Live coverage of the America’s Cup looks set to be revolutionised with the introduction of 40 HD cameras on the competing yachts in this year’s race, culminating in at least 80 on-board HD cameras and up to 200 microphones for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup in 2013, writes Adrian Pennington.
The special cameras team of UK supplier SIS Live landed the multi-million pound contract from the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) to design, supply, fit and maintain not only all of those cameras but a comprehensive audio mix planned as 5.1, as well as all RF links required to route the signals to shore.
The race itself has been revamped and will see new classes of yacht, said to be more powerful, more demanding of the crews and faster than anything seen at the America’s Cup before.
The AC45 catamarans will be raced from July and into the first months of 2012 and are of identical design. Then the ten teams will design and build their own AC72 catamarans for racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup in 2013.
SIS Live is currently preparing to outfit each AC45 with four ‘agile’ remotely controlled cameras. Five sailors per boat will be fitted with radio mics and belt packs in addition to an array of deck mics and FX mics for a planned surround sound mix.
SIS is also supplying RF links, purchased from UK radio link specialist Gigawave, for helicopters, chase boats, mark boats and commentator boats, as well as the yachts themselves.
SIS plans to design its own 5.1 mics for the project to counter the corrosive impact of salt water.
The camera design is also bespoke and built from Sony modules fitted with a 10×1 zoom cabled to a hub in each boat. They will be waterproofed in IP67 standard submersible housing. Two vision feeds per yacht will be routed from an onboard mixer, controlled via IP, back to shore with sound embedded as an ASI stream.
Since the races and regattas are being conducted in large marina or harbour areas there will be a distance of 5-7km from boat to shore making land based signal reception practical.
“We’re fitting camera positions into the design of the boat so that they don’t get in the way of what the yacht’s crew needs to do,” said Paul McNeil, Manager, Special Cameras, SIS Live (pictured).
The AC72’s will feature five agile and three fixed cameras and double the number of microphones including radio mics carried by up to ten sailors. The boats will be anchored in harbour, which will facilitate maintenance.
“The advantage of working on the AC45’s is that the design is the same for each team and the camera positions will be identical. When we come to work on the AC72 yachts we will have to work with each design crew to locate cameras and mics.”
SIS Live’s team has a distinguished track record in pioneering specialist camera technology. Formerly the special cameras unit at the BBC until acquired by SIS in 2008, it built the world’s first motorised HD Plunge Camera for the Asian Games 2006, cricket’s first stump cam and the Post Cam, a remotely-operated 360º panning camera that provides enhanced coverage of rugby. It also designed and built HD cameras for the Olympics sailing event in Beijing.
“On the RF side the design for the Amercia’s Cup will be similar to China, drawing on the same ground based diversity receivers on land based sites, but as technology moves on we’re aiming at an MPEG4 system to enable even better reception,” said McNeil.
Gary Lovejoy, Head of Media Production, ACEA, added: “We are transforming the television coverage of the America’s Cup to make it more comprehensive, more dynamic and more engaging for our viewing audience. We want to enable viewers to feel like they are on the boats – feeling the power of the waves, seeing the split-second decisions being made, seeing these athletes in action – so on-board cameras are a key part of our strategy.”
The three-year contract covers two America’s Cup World Series, which begin this summer and include 16 regattas around the globe; the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challengers Series held July 13 – September 1, 2013 in San Francisco; and the America’s Cup Match to be held September 7 – 22, 2013 in San Francisco.