Dorna up and running as Mark Marquez takes Moto GP Qatar season-opener

Madrid-based Dorna Sports has held exclusive commercial and TV rights for the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) since 1992, getting production of one of the most exciting motor sports down to a fine art. Who better to provide an insight into the series (which kicked off Sunday 23 March in Qatar) than Sergi Sendra, with the company since it took a 15-man team to its first GP in Japan.

Sendra, originally contracted among freelance TV directors developing TV guidelines for the event, has worked his way up through the ranks to his present role as TV Production Department Director, in charge of all technical and production assets, and responsible for all crew involved in producing each event’s international programme feed (the present-day media area now has a staff of almost 200).

Dorna began recording all the races and producing some events where there was no host broadcaster and, as Sendra explains, “thanks to the vision of Manel Arroyo, in charge of the Media Area since 1994 up to now, through the years we gradually invented what we called IPF (International Programme Feed), in order to standardise production, investing in material and specialised manpower.”

At the circuits, Sendra is chief TV director in IPF Control and, apart from the first Qatar date, with move-in ten days before the races, the impressive 40 tons of flight-cased equipment arrives at circuits four days in advance, ready for practice and races. The 3,000 m2 compound is divided into acquisition, processing, technical, pos tproduction, journalists, website, transmission, power supply and logistics areas.

A big contribution to Dorna’s breath-taking race coverage comes from its on-board cameras. These were used from the outset, but whereas in 1992 the system, with two cameras per race was outsourced, an average of 100 cameras are now fielded per weekend, all developed in-house.

Sendra adds, “after several years developing and testing GPS and EMU modules, we introduced gyroscopic cameras in 2010, on the tail of Valentino Rossi’s bike, to ensure unique extra value for fans’ MotoGP experience. The camera modules currently used are all designed and constructed in-house and up to four cameras are used on bikes: on the front, under the tail, on top of the tail (viewing the rider from behind) and a ‘special’, positioned according to the bike, rider and circuit layout.”

Most of the 100-plus conventional cameras at each GP are manned by Dorna staff, the remainder by external crew with in-depth motor sports experience. Each circuit needs specific track feed camera placement and new circuits’ layout takes around three years to design, then is fine-tuned year after year, depending on security, new bike performance and the search for new angles. Flickering has been a big problem using high-speed cameras in low light conditions, so Dorna’s latest developments in Super Slow Motion involve testing this type of camera for night shots in Qatar.

To ensure viewers an even more immersive experience, Dorna’s 2014 audio challenge is to offer a Dolby 5.1 feed. “No easy job, as 24-camera coverage of circuits up to 5.5 kilometres long requires at least fifty mics, but to also catch the excitement of the crowd, marshals, runoff areas, paddock, pit wall, garage noise and atmosphere, a lot more are necessary! For the first time, all audio sources converge in a single booth with the latest fibre and IP technology provided by Lawo and the help of Dolby specialists, ensuring the best live multichannel audio experience. We’ll also install and test more mics on the bikes to enhance bike sound.”

To ensure everything proceeds hitch-free when distributing worldwide via satellite to over 200 countries, there is backup everywhere — from double synchronised generators for power supply, to double or triple transmission lines to ensure Dorna’s clients never lose the main feed. “We’re making increasing use of fibre, instead of satellite, as it’s the future for multi signal, 24-hours a day use, with more quality at a better price.”

Concluding, Sendra tellis us of Dorna’s technical innovations for MotoGP 2014 “New on-board camera angles with new HD cameras; a more precise GPS tool; and new use of 3D graphic models for better understanding of the sport.”

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