Motor racing fans love the excitement of being in the thick of the action. The creators of the VW FunCup recently used Open Broadcast Systems’ small form factor encoders, to transmit in-car video to increase engagement and give something back to their participants.
Conceived in Belgium in 1997, the FunCup was created as a more accessible way for racing enthusiasts, amateur drivers and professional racers to experience motorsport safely. There are national qualifiers on various racetracks in Belgium, the UK, France and Spain among others, with all races culminating in an exhausting endurance rally lasting an incredible 25 hours. The VW Bugs themselves are all race designed single seaters, with race brakes and adjustable suspension – each car is identical in specification, creating an dramatic and fun racing environment.
Having organised the event for 20 years, M3M was looking for ways to create an even greater level of engagement for its top tier participants, as well as examining ways to diversify its revenue stream. M3M decided to create the option of a live stream from inside a participant’s car. This would give the racers themselves the option to share the stream with friends and family, creating a thoroughly bespoke, VIP experience.
The Challenges of Live Streaming Fast Action
M3M enlisted the help of Cyanview, and its expertise at remote camera shading, to enable live, multiple streams of the event from inside one of the cars during the race as an additional paid extra. Due to the various levels of network coverage at multiple track venues, along with the difficulties of recording in a car moving at speed for several hours, it was initially challenging to create a good quality live stream. Another issue the team faced involved charging the recording equipment. Valuable battery hours were lost while the cars were between races as the cameras could not be accessed. There were also considerations such as the humidity and heat inside the car as well as track vibrations which inevitably impacted on a successful live stream.
Cyanview had previously worked with Open Broadcast Systems and felt that the company would be able to rise to the challenges involved with live streaming from inside a moving race car, whilst still maintaining the high standard of stream expected from paying customers.
As Xavier Deschuyteneer, head of R&D at Cyanview explains, “It doesn’t matter if it is ‘amateur’, the quality of the stream must be there. Clients have the same expectation as a Formula 1 race. If you lose one image, one action, you lose the interest as people are used to high quality.”
The Race to the Finish Line
In utilising the Open Broadcast Systems NUC encoder alongside its RIO unit, Cyanview was able to remotely control the on-board cameras via 4G and access the streams from anywhere in the world. This proved to be an ideal solution, not only for the challenges unique to the FunCup, but also as a way to decrease costs by facilitating a remote workflow. A software-based encoder provided a better quality of stream than previously, and the NUC unit was powered by the same voltage as the VW cars – not only increasing coverage of the races as there were no battery life issues, but it also negated the need for a further power source, freeing up valuable room in the single-seater cars.
During initial tests performed in the qualifying track races of the Fun Cup rally, Cyanview noted that there was essentially no interruption in the stream coming from the cameras and not a single frame was dropped. Participants in this trial also found the ability to log-in to the RIO unit to check diagnostics helpful. Previously, once the endurance races had begun, adapting or amending recording equipment was next to impossible without dropping valuable race time from a lap.
Creating greater value and greater visibility
After the success of the first test but while still in a proof-of-concept stage, M3M invested in five NUC units for five cars. The team then went on to install three cameras in each car – one on the front, one on the back and one in the driver’s view. Initially advertised to create a thoroughly VIP experience for the FunCup participants, for an additional fee, M3M was able to stream the races using AWS with Zixi as a bonding solution.
However, M3M was surprised to discover that the option of a live stream solution was something that appealed across all tiers of the racers and not just those from the VIP product tier. Whilst it obviously added value to be able to share the video link with family and friends, it could also be used as a diagnostic tool to improve racing, fostering a closer working relationship between teams as they could study the footage afterwards. It would also be beneficial from a safety aspect, in the unfortunate event of any accidents on the track. The delay between the live event and the stream was not only minimal, but it was also configurable – something which was also helpful to Cyanview and M3M for race legislation.
After testing, M3M remains impressed with the quality of the stream, which will enable the M3M FunCup to become more visible and profitable with this added capability.
Deschuyteneer sayd “[Open Broadcast Systems’] solution allows us to make the competition streamable and making it streamable makes it more marketable. It puts you inside the race, the noise and action… it is like being in an action movie, but live, making it really engaging. The solution provides broadcast quality in a compact and affordable package.”