RaceTech goes for new technical solutions for a socially distanced 2021 Cheltenham Festival
RaceTech is bringing the 2021 Cheltenham Festival to viewers of Racing TV and working with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Cheltenham Racecourse and the Jockey Club, using technologies to enable a socially distanced event including remote production.
With strict COVID regulations in place it has been a priority for the RaceTech outside broadcast and technical teams to ensure all areas or their work at Cheltenham adhere to social distancing during the Festival this week.
Paul Newman, RaceTech’s operations and engineering director, told SVG Europe: “The challenges have been around creating dedicated zones for the participants (Anglo and Irish segregated areas), officials and media teams in areas different from previous years, while also ensuring we and all officials are COVID-compliant and maintaining social distancing. Technology has offered greater flexibility with where these operations have been set up and where our broadcast partners can present from.”
Personnel have been spread out by utilising additional areas and the use of remote technology for broadcast and communications.
Adds Newman: “This year we are utilising two of our OB units to cover the racing, integrity and broadcaster presentation services; OB10, our largest and most recent flagship unit, and OB2, which is also very spacious, to ensure we remain COVID secure.”
Amongst the extras for this year’s Cheltenham Festival, which is taking place without spectators, RaceTech is facilitating an enhanced all-day press conference set outside the weighing room, to cover each race plus an evening show of highlights. This will all be live streamed and available over Zoom for members of the media not in attendance.
RaceTech’s camera crews will have all angles covered for the live race action for Racing TV, and ITV Racing, which is able to access RaceTech’s feed. RaceTech’s daily presentation feeds crews also covered the pre-festival interviews and gallops on Monday at Cheltenham in the build up to this year’s event.
Newman continues: “Various remote technologies are in use this year. Remote video conference technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for press interviews and communications, remote access working for graphics control, as well as monitoring and diagnostics purposes.”
RaceTech is also providing technical facilities for two steward’s rooms which are fully inter-connected, with the Evertz Dream Catcher system in use for detailed views and reviews of races.
A video conferencing system is in place between the two rooms, with shared race video feeds plus additional remote access if needed when additional BHA officials are required to join. RaceTech has also provided a facility to livestream from the main steward’s room in the event of an enquiry.
With jockeys in segregated areas due to COVID restrictions, two Clerks of the Scales will operate with full connectivity between them. RaceTech’s public address and broadcast teams will also operate from two areas in order to safely distribute and collect radios.
Additionally, RaceTech’s 360-degree camera will run throughout each day from the centre of the paddock bringing close up shots of the horses on parade and back in the winner’s circle for the benefit of the owners and trainers, who are not allowed on course, to be able to watch their horses parade before the race. The National Hunt timing system will be fully operational for each race.
The reverse angle photo finish camera will be in use throughout the Festival alongside the standard mirror image. Cheltenham’s wider track benefits from the advanced winning line technology, particularly when horses finish close up on the stand side, as it gives the judge a clearer image to separate horses. The official RaceTech photos are published on the BHA website after each photo finish.
Also, the high frame rate ‘across the finish line’ camera known as the ‘super slow-mo’ will be deployed on Racing TV for the first time this year, notes Newman.
RaceTech stated it expects record numbers to tune into Racing TV this week, as the event continues with no spectators in attendance.
John Bozza, RaceTech CEO, commented: “We have been delighted to work closely with Racing TV, the Cheltenham team and the BHA to provide technical solutions to support the challenges faced at this year’s Festival.”
The Cheltenham Festival takes place 16-19 March 2021.