RaceTech takes Evertz DreamCatcher to the heart of horse racing at Royal Ascot
There is little more quintessentially British than Royal Ascot, a summer spectacle that combines the excitement of world-class horse racing with all the glitz and glamour of fashionistas and celebrities – not to mention enough big hats to ward off even the most persistent rain.
This annual highlight of the flat racing season, which dates back to 1711, is a favourite outing for royalty, especially Queen Elizabeth II who has been a regular visitor at the Berkshire racecourse for many years. Her horses are often in the running and over the years 23 of them have been winners.
Taking place across five days, Ascot attracts thousands of visitors and is viewed by millions more on terrestrial and satellite channels around the world. This year, the task of delivering a full high definition broadcast experience fell to RaceTech, a company owned by the Racecourse Association that provides outside broadcast vehicles, cameras and crews to capture the action at all of the main horse racing venues around the UK.
“Broadcast services are the mainstay of our business,” said RaceTech chief executive John Bozza. “These are made up of three distinct but intertwined areas – integrity services for the stewards, broadcasting services for terrestrial and satellite broadcasters, and producing and directing racecourse television programmes. In March this year we signed a new partnership deal with Royal Ascot, which sees Racetech providing integrity coverage, in-house programming and other essential racecourse services such as photo finish across all 26 race days on the Ascot calendar, including Royal Ascot.”
During last week’s high profile event, RaceTech delivered broadcast coverage to Sky Sports Racing, a separate production for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, content to Ascot TV’s large screens at the racecourse and also supported independent productions by bookmakers throughout the meeting. RaceTech’s feeds were also made available to ITV Racing.
To ensure the success of this task, RaceTech deployed two of its fleet of high spec fully HD mobile control units. These included OBX, its largest and latest outside broadcast vehicle, which is capable of seating a crew of 17 in two separate production areas and can monitor up to 32 cameras. Both of the OB trucks at Ascot also incorporated Evertz DreamCatcher Production Suite technology, which RaceTech introduced into six of its vehicles in October 2018 and is now deploying on over 770 races a year.
Guy Fontaine, media department manager at RaceTech, said: “After demoing various systems, we chose DreamCatcher for its flexibility, its channel count (16 inputs and two outputs) and because it was the only system that offered all the features we wanted in the way we wanted to use them.”
RaceTech worked closely with Evertz over a two-year period to help develop DreamCatcher for the racing industry and it continues to provide feedback to the company’s R&D team in Canada.
“A key factor in our choice was DreamCatcher’s ability to replay crystal clear Super Slow Motion without any stuttering,” Fontaine added. “This is vital because we are providing race stewards and officials with a VAR solution, which they need for regulatory purposes. DreamCatcher’s touch screen and quad split output to a 75” monitor allows stewards to view any split as full screen. It also offers features such as zoom, jog and slow motion so images can be closely scrutinised by officials in the event of any dispute or rule infringement.”
At Ascot, DreamCatcher was used with up to eight cameras per race to record all the action for live production and for archive footage. In addition, DreamCatcher’s role as a VAR involved taking feeds from camera positions covering all angles including head on, side on, high level hoists, gantry cameras, drones and portable radio cameras.
“In total we had 24 cameras at the meeting, six of which were in the parade ring,” Fontaine said. “We also had one of our team wearing a head-cam to capture close ups of the start procedure for ITV Racing. Other new innovations this year included the use of drones, a reverse angle camera on the finish line to assist judges and the introduction of large replay touch screens positioned around the course so that visitors could view and enjoy past races.”
Steve Hathaway, director of sales and marketing at Evertz UK, says he is delighted that DreamCatcher has now added Royal Ascot to the list of top racing venues where it has been successfully deployed.
“We are really pleased to be part of RaceTech’s productions with DreamCatcher and to enhance its operations and race coverage with high quality, simultaneous multi-channel HD recordings and content that is easily accessible for replay and archiving. The flexibility of DreamCatcher allows RaceTech to scale its on track operations according to the event, recording up to 10 cameras including slo-motion. Furthermore, the race stewards at the track can instantly review all camera angles for the whole of each race as they check for infringements that might break the rules or affect the outcome of a race.”
Hathaway adds that while widely used for sports VAR, Evertz’s DreamCatcher stewards replay system has been specifically tailored for non-technical people, providing intuitive touch screen control which is simple for the stewards to use. “This is particularly important under the pressure of race adjudication,” he said. “With its dual role as race recording and stewards race control, DreamCatcher really is at the heart of British horse racing.”