Under the posts: How Aerial Camera Systems’ PostCAM is bringing Autumn Nations Cup viewers closer to the action

Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup rugby match at Twickenham between England and Georgia might have been a somewhat un-noteworthy one-sided affair on the pitch but off it there was at least one thing that caught the eye: the debut of PostCAM.

As the name suggests, PostCAM is a specialist camera system that is installed on the goalposts at either end of the playing area. It provides a unique view of try-line and end-of-field action and can be used for both live shots and replays.

At the weekend, PostCAM was used in the host broadcast as part of the world feed for England vs Georgia (pictured above) and to aid the Television Match Official (TMO). It will be used again on all England’s home games at Twickenham during the tournament and at the Parc y Scarlets stadium in Llanelli for Wales vs England.

Supplied and operated by Aerial Camera Systems (ACS), the innovation consists of eight 1080p 3G POV minicams (four at each end) attached to the rear of the posts in the ‘in-goal’ areas using specially designed low profile adjustable mounts.

Powered by battery, PostCAM includes multi-channel video encoding and transmission equipment housed in a padded enclosure which is clamped to the post.

The enclosure is installed immediately above the lower sponsored padding while the mounts and the main body of the cameras fit inside the post diameter with the two inside cameras on each set of posts. The ‘Reverse inside’ and ‘Gantry inside’ are remotely operated pan and tilt cameras that can follow play.

“As production gets more familiar with it, we would expect its use to become more common. It will depend to a certain extent on the flow of the game though.”

Speaking to SVG Europe following the debut of PostCAM, ACS sales director Matt Coyde explained how the idea came into being.

“Over the years we’ve watched a lot of rugby and seen the innovations that are brought in,” he said. “We’ve always felt that there’s something that we could do in-and-around the goalposts because that’s an area where there’s a lot of action.”

“Once we had the idea, we went through various testing iterations looking at what was currently available on the market in terms of cameras.

“Obviously there’s a lot of challenges in placing cameras on the posts because they have to be small and discreet and you can’t run power out to the posts as there’s a live area of the pitch behind them. Also, there was the question of how you get all those feeds back? Do you just put one camera on and have an RF link? Or can you put more than one and switch the feed back from the post to the OB? We did a lot of research but what really helped was some innovations from Dream Chip Technologies and their UK representative, which is Broadcast Solutions.”

This was the game-changer for ACS and PostCAM that allowed the concept to move forward and eventually secure approval from World Rugby for use on the Autumn Nations Cup.

“We identified that Dream Chip’s cameras would be suitable for the application because they were small, the right format and they also had a separate device called the Barracuda which allows you to encode live video outputs into an IP Stream,” explained Coyde. “This allowed us to create an array of cameras on each post and work within the space restrictions.”

A shot from PostCAM captured during a test that took place ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup

To get the signals back to the OB compound where ACS has its own dedicated unit, PostCAM is wirelessly linked to a receiver behind the advertising hoardings. From there, the signal is cabled to the compound via fibre.

Within the compound itself, two operators control PostCAM’s pan and tilt cameras. They are backed up by a support engineer who ensures a consistent wifi signal.

To optimise EVS requirements within the OB, the eight live video feeds are switched by ACS between each end of the pitch before being sent to the main truck.

CyanView RCPs are also provided to enable PostCAM to match the other stadium line cameras.

On Saturday, PostCAM was mainly used for replays but Coyde is convinced that as the technology beds in, it’ll be used more and more, including for live shots.

“We were really pleased with how the first match went. As production gets more familiar with it, we would expect its use to become more common. It will depend to a certain extent on the flow of the game as well, though.”

“Nobody else has tried to achieve this in the way that we’ve done it and using this range of new technologies.”

Coyde is also optimistic there are more opportunities out there for PostCAM too, on other sports and other tournaments.

“The idea was to try and do something new and different and I think that’s what PostCAM does because it provides some brand-new angles. Nobody else has tried to achieve this in the way that we’ve done it and using this range of new technologies.

“It is an efficient operation and is very cost-effective. Rather than having four separate video feeds going back, you can basically encode it into one cable or one link to your OB. I have no doubt there will be more applications for this in the future.”

The Autumn Nations Cup is a new international rugby union tournament that has been developed to fill the gap in the schedules caused by the COVID-related cancellation of international rugby tours.

England vs Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup took place on Saturday 14 November. Live coverage, produced by Sunset+Vine, was broadcast on Amazon Prime Video in the UK. The tournament continues until 6 December.

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