IMG brings fresh tech to C4 racing coverage

The Cheltenham Festival began yesterday (12 March), defying the snow storms that blew across much of southern England at the start of the week. The annual meet, a major part of the National Hunt horse racing season, is being shown live on Channel 4 as part of its revamped race coverage and features new camera hardware technology to bring all the action to viewers.

Cheltenham was already a fixture in C4’s racing schedule but the presentation has been reworked after the broadcaster won the TV rights to races previously held by the BBC, giving it exclusive UK terrestrial coverage of the sport of kings. The most obvious on-screen change is presenter Clare Balding, who was part of the BBC’s team and distinguished herself fronting both the London 2012 Summer Olympics (for the BBC) and the Paralympics (for C4).

Behind the camera C4 Racing is now produced by IMG Sports Media, which has brought in additional technology in an attempt to give new angles and a fresh view of the races. As part of this 39 cameras are being used round the course, with new set-ups at the water jump and two-mile start.

The most obvious innovation is the use of the MovieBird Crane, a piece of kit more usually found on film sets. During Cheltenham this will be positioned on the inside of the track at the last fence to give what C4 describes as “an unprecedented view of the final leap before the valiant uphill finish”. The crane is able to move both vertically and horizontally from three to 20 metres and is also being used for angle shots on the closing stages of 20 championship races.

A high motion camera, shooting at up to 1000 frames a second, is on hand for super slo-mo replays, particularly if there are any nose to nose photo finishes to analyse. A regular on C4’s race broadcasts for several years is The Blimp and this is again at Cheltenham to give aerial shots of the course. And, we can hope, the melting snow.

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