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New HD SkyCam used for first time

13 July 2006

At the Dodge / Save Mart 350 NASCAR race held on June 25th at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, Fox Sport’s HDTV coverage included the first use of high data rate HD-Wireless technology combined with an extremely stable aerial platform.

Televising road races at the Infineon Raceway is a challenge due to the length and geography of the track. Wireless technology could help solve some of the issues of camera placement, but normal bandwidth limitations require that HD signals are heavily compressed, resulting in lost resolution in the fast camera pans required.

However, a small company based in El Monte, CA called HD-Wireless has managed to put together a unique system that overcomes the bandwidth limitations of delivering high data rate HD signals. At the heart of its system is an RF modem capable of delivering up to 80Mbits via a 6.5GHz link.

Al Ramirez, president of HD-Wireless explained: “With our modem we are able to multiplex several high data rate bitstreams at the transmitter and deliver contribution quality HD to the receiver”.

To prove that it works, HD-Wireless teamed up with Gyron Systems International, manufacturers of the high quality gyrostabilised gimbaled camera system and together they installed a complete 2-channel HD system into a Twin-Cessna Skymaster aircraft. With the help of their sponsors, Vegas.Com, they provided Fox Sports and HD Net producers with continuous aerial coverage for the duration of the weekend’s races.

“We were transmitting two feeds from the aircraft on a single RF channel,” explained Ramirez. “The primary feed was from the Gyron Ball that we used to track the action on the ground and the secondary was from a wingtip-mounted camera that gave the director an interesting alternative shot”.

The primary feed was set to 42.5Mbits and delivered high quality, error free HDTV signals to the production teams on the ground. Jerry Steinberg, VP of Field Operations for Fox Sports said: “The HD pictures we were able to receive live were the best we have seen from an airplane. I hope we will be able to put this system to use for future events.”

Philip Garvin, GM and COO of HDNet agreed. “We found the camera system to be one of the most stable high definition platforms we have seen,” he said. “The ability to follow along with cars on a long road course greatly enhanced our viewers’ experience.”

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