have become ubiquitous in church production, PTZ controllers have become equally common. It’s not uncommon for even very small churches to invest in PTZ cameras. In the “bang for the buck” department, they are tough to beat; repeatable shots, multiple cameras controlled by one operator, and in many cases, they are something you can assign to a volunteer with another job. It’s not uncommon to see churches where the video switcher/director also controls some PTZs because they are effortless to use once set up. The controller is usually the hang-up. Many generic PTZs have some web control interface, or worse, a remote more suited for a TV. For many churches, that should suffice. Still, BZBGear recently released the new BG-Commander Jr., a budget-friendly, feature-rich, universal control for PTZ cameras at a price point that should make people using TV remotes for their PTZ cameras pay attention.
Built on the success of its big brother, the BG-Commander controller, the BG-Commander Jr. brings much of the same functionality to a much smaller, more affordable form factor. The layout is familiar and intuitive; the buttons are labeled and backlit. The knobs on the left side have LED readouts to indicate the value of whatever parameter the knob controls, be it RBG values, exposure, or shutter speed.
The joystick on the Commander Jr. is a two-axis joystick so that it can pan and tilt; the zoom is controlled via a zoom rocker rather than the three-axis joystick of the Commander. Focus is controlled through a dedicated knob, and the camera designation buttons and recall buttons are located on the central portion of the control. These are important for programming repeatable position recall for PTZ cameras, and replicating the same shot every time at the touch of a button is one of the reasons PTZs are so helpful. Just above those buttons is the sizeable main interface screen. There is also a 7-step speed knob to control the PTZ speed.
The Commander Jr. offers multiple command options from serial RS232 over a serial DB9 connector, RS422 and RS485 over a Phoenix terminal, and LAN over an RJ45. Beyond those connections, it works with VISCA, UDP, and PELCO P/D control protocols. Firmware updates are handled through the micro-USB interface.
Lastly, the power is supplied through a dedicated JEITA Type 4 Female Interface but has the option for POE (power over ethernet) through the RJ45 connector. While this is the standard operating procedure on most PTZ controllers, this option is crucial if the small form factor is a selling point because it allows you to use a single cable connection for everything (control and power). For most setups, this controller covers all the bases you need for everyday use.
This controller will be an excellent fit for churches struggling to find space for their tech (which means every church ever). The small size allows the controller to be used from almost anywhere. Since it’s POE, a single cable connection could handle control and power. If you don’t have room for a full-size controller, you don’t have room for multiple cables.
This small controller is a win on several fronts, one being a simple workspace. The small control interface also helps make it easy to understand, making it a perfect option for churches with volunteer operators. Extensive PTZ controls can feel overwhelming and have too many buttons and controls for all but the most seasoned professionals to handle. Commander Jr. has the function you need without the intimidating interface.
I can see this controller being handy in small churches. For instance, a small church I know had some PTZ cameras donated by someone in the congregation. They weren’t a name brand I recognized. I don’t know anything about them, but Commander Jr. is precisely the type of control I recommend. They have generic PTZs and a tiny tech booth, so a small affordable universal controller is exactly the solution they are looking for. In my experience, if there is an issue one church is struggling with, it means there are other churches with the same problem. At an MSRP of $599.00, it comes with features not found in other controllers at this price point. It might just be the solution your church is looking for as well.
With 20 years technical ministry experience, Mark Hanna now operates FxN Productions, a company focusing on creative services, training and consulting for corporations and churches. You can follow his blog at www.fxnproductions.com.