Live from RideLondon: VideoHouse and Broadcast RF roll out Velo4G onboard cameras

Euro Media Group’s Belgium-based VideoHouse ran facilities and covered the eight cycling events over last weekend’s Prudential RideLondon for host broadcaster, the BBC, and the world feed. The events, which included the men’s Classic and women’s Classique UCI WorldTour events, plus the 100, 46 and 19 mile routes for amateur riders, FreeCycle for families, and the Brompton World Championship Final race, were covered using a trusted set up that included an innovative new on-board 4G video device, as well as two high altitude aircraft that were operated over London in the desired formation for the first time, giving RideLondon better broadcast redundancy than VideoHouse had been able to provide for the London 2012 Olympics.

CTV Outside Broadcast trucks working at Prudential RideLondon 2018

RideLondon is organised by the London & Surrey Cycling Partnership, a joint venture between London Marathon Events, owner and operator of the Virgin Money London Marathon, and SweetSpot Group, operator of the Tour of Britain. VideoHouse has worked with London Marathon Events for seven years as provider of facilities, and this year the company harnessed innovations from sister companies within Euro Media Group, Broadcast RF and CTV Outside Broadcast, to increase the quality of coverage.

The 2018 Prudential RideLondon, which took place over the weekend of 28 to 29 July, included exclusive live coverage across BBC One, BBC Two, Radio 5 live and BBC Red Button. Additionally, footage was broadcast in 188 countries worldwide, including Albania, Afghanistan, Guatemala and Zanzibar.

VideoHouse provided technical coordination and the world feed, plus wireless systems for long range (aircraft, motorbikes and tracking) with EuroLinX, the wireless division of Videohouse, which specialises in high end wireless connections. Meanwhile Broadcast RF supplied short range RF and 4G kit, CTV Outside Broadcast provided two trucks for the BBC and world feed, plus Boost Graphics provided TV graphics and sports data.

This year, one exciting innovation in the armoury was Broadcast RF’s Velo4G, an onboard mini camera mounted on a bike, said Chris Demeulemeester, VideoHouse head of international projects and sales. Speaking to SVG Europe, he stated: “Broadcast RF did two things for us this year; they supplied classic short-range RF systems – shoulder cameras to cover riders along the track – and they also launched a brand new 4G RF system for the first time, an onboard-bicycle camera platform, Velo4G. On a Group level at Euro Media Group, we have all supported the development and testing of this device.”

Broadcast RF’s Velo4G device is clipped to a bicycle

The testing of the Velo4G camera, which only weighs 200g so does not inhibit riders’ performance, was positive. Chris Brandrick, commercial director at Broadcast RF, told SVG Europe: “We are currently working on adding to the capabilities of Velo4G with biometric data collection. The Velo4G’s data capabilities will add to the on-board camera aspect. There are many types of biometric data available in a bike race from the riders and the bicycles themselves, including heart rate and GPS. This will increase the possibilities for this device in the future.”

Demeulemeester added: “The relevance of the coming data innovation is you can track, film and monitor an athlete. All these international sports events are interested in this ability now as everyone wants to attract new, younger viewers who want this type of information. You can therefore go further with your storytelling, augmenting it to attract different audiences over different platforms. Also, there are often races within races, and you can use these on-board cameras to cover that for viewers in minute detail.”

These new cameras are fitted to the bicycles and use 4G LTE to transmit footage. Two were used on the women’s Classique race, and two on the men’s Classic. Different stakeholders have helped with Velo4G, including Velon, a marketing company that works with cycling teams and that helped select the riders to have Velo4G fitted to their bicycles at RideLondon as part of the testing and development process.

Demeulemeester continued: “The interaction of the CTV OBs in that system is quite particular; we can send data to the little cameras on the bicycles to help with a little functionality. It’s mainly used for colour grading and lens settings, as you need to be able to adjust different light settings as the bikes move around the course.”

VideoHouse used high altitude planes to relay signals

On long-range RF, EuroLinX made sure live footage of the weekend’s races got through to viewers despite tricky weather conditions. Demeulemeester explained: “We were able to relay RF signals from the helicopter, which used a gimbal from Aerial Camera Systems, and five motorbikes – four were TV bikes covering the racers with special stabilised lenses, and the fifth was for radio commentary – to two Beechcraft King Air B200 relay aircraft with high gain tracking antennae in the belly of each. They flew at an altitude of 27,000 feet and flew in circles over the race routes. All wireless images were captured by these aircraft, and in the planes we created a MUX feed that was transmitted back to The Mall, where the TV compound was.”

The coverage provided by the two aircraft was better than VideoHouse had been able to offer at the London 2012 Olympics, noted Demeulemeester: “We did the same thing at London 2012, but congestion created by Heathrow airport meant it was unbelievably difficult to get the main and backup aircrafts above London; we could never get them together for live, never at the same spot, and never together; they always had to be flying above and away from London. This meant we did London 2012 with less redundancy than RideLondon this year. This was the first weekend when we could use the two aircraft operating exactly how they needed to; it was perfect for us.”

The aircraft meant that heavy rain on the Sunday did not disrupt the broadcast, said Demeulemeester: “Conditions were very bad on Sunday; rain meant London was covered in a mist, but we could easily cover the races because we used these high altitude aircraft.”

How VideoHouse made transmissions possible despite poor weather conditions at Prudential RideLondon 2018

BBC Sport has been the host broadcaster of RideLondon since the first event in 2013. The London & Surrey Cycling Partnership and the BBC recently announced an extension of their contract up to the 2020 RideLondon festival of cycling. The deal gives the BBC continued exclusive UK broadcast rights to the festival of cycling across all platforms, including TV, radio and digital.

With Prudential RideLondon’s commitment to gender parity, both the men’s and professional races have the same record prize pot, making both the richest one-day races in the world. The Prudential RideLondon Classique, which has been awarded UCI WorldTour status by the world’s governing body for cycling, the Union CycIiste Internationale (UCI), took place on a 5.4km circuit in central London on the Saturday; the riders did 12 laps of the route, totalling 64.8km.

Meanwhile the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic men’s professional race started at 13:40 on the Sunday. Altogether, 18 cameras captured every twist and pedal-turn of the race, which last year became Britain’s first ever men’s UCI WorldTour event, matching the WorldTour status of the women’s race, the Classique. The Classic course covered 183km, from Horse Guards Parade to the hills of Surrey before heading back to London to the finish on The Mall.

All the equipment for RideLondon was derigged on Sunday evening and sent by ferry via Holland to Denmark, where it is being used for Danmark Rundt, the Tour of Denmark professional cycling race. After that it will travel to Berlin to cover the European Athletics Championships 2018.

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