ACS flies over 2014 Cheltenham Festival for C4 Racing

New Tracker 2013 copyThe 2014 Cheltenham Festival has already had some high points but is now moving towards its climax, with the Gold Cup 14 March at 3.20 live on Channel 4 in the UK. C4 Racing’s coverage of the final day of the meeting has been enhanced by aerial footage from a twin-engine helicopter shot by Emmy-winning cameraman David Manton. This is the second year C4’s Cheltenham broadcasts have been produced by IMG Sports Media, after the broadcaster gained further TV rights to add to its existing portfolio, allowing it to show all the major horse racing meets, including the Grand National, Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby.

Among the new technical additions to coverage of Cheltenham was a tracking vehicle designed by ACS (Aerial Camera Systems). This is a Land Rover Discovery V8 that has had the back seats removed and replaced with racing seats to accommodate the camera mount operator, who sits back to back with the driver. ACS sales and marketing manager Antonia Wood explains that the vehicle is capable of housing two camera mounts but in this case it features a single HD Gryon stabilised mount for a Sony T950.

The Discovery is driven by a specialist tracking driver who, Woods comments, has to keep eyes on both the way ahead, over some uneven terrain at speeds of up to 40 mph, and the horses in the rear view mirror to ensure the camera is in the right position for good shots of the race.

The helicopter for Gold Cup Day is an AS355 twin squirrel, housing a HD Cinelex V14 stabilised mount for a Sony HDC-1500, which is on a full duplex wireless downlink supplied by Broadcast RF. The camera is being operated by David Manton, who heads ACS’ aerial unit and won three Primetime Emmys, two of which were for his work on the opening ceremonies of the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games.

ACS is also supplying a Superloupe Mini RF, a high speed camera able to shoot at up to 1000fps that runs over a wireless link. The connection is provided by Broadcast RF, which has also installed the infrastructure for two Steadicams, two reporter cameras, the betting ring camera and a jib rig and reporter cam to cover the starts of races. Antennas are located in many locations round the Cheltenham course, giving the opportunity to have presenters with sound and vision in most places on site.

All feeds are brought back to OB facilities from NEP Visions. The only significant absentee this year is the blimp, which was used in 2013 for additional aerial shots of the course and surrounding countryside. ACS is celebrating 35 years in the business during 2014 and, says Antonia Wood, will have “a larger provision” for C4 Racing’s coverage of the Grand National, including minicams, a second tracking vehicle with a stabilised camera arm and a CAMCAT wire system. “We’ll also be doing the Dubai World Cup at the end of March which will feature remote heads, aerials, tracking vehicles and mini cams,” she comments.

C4 Racing has expanded its online support of the Cheltenham races with the HorseTracker second-screen app, which was used for the 2013 Grand National. It allows users to choose multiple horses and get details of their speed, position and distance to the leader, following them as they race round the track. HorseTracker is a combination of Monterosa’s LViS second screen technology, real-time TurfTrax data and Civolution audio watermarking.

Commenting on the app’s Cheltenham appearance, Channel 4’s multiplatform commissioner for sport, James Rutherford, says, “Last year HorseTracker was a huge success at the Grand National with over 100,000 people using it across the race. We are excited to bring this service to Cheltenham Festival and offer both casual and regular racing fans the chance to get closer to the horses and races at this four-day event.”

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