Inside the game: Giro d’Italia – Part One

The 94th edition of the famous Giro d’Italia was covered comprehensively by Italian state broadcaster Rai in a series of programmes that included over 200 hours of live coverage as the race threaded its way through Italy. Italian Correspondent, Robero Landini, talked to Auro Bulbarelli, Vice Director of Rai Sport and team leader on the broadcaster’s Giro coverage, about the challenges of capturing every turn of every pedal.

Since 2009 Auro Bulbarelli has been the Vice Director at Raisport delegated to cycling and after ten years in the frontline as a TV commentator, together with Director, Eugenio DePaoli, he had to chose the team destined to follow every cycling race that Rai had acquired on the two sports channels available, Rai Sport 1 and Rai Sport 2.

Bulbarelli on such matters declares: “Never in the past have we had so many hours of cycling on Rai. Actually the two main Italian historical TV broadcasts are the “Festival di Sanremo” and “Giro d’Italia”.

This year the Giro edition was completely realised internally within Rai, with the exception of the hire of the helicopters used for all broadcasts.

“The main challenge was the switch from analogue TV production to digital, along with new TV cameras, and we made a lot of efforts,” says Bulbarelli. “But the next leap is towards high definition transmission, probably within next year. But to be honest the real issue of the shooting and TV techniques in general for the Giro d’Italia – if compared to the Tour de France – are the topographic features of the landscape.

“Actually Italy is a very difficult landscape to follow along with the race and all its many segments, since the TV tech crews are constantly faced – and in the same day and even the same stage – by difficulties in handling segments on the hills, then on the mountains, and again at the seaside, often with fog, bad weather, or under a torrid sun.

The Giro is also held in May and not July, so meteorological conditions are crucial for the results and final images quality.”

In the last two or three years the big leap forward has been in the conversion of radio broadcast signals of the cameras which are now completely digitized both in the uplink and in downlink, from the studio to the helicopters and vice versa; all this was a real challenge which led Rai to make heavy investments in the coverage.

And to report every leap, a giant but modular organization was setup to follow everything, from the daily live event to the daily reports, a tech structure headed by project leader Enrico Motta, and by the producer responsible Riccardo Managlia. This machine had to be created to manage several complex needs involving a total of 20 TV cameras, slow motion, motor cycles, helicopter images, digital radio links, moving control rooms to be assembled and disassembled as required at the arrival, all amidst city roads and squares and crowds at every leap.

More technical details to come in Part Two.

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