Immersed in output: Bringing new water racing championship E1 to viewers with an innovative agile camera

The Agile camera from Cross Shore Media is bringing thrilling new shots of E1 to viewers

Host broadcaster Aurora Media Worldwide has bought an entirely new perspective to viewers for the new Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) E1 World Electric Powerboat Series.

A key partner in bringing a new view to the production of E1 was camera solution specialist, Cross Shore Media. Working with Aurora, Cross Shore Media has developed an innovative new camera, called Agile, which is now being used on the specially developed E1 racing foil, RaceBird.

At the first E1 race which took place in Jeddah on 2 to 3 February 2024, the Agile cameras provided a 360 degree view or what was going on around each foil.

“We can see every boat from the other boats. That is just nuts”

Lawrence Duffy, founder CEO at Aurora, comments on the role these cameras play in the broadcast: “These cameras are absolutely sensational; absolutely amazing cameras. Instead of having chase boats – we didn’t want chase boats, which is traditionally how sailing would be covered, because they’re fuel boats and also, they create a wash, which interrupts the flow of the race boat – we developed this opportunity with Cross Shore to put these cameras on the boats,” Duffy continues. “You really feel immersed in the output when you cut to one of those cameras.”

Camera technology has moved forwards dramatically in recent years and productions like E1 are helping propel innovation. Duffy comments: “Even with the drones, I mean, five or 10 years ago we were using drones and were thinking, “wow, drones are spectacular!”. Now we use two drones [for the E1 production] and they are spectacular, but we’ve moved on again to thinking about, “what else we can do?”.”

The Agile camera is reminiscent in shape and motion of the beloved Star Wars character, R2D2

Meeting of minds

As to how this meeting of minds for the Agile’s use in the E1 production came about, broadcast and innovation director at E1, Mark Sheffield, made the introductions between Aurora and Cross Shore Media.

“The ability to pan and tilt the camera on the move in the heat of the battle just takes you… You feel like you’re in the race”

Aurora tested one Agile camera on a boat in Italy around seven months ago. Says Duffy: “When I saw it on one boat, I was like, “Oh, wow, what an amazing camera!”. Then we ordered six; we ordered as many as finance would allow us to order. A really brilliant camera.”

The Agile’s are remotely controlled, much like a point-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera, by an operator who follows instruction from the director. Aurora executive producer on E1, Mike Scott, expands on the Agile’s operation: “They are like a pan and tilt head on top of the cockpit. There was a bit of a joke they were like R2D2. But they literally do that, spinning around, and they can carry on going around and looking around.

“We can see every boat from the other boats. That is just nuts. Every other onboard camera is normally just a point of view shot that’s looking directly in one direction; this is moving with [the boats], so you can track [other boats] as they go past. It’s really quite something.

“We’ve got control of the agile from a director in London or Crawley talking to an operator in a porta cabin in Jeddah via a data stream, through a mesh network. It’s just so many little strands that we need to come together.”

Adds Duffy: “On the cutting pattern, you cut to one of those cameras and if you’re boat to boat, the beauty of it is you don’t really know what you’re going to get. If you go back 10 years, fixed onboards are necessary; you cannot do live sports production at this level with cars and boats without fixed onboards. They give you a lot, they give you an insight. But the ability to pan and tilt the camera on the move in the heat of the battle just takes you… You feel like you’re in the race. All the credit for these cameras goes to Andrew Chandler and his Cross Shore team. We just inherited some great innovation.”

Agile camera operators work with the director to get the best possible pictures of E1 races in motion

Quite something else

On the inaugural E1 race in Jeddah, Scott was live producing from an end-to-end gallery and production space in Crawley, UK, which has been specifically designed for the E1 remote production by Aurora’s technical partner on this production, Presteigne Broadcast Hire.

Scott says: “There was the director, Ben Spencer, next to me, so he was directing the cameras we had on shore – we had also a remote stabilised head on a hoist which had the AR on it, we had two drones flying around and we had all the onboards which were fixed, but then also the Agile cameras on the boats – so he was telling the Agile operators who were onsite in Jeddah what to could follow and asking them set up shots.”

Aurora also developed a specific graphic to work with the agile camera. Scott notes: “It’s like a heads-up display; you set it up so you can identify what’s going on from that boat at that time. It’s quite interesting because with the Agile cameras, you can either go forward, or can turn around and look behind, and go sideways, which is really quite something else.”

Alongside the six Agile cameras were three fixed onboard cameras per boat (Dream Chip Atom One) in different positions, two drones – one chase drone (Aerios customised FPV) and one overview drone (Aerios customised Acecore Zoe) with AR capability, one robo (Sony P50 and PowerPod600) on a 50m hoist with AR (using NEP Graphics hybrid tracking technology), one SuperSlowMotion camera with a long lens plus four RF cameras (Sony Z750) and two PTZ fixed cameras (Panasonic UE-100) in the Pilot’s Technical Operations Centre.

Watch E1 race two in Venice on 12 May

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