The 2024 Boat Race gets pan and tilt views from Videosys Broadcast

As Cambridge celebrated its double win over Oxford in the 2024 Boat Race, behind the scenes celebrations were also taking place at Videosys Broadcast to mark the success of an innovative new pan and tilt camera system, which was deployed for the first time this year.

Over 250,000 spectators lining the banks of the river Thames to watch this year’s Boat Race, with millions more tuning in to watch it on TV. Technical facilities were provided by EMG UK, BBC Sport’s technical partner for the event, with live coverage produced by FilmNova.

Designed by the company’s custom engineering division for broadcast hire specialist Presteigne Broadcast, the new pan and tilt radio camera system offered more features than previous systems including full pan and tilt control with compressed air lens cleaning and control of camera features over an IP link. In addition, the system was more compact, lightweight, and secure on the boats.

“There were a number of constraints to deal with,” said Videosys Broadcast’s CEO, Colin Tomlin. “Our custom engineering division designed the new system from the ground up so that it could be securely mounted on each boat without getting in the way of the rowers. They also ensured that the equipment chosen was totally compatible with the technical infrastructure already in use by the Boat Race’s broadcast team.”

Matthew Coliandris, senior director, FilmNova, said the Videosys Broadcast pan and tilt camera system delivered immediate and tangible benefits. “The new on-board cameras provided a real uplift in both picture quality and manoeuvrability,” he says. “Very often, cameras of this type can look out of place when put up against the rest of the technical specification of the OB, however this was plainly not the case at the Boat Race this year. The shots and technical operation were of a quality befitting of such a prestigious event, all the more commendable when you consider the logistical challenges required to deploy this particular kit.”

All four boats in the event (two for the women’s teams and two for the men’s) were fitted with the new system, which comprised two mini cameras on each boat – one mounted behind the coxswain and another at their feet. Feeds from each camera were sent to a Videosys Broadcast STX video transmitter, which was enclosed in a custom designed housing that also contained a video switcher, allowing the director to choose between the two camera feeds.

“Our transmitter sent the feeds from the boat cameras to an Outside Broadcast truck on shore so that they could be incorporated into the overall broadcast,” Tomlin added. “Control of our system was via an IP radio data link that was already part of the broadcast workflow, so we had to ensure we were compatible with that.”

Ben Hawker, head of RF and specialist cameras at Presteigne Broadcast, said: “As purchasers and direct users of their standard wireless camera control system, we have a bedrock of confidence in the brand, built over many years. Undoubtably Colin and his team have the knowledge to deliver but more importantly to us they have great ‘broadcast’ understanding and foresight, which played an integral part in this project and made my life easier. I am very happy with the outcome. Any challenges faced by the ever-changing technology requirements in broadcast have always been met with professionalism by the Videosys team. The way in which this project was managed, delivered and supported by Videosys was nothing short of outstanding.”

Videosys Broadcast’s Ben Peach and George Bairaktaris, who designed the camera control system and its mounting, both attended the Boat Race on 30 March to ensure that everything went smoothly. Said Peach: “An important part of this project was co-operating with the Oxford and Cambridge race teams so that we designed a system that was lightweight and quick to install on race day. We also relocated some of the equipment to cut down cable routing, and we ensured that the system didn’t prevent access to important areas of the boat. Feedback from the crews was very positive; they liked the new design and how unintrusive it was. From a technical standpoint it was a great success because each system went straight onto a boat with no modifications required on the day. It was literally plug and play straight out of the box.”

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