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Optical Media sails away from RF to bonded cellular for Fastnet Yacht Race

The production team opted to employ multiple LiveU field units – two on the shore and one in a camera boat on the water, moving at 15-20 knots – which delivered content straight into the production truck

For its work on the 2023 Fastnet Race, broadcast production company Optical Media chose to work with bonded technology from LiveU instead of traditional RF.

The largest offshore contest in the world, the bi-annual race begins at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and finishes in Cherbourg, France, having first ventured out into the Atlantic Ocean.

“This was our first year working on the Fastnet race,” explained Optical Media founder James Light. “We wanted to capture the full flavour to provide really dynamic coverage from the shore and the water. The latter was crucial but was also where the real challenges lay.”

The company initially considered RF technology, over and above fibre connectivity for parts of the shore-based coverage, but felt it might be cost-prohibitive alongside other complexities. “Using RF, there’s the limitations of it requiring line-of-sight and as we had cameras in many positions, this was problematic,” said Light. “Given the budget we had, to have the multiple RF systems we needed to mitigate this issue would have been unaffordable. It formed a part of our overall toolkit, but we also looked for another, more cost-effective, integrated solution.”

Instead, the production team opted for LiveU’s recently launched On-Site Production Solution. This enabled bonded wireless transmission from multiple LiveU field units – two on the shore and one in a camera boat on the water, moving at 15-20 knots – straight into the production truck.

“The LU-Link cloud service, which is at the heart of LiveU’s solution, allows the LiveU Server to be hosted within an unmanaged network,” explained Light. “This enables a quicker and more agile server set-up. Working in an environment where we have to borrow internet connectivity – which happens all the time – to have a service where you just plug in, connect the units to the server and the server to the internet and can then immediately run a full LiveU system, is brilliant. LiveU has made something complex very simple. It worked flawlessly and is very cost-effective.”

The OB unit was next to the Royal Yacht Squadron, the building where the race officers started the race. From the on-site production server, an SDI feed was output and then further production processes applied. Light said, “The thing that’s amazing is effectively having full control of a network when you’re on-site, which is incredibly rare. I can’t overstate how cool a solution this is. It allows you to go into any environment. Moving forward we see LiveU as a key partner. Sailing, in particular, is very challenging but LiveU worked seamlessly. We are always working in environments where we don’t have network control. LiveU opens so many doors for us as our rapid growth continues.”