May 09, 2011

America’s Cup takes TV on-board

America’s Cup yachting will get a lot more close-up coverage starting with this year's preliminary races, thanks to the fitting of 40 HD cameras on competing yachts. 

As it progresses, there promises to be at least 80 on-board HD cameras and up to 200 microphones in place for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup in 2013.

Coverage will also include what the organisers, the America’s Cup Event Authority, are calling "a breakthrough in sports broadcasting – augmented reality from a helicopter." It is claimed that this will be the first time live graphic insertions have been done from a moving platform. Thanks to GPS, the systems will be able to track each yacht to 2cm accuracy, and show exactly which boat is in the lead – something that isn't always easy to discern in yachting, especially for fleet races.

“Extreme sport lovers will flock to this new America’s Cup because of the broadcast,” said ACEA Chairman, Richard Worth. “From heart-pounding manoeuvres at breakneck speeds to capsizes that result in two-story falls for the athletes, viewers will not just see the action, they will feel like they are right in it.”

UK OB specialists, SIS Live will design, supply, fit and maintain the cameras plus a 5.1 surround sound audio mix, and the wireless links needed to carry the signals from each yacht to shore.

The new-look race will use powerful, one-design AC45 catamarans for the initial races, starting in August in Portugal to early 2012, which can travel at up to 35mph (about 56kph). Then the ten teams will design and build their own AC72 catamarans for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup in 2013.

Each AC45 is likely to be fitted with at least four remote-controlled cameras, based on Sony modules with a 10x zoom lens. These will be fitted in waterproofed IP67 standard submersible housings (built into the design of the boat so that they don't get in the way) and cabled back to a central hub. Two video feeds will be routed from an onboard mixer, controlled via internet protocol, back to shore with embedded sound.

Five of the crew on each yacht will have radio microphones and belt packs, and there will also be various other microphones mounted around the boat for the surround sound mix. SIS intends to design its own 5.1 microphones for the races to cope with the salt water.

The RF camera links will be supplied by Gigawave, using diversity receivers and MPEG-4 encoding. Links will be fitted to helicopters, chase boats, mark boats and commentator boats, as well as the competing yachts.

The AC72s are likely to have at least five movable and three fixed cameras and double the number of microphones, with radio mics carried by as many as ten sailors. As each AC72 is going to be custom designed for each team, SIS will have to work with the teams to build the cameras into the yachts.

The America’s Cup World Series begins this summer and includes 16 regattas around the world; plus the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challengers Series (July 13 – September 1, 2013), and America’s Cup Match (September 7 – 22, 2013) which will both take place in San Francisco.

By David Fox

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