We all know the Tour De France: 3 weeks of cycling, big budgets, worldwide coverage by many broadcasters and online outlets. At the finish line you’ll find a media compound showing the latest and greatest of broadcasting technology and OB trucks. But what if you’re not the Tour De France? What if not the whole world will pay for the production costs? That’s when you start getting creative, and start thinking out of the box.
And that’s exactly what Avelo, a Dutch production company led by cycling enthusiast and former TV producer Flavio Pasquino did. He was tasked with producing the live coverage of the Tacx Pro Classic cycling race, for Eurosport and Omroep Zeeland. They requested a full HD production, with the same look and feel and production value as the Tour de France for a much smaller budget. No easy task? Eventually it was. This was not the first live cycling program he produced. He knew how mobile encoders with 3G and 4G modems on motorbikes could transmit perfect HD pictures to an OB van. No need for expensive RF technology still used for such productions.
That’s when he called Belgian MotoMediaTeam. A small company led by Dirk Van Laer who specializes in providing the bikes, camera’s, stabilized lenses, but also the drivers and specialized cameramen for live coverage of sports from motorbikes, quads, drones, … And they heavily rely on Mobile Viewpoints WMT line of mobile encoders. For this race it was decided they would deploy 2 motorbikes. Each one equipped with a WMT LiveLink encoder, transmitting H265 encoded HD video over 8 LTE modems and the public internet to the OB truck at the finish line. A 3rd LiveLink H265 encoder, also with 8 SIM cards, was installed inside a helicopter. A Cineflex gyro-stabilized camera mounted outside can shoot ultra-stable video from 300m up in the air.
Since this whole production was centered around receiving all the video feeds over the public internet, the internet connection at the OB truck had to be pretty good. It could not be used for anything else but the live images. No email, Facebook or YouTube on this one. This too proved to be a challenge, since the nearest internet connection was over a mile away. Finally an RF link provided the necessary internet bandwidth at the OB truck.
MotoMediaTeam’s in-house WMT specialist took care of all the preparations and worked with the OB truck provider Facility House and local internet provider to make sure everything would work together. Since a lot could be prepared before production day, it was a mere ‘plug and play’-job on race-day. After about 2 hours of installing the WMT Playouts for HD SDI decoding, it was time to put everything to the test: feeds from bikes came in picture-perfect and after some tweaking the IFB over WMT came through crystal-clear.
By the time the Paris-based Eurosport master control room put us to air, everyone was at ease this would go well. And when the first pictures from the helicopter came in, while taking off 150km away, a sigh of relief was heard. With award winning cycling TV director Martijn Lindenberg in control of the production, everything went well.
And while the winner was on the podium and the end credits rolled, this whole team of experienced broadcast technicians was convinced there are other ways to cover live sports. These mobile bonded IP encoders, combined with a crew who understands technology and sports, is able to deliver great production value at a much lower cost.
Watch the compilation video here!