RaceTech – What We Do in Racing – Outside Broadcast
In the spring of 2011, RaceTech launched the very first fleet of fully HD compatible broadcast trucks in the racing industry. The first three trucks hit the road in April and May and have been working at capacity ever since. Much has been made of the technological advances made by High Definition and the considerable financial outlay that each vehicle represents, but what actually happens on a race day behind those shiny silver doors?
The RaceTech MCR arrives on site approximately four hours before racing begins. This is to allow time for all connections to be plugged in and checked and double checked, tested and calibrated as required. The cameras themselves are transported in the accompanying tender vehicle and are then carried by hand into position. The new HD cameras are about 30% heavier than previous Standard Definition cameras, so this is a highly physical task right at the start of the working day.
The MCR then ensures that communication with the Stewards’ Room, the Broadcast office and each camera position is fully functional, it is the hub of operations.
Inside the HD trucks are three discrete areas, accessed by three separate entrances. The main area is comprised of a bank of screens familiar to many – the footage direct from each camera position, including the head on, as well as screens showing output to the racecourse’s CCTV programme, as well as any other away racing and satellite and terrestrial output monitors. The director controls the make up of the television and CCTV feed and communicates constantly with the camera operators to focus on a particular horse, to pan right or left, and his/her job is to ensure that the camera operators get the best possible view of the race as it unfolds. The cut of the race is fed to RUK and is then broadcast, it is also the feed to the racecourse CCTV. It is a highly skilled and complex job – multitasking both what they are seeing on many simultaneous screens with their own running commentary of instructions to the camera operators out on the course.
For those racecourses who choose to enhance their CCTV programme with additional branding/more feature based content, there is a producer, who sits behind thedirector, whose job it is to dynamically take the very best bits for the racecourse CCTV.
Rising production standards have certainly had an impact on how racing is shown, both on satellite, terrestrial and racecourse CCTV. Slick production can make a real difference to how a day at the races is perceived, and with the latest technology, all things are possible. But of course, higher production values require additional people to make it happen and also requires much more pre-planning and organisation. This is one of the greatest challenges facing us as a technology provider – just about anything is possible, but we have to balance the use of the technology with the additional costs of roving cameramen, on board graphics specialists and additional directing staff to deliver something that makes any meeting look like Royal Ascot in the sunshine!
And of course, this is only part of the working brief of the MCR. To the right, tucked away in a small cubicle is the RaceTech Unit Manager – your primary point of contact, who is also co-ordinating the many functions of the truck as well as providing the Stewards with whatever views and shots they need of each and every race.
Entering through the middle of the three doorways the Racing UK presenter production area can be found. This area provides camera coverage of the on course presenter as well as the necessary sound and communication facilities. This service was previously provided by a small separate technical vehicle parked alongside the main RaceTech vehicle but part of the significant investment in the new HD service required that this function was incorporated into the main truck.
At the far end of the truck is the engineering team – the engine room of the whole operation, who are managing and facilitating a seamless service of sound and vision all around the racecourse. From the commentary box to the public address system, the RaceTech engineers ensure the smooth and safe running of the sound and pictures around the course on the day. With the rise in “concert nights” and other events after racing, the engineering team can help with additional speakers in marques etc but they do need some notice – rustling something up on the day is simply not feasible in these days of such high tech and sensitive digital equipment.
At the end of raceday, the RaceTech team “break down” the raceday installation, reload and stow the equipment back into the trucks and finally pull off site – often hours after the end of racing. It is in effect a “travelling circus”, back on the road to arrive at the next racecourse 4 hours before racing tomorrow morning.We would welcome any member of racecourse staff to come and have a look and understand what goes on behind the scenes so please feel free to knock on the door of the trucks and introduce yourself. Alternatively, we can arrange for a formal “guided tour” of the technology, what it does, what it can do and what it might cost, in terms of time, money and resources.