Grand National coverage to involve extra cameras, microphones

The horse race that turns just about everybody in the UK into punters for a day takes place tomorrow (5 April). The Grand National will be shown live in HD on Channel 4, which has increased its coverage of the event to 20 hours, with a total of 47 cameras and 45 microphones for effects and atmosphere round the Aintree course in Liverpool.

What is regarded as the world’s most famous steeplechase is the climax to the Aintree Festival, which C4 Racing has been covering since Thursday 3 April. The expanded broadcast includes new camera positions, notably a jib-mounted view at The Chair to show the jump from a low angle, plus four cameras inside fences.

Technical and production facilities are provided by NEP Visions, which has five vehicles on site, with specialist cameras from ACS (Aerial Camera Systems) and wireless devices provided by Broadcast RF (BRF).

NEP Visions’ commercial and technical projects director Brian Clark comments that “the bulk” of cameras for the production are Grass Valley LDK 6000 and 8000 models, plus some Sony HDC-1500s, which involves some colour matching and matrixing to maintain consistency. BRF is supplying 12 radio cameras, while ACS has two tracker vehicles to follow the action. Visions itself has supplied own-designed HD robo-cams for point of view shots; there are also two high speed devices for super slow motion, including a wireless model.

More unusual shots come courtesy of a Camcat wirecam rig and Panasonic HE50 minicams place, according to Clark, “up and down the course”. There is also additional coverage in the stewards’ rooms and the weigh-in area. The visual sweep is matched by an extensive audio set-up; Clark explains there are “45 microphones associated with effects”, including the ‘Wall of Sound’ – the roar of the crowd when the runners and riders get underway and later as they head for home – and mics mounted on RF cameras.

Coverage is produced through Visions’ HD 9 and HD 2 scanners, which are working with the Mercury tape truck and Extreme edit unit. Presentation is from the Pegasus truck, which Clark explains was purpose-built for production company IMG when it took over the C4 Racing contract. Other equipment includes three Avids, nine EVSs with XFiles and HDCAM decks. A feature of the coverage is the virtual finishing line, a high-tech update of the old photo-finish for when a race is too close to call in real-time.

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