A Minnesota Company Makes a Video Camera in the U.S.A.

A Minnesota Company Makes a Video Camera in the U.S.A.

Vaddio manufactures a specialized high-end video camera—in Minnesota.

A video camera made in the USA? A New Hope company makes the only one.

The company, Vaddio, sells and distributes PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) digital cameras used in broadcasting, videoconferencing, and other audio-visual applications. Vaddio also manufactures and distributes mounting hardware, cabling, and camera-control units that help make PTZ cameras produced by companies including Sony and Canon easier to install and use. These video cameras can be operated remotely, either singly or in a group. Customers include businesses, churches, schools, and courtrooms.

In April, Vaddio unveiled its ClearView HD-18 PTZ camera. Most PTZ cameras use CMOS (complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor) image sensors—higher-end CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors tend to be more expensive. While CMOS sensors can bring the cost of a digital camera down, they typically produce lower image resolution, particularly in low-light situations. CCD sensors can produce high-quality images in any kind of light. To create a more affordable high-definition PTZ camera with a CCD sensor, Vaddio developed the camera’s software in house, thus eliminating licensing fees, additional development costs, and re-engineering that camera makers face when licensing third-party software.

The company that produced the ClearView HD-18 was cofounded in 2003 by Rob Sheeley. After working in marketing and product management at RCA and Honeywell, he formed Minneapolis-based Acoustic Communication Systems, in 1987, to sell videoconferencing systems. He later founded Acoustic Components, which sold furniture for videoconferencing equipment.

In 1998, Acoustic Communications merged with specialty camera company Videolabs. Sheeley focused on developing products for use in educational, government and corporate settings. The merged company was acquired by Utah-based conference-systems provider ClearOne Communications in 2002; Sheeley departed six months afterward.

Sheeley cofounded Vaddio with former Videolabs international sales manager Tom Mingo to sell PTZ control systems that had been developed at Videolabs but which ClearOne had no interest in. Six months later, they launched their first product, the Control View, which allowed classrooms to automate for videoconferencing.

This soon led to lucrative partnerships with Sony and Canon. When these camera makers decided to take a pass on Vaddio’s idea for developing a high-definition CCD camera, Vaddio developed its own and manufactured it at the New Hope headquarters. Vaddio now has two other PTZ camera designs in the works while continuing to distribute Sony and Canon products.

Since its inception, Vaddio has grown from three employees to 35, with 2009 revenue expected to hit $24 million. The plan is to make that $50 million over the next three years. Vaddio currently has 1,350 distributors in North America and an international distributor in the Netherlands.

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“A lot of businesses are using YouTube now to post information for consumers,” Sheeley says. “And they’re using our equipment to create that content.”