Maglia rosa: EMG Italy on managing the logistics and technicalities of the 2024 Giro d’Italia

Tadej Pogacar from UAE Team Emirates at the finish line of Prati di Tivo – stage 8 – at the 2024 Giro d’Italia [Photographer Marco Alpozzi]

At this very minute, over 150 men in lycra are pedalling furiously through the stunning Italian countryside in an attempt to win the 2024 Giro d’Italia. Known as the maglia rosa – or pink jersey – this race is taking competitors through olive groves and up mountain ranges, with only the strongest and most tactical riders making it to the final stages.

The Giro, which started on 3 May and will finish on 26 May in Rome, is a complex production for organiser RCS and its host broadcaster, EMG Italy.

Three years ago RCS began to self-produce the Giro, with EMG Italy bringing its knowhow into the ‘pink race’. Comments Davide Furlan, EMG Italy’s director of outdoor productions, and Giro d’Italia production director: “Since then every year there has been continuous improvement, even in the technical choices to provide more and more content. This year the most obvious innovative implementation is the graphics with tracking; it is a system that uses pixel tracking technology that we have used on many other occasions and in other sports with excellent results.”

Notes Furlan: “The entire technical infrastructure of people and means for the production of the international signal is from EMG/Gravity Media. This production is really a great work of the group, with five different languages spoken at the TV compound.”

“The experience gained over the years producing all the major cycling races allows us to design more and more reliable and quality systems, and I believe that by seeing the product on air you can understand what I’m talking about”

In the TV compound there are 15 trucks for the host broadcast, and the same number again, says Furlan, “for right holders and broadcasters who are integrating the international feed with their own cameras, with a strong presence from RAI”.  RAI is additionally the only rights holder with a mobile stage set up on site, which it uses as a TV studio with five cameras.

EMG Italy is working across Europe with other parts of the group to bring the broadcast of Giro d’Italia 2024 to life

The EMG/Gravity team is made up of 123 people who prepare the entire set up at the various locations planned for the day’s stage every morning. Furlan explains: “At the start are the riders and camera operators, at the intermediate reception are the technicians, at the GPM [Gran Premio della Montagn, or Mountain Grand Prix] location are the technicians and camera operators of the Intergiro, and finally the other technicians and camera operators at the finish.

“Behind each stage, which the spectator can enjoy at home from the comfort of his or her seat, there is an enormous amount of preparation and logistics work, a huge ‘circus’ that moves every day; more than 100 people who have to travel, sleep, eat and of course work safely.”

On how the group is contributing to this production, there is:

  • EMG Italy – responsible for the entire production plus OB vans
  • EMG Connectivity – RF and motorcyclists
  • EMG Belgium – motorcycle coordination
  • EMG Netherlands – satellite broadcasting
  • Boost – graphics and timing

High standards

EMG Italy works on two production standards for its major cycling races: Standard B with a live time of around two hours; and Standard A, of which the Giro d’Italia, with its high profile and all-day racing, is obviously a part.

Furlan notes: “Live time varies depending on the length of the stage and how long it takes the athletes if the weather conditions get tricky, so let’s say it varies between six and seven hours a day on average.

“A constant technical challenge is to make everything that is not connected by cable or fibre with the OB van to appear as if it were. To be able to manage all the parameters of the cameras as if we were in a studio or in a stadium is really stimulating”

“The Giro d’Italia is a production of 21 days plus set up days,” continues Furlan. “The Giro d’Italia is a world event and cycling has many fans all over the world. The live media coverage is really impressive. We who produce the host broadcast signal start producing half an hour before the start and finish about 45 minutes after the arrival of the daily stage, after all the award ceremonies that see the five classification jerseys awarded every day.”

Highlights are also an integral part of the production that takes place within EMG Italy’s technical media. It uses two Avid editing stations connected to the EVS network to produce a 23 minute daily highlight show for Eurosport and a 26 minute weekly show for RCS and IMG.

The 2024 Giro d’Italia route through Italy

Complex event

Comments Furlan on the challenges this year: “The television production of such complex events poses many challenges. First of all the technology with which we manage all the RF signals is proprietary to EMG. The experience gained over the years producing all the major cycling races allows us to design more and more reliable and quality systems, and I believe that by seeing the product on air you can understand what I’m talking about.”

With the race stretching with speed across the countryside, EMG Italy is challenged by the transmission requirements of this race. Says Furlan: “The technical infrastructure for the RF signals is very complex. All the signals of the 10 motorbikes and the two helicopters pass through a two-repeaters plane which, following the ride at an altitude of about 6,500 metres, receives and retransmits each video and audio signal to an intermediate point. All ASI RF signals are encapsulated and transmitted with an encrypted satellite beam and received at the TV compound where they are decoded into SDI,” he explains.

Cabling is always a great challenge for the Giro. Comments Furlan: “The Giro d’Italia enters the historic centres of the most beautiful cities in the world, places protected by Unesco that must be preserved and at the same time enhanced by our images.

“In each arrival a real army of technicians and vehicles invades historical squares, but in this context moving and laying kilometres of cables and optical fibres is really challenging. Every day the techniques necessary for broadcasting and sport production are cabled using about 45 kilometres of fibre and copper cables that must be protected in the various passages and suspended where necessary, and obviously recovered at the end of the race for use the following day.”

Furlan continues: “A constant technical challenge is to make everything that is not connected by cable or fibre with the OB van to appear as if it were. To be able to manage all the parameters of the cameras as if we were in a studio or in a stadium is really stimulating; in fact our system does it 100% to the point of bringing even the tally to the cameraman, for the driver of the bike, the cyclist in the frame, the operator of the cineflex and the pilots of the helicopters.”

All the graphics for the Giro d’Italia are created by EMG specialist company, Boost. Furlan says that with Boost, things are looking new for the 2024 Giro. “This year we have rebuilt all the graphic layouts of the RCS races and obviously the Giro d’Italia has received a major graphic restyling. Using the GPS references and GPI communications of the motorbikes on the route, we can use graphics that coherently follow the images of the main programme. In this way the spectator has the precise chronometric reference of the riders framed at that moment [on screen] and always has the position of the different jerseys of the riders in the classification under control.”

Meanwhile the audio produced is stereo, Furlan says that “we are considering a move to 5.1 audio and a spatial implementation for social media,” in the future.

He adds on the audio: “All internal and external sources from the OB van enter the IP3 matrix. From there they are destined for the audio bank, the MUXes, the de-MUXes and delivered in MADI to the distribution OB van from which all can connect for the various ISO feeds.”

Inside EMG Italy’s gallery OB truck from stage 13 on 17 May 2024

Logistics and technicalities

Furlan works across cycling, skiing and superbikes for EMG, and is involved in all the UCI World Tour races in Italy. He covers the development of these productions from budgeting through to helping to choosing the various partners that will support EMG Italy in its productions.

He says: “My background as chief engineer on OB vans helps me to be able to speak the same language as my technical colleagues, while my experience as co-owner of an Italian service provider (Global Production, which is now part of EMG Italy,) helps me to manage the work with maximum optimisation to achieve the best efficiency.

“Information is shared to establish set up procedures for the control and to define production plans that take into account general set up requirements, and I also believe that for the customer, RCS, having a contact person who can quickly and exhaustively answer questions of a technical nature, production details, logistics and costs, is a necessary element in the relationship.”

On those logistics and technicalities, Furlan goes into detail. There is a plethora of cameras involved in capturing every minute of the Giro he says: “The technical set up of the cameras counts 34 video mixer desk signals; a decidedly important set up for a product that has the ambition of becoming more and more appreciated by broadcasters. We currently also have two high frame rate (HFR) cameras on arrival, and for the future there are plans to increase numbers of those and also put them on motorbikes.”

In this year’s technical innovations, EMG Italy can also include the presence of a drone in the mountain stages. The technicians and pilots employed by EMG have experience filming cycling. “During last year’s stage that arrived at Mount Lussari, they had shown great skill,” says Furlan. “This year we are repeating the type of storytelling in some sections of the route identified by RCS. The images are of course live and the operators are connected via intercom with the director even though they are 50 kilometres to 100 kilometres away.”

There is a strong slant from RCS on promoting Italy as a country for tourists to visit, so the countryside, towns and villages that the race passes through feature in the coverage. Adds Furlan: “The technical effort is truly great and RCS also has [as one of its major goals and at its] heart the [desire to] enhance the Italian territory, which is why there is a great deal of organisational and coordination work for each stage.”

More on EMG Italy’s graphics revamp for the 2024 Giro d’Italia coming soon

The EMG Italy team at the 2024 Giro d’Italia

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