September 28, 2010

Ryder Cup coverage to a tee

Cablecam guys: Bush and Bradley with the Skytrac HD
When the Ryder Cup players walk from the clubhouse to the first tee as Europe take on America this weekend, they will be followed by a new, custom-designed cablecam system from Bradley Engineering.

The Skytrac HD has been built for Remote Solutions, whose owner, Stuart Bush, had been searching for a suitable cablecam system for years. He bought one, but it didn't work properly and he couldn't find a suitable replacement. "I couldn't buy anything that was fit for purpose," he explained. So, he went to Bradley with the problem. Then, when he won the contract for Sky Sport's Ryder Cup coverage, development had to be pushed ahead faster.

Bush is having three of the £235,000 systems built (two are still being completed), but he intends to sell one on and had several people wanting to buy it at IBC.

Skytrac HD in postion at Celtic Manor for the Ryder Cup coverage
The sleek, "racing car" design looks good in shot, which in the Ryder Cup case is an almost 200m run. "All the others just look functional. This looks nice. It's also waterproof as all the electronics are inside. It's designed for its purpose. It's incredibly strong," he said.

"It is a dual-cable system, which makes it inherently safe for flying over crowds," added its maker, David Bradley. The wheels are bonded to the body and can't come off the cables. The coated Kevlar cables are "incredibly smooth and silent," said Bush, and even if both did break, the 4mm drive cable is even stronger (with a breaking strain of several tonnes). The system weighs only 30kg, although at Celtic Manor the tension wires are tied to a three-ton concrete block at one end – the driver motor is at the other end.

The Skytrac is very good on power. There are two V-lock batteries, which give at least two hours use – it could be three or four hours, but they are changing them every two hours just in case. The driver motor can also be battery powered (48v) if mains isn't available.

It is fitted with Bradley's new Gyro 350 five-axis stabilised gimbal (Bush is only its second buyer – the other, Flycam, Australia, is using it for a similar system). "It had to be a gyro stabilised camera, and there's nothing else light enough that could be used, or nothing as good value," said Bush.

It houses a Panasonic AS-HE870 HD camera with Canon 20x lens. "The camera was the only one at the time with HD component output, and it only cost €10,000, and the lens is short, making the most of the physical space available. And the whole package is easily remotable," added Bradley. For the golf coverage a Link 1500 transmitter, supplied by Broadcast RF, has been installed. The aerials, and a microphone, are the only things on the outside.

By David Fox

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