Canal+ innovates for France’s Top 14
For the match between Stade Français (Parisian club) and RC Toulon that took place in the brand new stadium in Lille on March 31, Canal+ achieved innovation on two distinct fronts. Firstly, it filmed a match from the Top 14 elite French rugby union competition in a covered stadium for the first time. Secondly, its production represented the first occasion on which the pay channel used a camera mounted directly on the main referee.
The RF system and the microphone were placed in a vest worn under the referee’s shirt. The mono CCD Full HD mini camera was attached to a headpiece placed on top of the referee’s head.
The system was conceived and designed by the teams under the direction of Tony Valentino, the technical director at the London office of the American company BSI.
“Canal+ has always sought to offer TV viewers the best possible coverage of sports for which they have the TV rights. Now, more than ever, we would like to be at the heart of all our sports action,” explains François-Charles Bideaux, director of sports production for Canal+.
The RefCam (referee camera) has already been used in the southern hemisphere but never before in France. In addition to sharing the referee’s point of view there is also a microphone that enables spectators to hear conversations between players and colleagues pitch-side.
“For a Top 14 match we have about 15 camera sources with a beauty shot feature and sometimes a Spidercam. With a RefCam we can go even further. It’s really interesting to have the referee’s point, of view especially for the scrum engagements, as he is probably the only one closest to the players. It’s the first time a camera is present on the pitch during a match,” continues Laurent Daum, producer of the match for Canal+.
The RefCam coverage was used mainly during stoppage times and for slow motion shots while the ref was moving. However, a replay in real-time where the ref can be seen running behind the players until they score a try was much appreciated. Watching (former international English player, now Toulon team member) Wilkinson’s goal-kicking and following the movement of the ball from the referee’s point of view were also some of the highlights of this debut. Lack of time to adjust camera settings resulted in a part of the referee’s forehead, left eye and nose being visible at the bottom of the screen. It was a subject of discussion for Bideaux and Daum, who finally decided not to change anything for the second half of the game as in some way these teething problems became a sort of visual signature of the RefCam.
In the near future, Canal+ reveals that it will be proposing a second screen application (for tablets and smartphones) for rugby. This app will be very similar to the one already in use for football.