Rebrand and refresh: SailGP talks bringing its graphics operations inhouse for a bright new look to keep viewers illuminated

SailGP has rolled out a refreshed graphics package, now run inhouse

At the Australia Sail Grand Prix in late February SailGP rolled out a refreshed graphics look and feel, which has been designed to give viewers more information in a simplified manner.

The graphics refresh has been part of an overall plan to bring SailGP’s graphics facilities inhouse so the team can have finer control over what they can show to viewers.

Chris Carpenter, executive and live producer at SailGP, works closely with Tom Peel, SailGP’s head of graphics. Talking to SVG Europe, Carpenter elaborates on the decision to bring its graphics operation inhouse: “We had a third party graphics provider who were our partners coming in prior to season four, and we found that there were lots of intricacies surrounding the sport and the data flow, to the technical aspects of SailGP, so that it just made lots of sense to bring that inhouse.”

“There was a bit of a disconnect in style, and sometimes storytelling mechanisms between our augmented graphics package – LiveLineFX – and the 2D sporting data. The refresh has actually brought those two graphical elements much more closer together in look and feel and how we implement them”

He expands: “Any company would’ve struggled to get their heads around the technicalities of not only the sport, but most importantly how the data flow works. It’s a really intricate proposition and property, and it’s complicated to be able to editorialise and educate a viewer, and also keep our sailing aficionados happy by digging deep into what is a technical sport. So the decision was made to bring that inhouse.

“We have an incredible inhouse graphics team anyway with LiveLineFX,” he continues. “Tom’s team was just tasked out to expand that team in order to bring in the 2D sporting graphics element within the SailGP production house. So that was the first iteration; throughout season three that was being developed in the background.”

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Peel adds: “I think one of the biggest things about bringing it inhouse was when we had a third party provider, they tried to make our shoe fit their boot. We own all the boats and we own all the data, so we’re different to Formula One where they’ve got limited amounts of access to data that they’re able to get from the teams; we’ve got absolutely everything. So it’s an absolute treasure chest, but also an absolute needle in a haystack to try and find the bits of information that actually help tell the story and make it a better experience for the viewer.”

Meanwhile, Peel comments: “Visually, right now our deck looks very similar to the old one – [perhaps like] we’ve just jazzed it up a bit – but that’s not true. There’s definitely subtle differences and there’s more to come, but ultimately, we’ve enabled the mechanics in the background to be way more flexible. When you’re trying to do a broadcast, you need to have the flexibility to be able to move around quickly and get from piece to piece, and there’s lots of content to fit in, and then there’s another race coming up on the horizon that’s coming like a train, and it’s not going to wait for you. There’s all sorts of bits, like having the ability to show the finishing order of the race from a second after they’ve started; what that enables us to do is if there’s a big spread in the race, we can finish the first five boats and say, “well, the provisional results are, these are the positions for the boats,” even though they haven’t finished.”

The new graphics include a focus on the final race of each race weekend, to ensure SailGP is consistently telling the story of the teams taking part in that last head to head.

“It’s not common to do a mid-season rebrand from a broadcast perspective, but we wanted to do it anyway”

Continues Peel: “We’ve got a little lower third graphic which updates the penalty – if there’s any penalties applied between the races – or it allows us to come back without having to add another segment to the rundown, which is a big graphics background, full frame graphic; instead we’ve got a lower third so we can update people. So I think you could argue right now we’ve added better functionality for Chris and the broadcast team to keep the show flowing, and that’s going to lead to a better experience for the viewer because the show’s going to be less affected by changes.”

Why wait?

SailGP decided not to do a complete graphics rebrand and refresh for the entire broadcast at the start of season four, as the already massive leap to bring the whole operation inhouse had only just occurred. Instead, the graphics team working under Peel took the look that the series already had, and replicated it in its own systems which gave them time to get used to operating it, while also working in the background on a graphics refresh.

Carpenter adds: “This meant we were happy and everything worked from a functionality point of view, before then doing our full rebrand and refresh. The original plan was actually to go ‘New Year, new me, new broadcast look for our events in the UAE in January,’ but we just weren’t quite there with everything. So we delayed [the refresh] to the Southern Hemisphere races, which to be honest, have massive eyes on them anyway, from that end of the world particularly, with sailing being such a big sport in Australia and New Zealand.”

Carpenter admits, “it’s not common to do a mid-season rebrand from a broadcast perspective, but we wanted to do it anyway”. With a large gap of five months coming up from the end of season four to the start of the next season, and the fact that both himself and Melissa Lawton, chief content officer at SailGP, are both relatively new to the business and wanted to make a stamp on it, they took the decision to go ahead and refresh mid-season rather than wait.

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Peel adds: “Why would we wait to get something that’s better out there? The whole point was it was better. And so if we want to make things better constantly, we should just be doing stuff when we can, rather than particularly waiting for a new season launch.

“I really disagree with this whole, “let’s save all of our good ideas up and explode them at some point”, because from a production point of view I think is a bit of a nightmare because there’s all these extra things that people have to try and remember and work out how to fit into the show,” states Peel.

SailGP’s Australia Sail Grand Prix which took place on 24 to 25 February 2024, saw the launch of its exciting new graphics package

Fixing a disconnect

On the old graphics, Peel says: “We didn’t feel that they represented what we wanted the broadcast to be and who we wanted to appeal to. There was a lot of new people entered the game over the 2021-2022 period; you’ve got Apple TV and Amazon were picking up a lot more sport. There’s all these other content providers who were creating all this new content, and it really kind of moved the TV graphics on in style, so we wanted to create something that we felt was fresh, represented our sport and our business, and we wanted a platform that was going to make it better.”

Adds Peel: “There was a bit of a disconnect in style, and sometimes storytelling mechanisms between our augmented graphics package – LiveLineFX – and the 2D sporting data. The refresh has actually brought those two graphical elements much more closer together in look and feel and how we implement them.

Commenting on the evolution between the old graphics and the new ones, Carpenter states: “Before we had certain graphics that weren’t that user-friendly, and so we’ve got a whole new deck of graphics that we’re going to start bringing in that are much more user-friendly. We want to be showing people stories rather than just tables of data, so we’re starting to bring in some more infographic icon-based things.”

Peel adds: “Now we can refine the numbers that we’re trying to put on screen in order to tell a story about what’s happening in the racing, as opposed to just putting up a lot of numbers and then letting our commentary team have to pick out and explain the numbers that are important to our story. So we’ve simplified the amount of data we’re putting on screen, and made it more easy to focus on one narrative.”

“We’ve also been optimising graphics as much as we possibly can for commercial partners,” Peel continues. “So moving where we put partner logos in graphics to try and optimise our return on investment for our partners based upon what the metrics are that we’re measured by. So we’ve done that in the 2D graphics in the relaunch, and we’ve also added some new optimisations to our 3D augmented reality graphics where we have enabled a uplift in ROI for partners.”

The new system relies on SailGP’s inhouse proprietary technology, as well as RT Software’s Swift 3D. Peel adds: “We’ve built a lot of our own plugins to sit into the RT Software system, but we use their render engine to draw our graphics.”

Peel notes: “These are really a springboard as well for future graphics that we want to be adding, drip feeding them in throughout the season”.

Concludes Carpenter: “That’s something that is going to probably be an ever-revolving process.”

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