Surfs up off for NEP Cymru, BSI at Quicksilver Pro France

Coverage of the recent Quicksilver Pro France 2012 surfing tournament held on a stretch of the French Basco-Landaise coast included RF relays and wireless cameras to capture all the action on the best waves along the six mile beach. The production also featured a waterproof RF pan tilt roll zoom (PTRZ) camera mounted on a jet ski.
Television Facilities for this year’s event, which is part of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour, were provided by Wales-based NEP Cymru and included a HD outside broadcast truck with Sony and Calrec equipment. Wireless camera systems came from the UK office of Broadcast Sports Inc (BSI), comprising two RF cameras that could be used anywhere along the beach up to 10km from the main broadcast area, a relay system housed in a Land Rover and the new PTRZ unit, which was first used for the sailing during the London 2012 Olympics.
This was the second year BSI worked on Quicksilver Pro France. The company’s technical sales director, Tony Valentino, says its involvement at the 2011 event had “pioneered the solution [the organisers] were looking for” and that this year was much smoother because “we knew what they wanted.”
The core of the RF production was the mobile point-to-point link based in a Land Rover, which could move up and down the beach to where the contestants were surfing in the best possible conditions. Coverage was transmitted to the OB truck over a variable link path, with five HD signals multiplexed together. Valentino explains that this meant the engineers only had to deal with two frequencies but still had enough bandwidth for high def pictures.
“It was a nice way of doing it and worked well,” Valentino says. “If we had been working with separate signals there would have been five transmitter antennae and five power amplifiers to make the microwave link work, which wouldn’t have been practical.” The handheld radio camera used was based on a Sony HDC-1500 with a Link HD transmitter.
The PTRZ was brought in to get shots from the sea, with the camera and its domed casing mounted on a jet ski. It is based on a 1080i HD unit with a 10 times optical zoom lens that can be panned through 360 degrees, titled 60 degrees and rolled +/-30 degrees. Also part of the system is a COFDM wireless encoder, working on H.264 MPEG-4 and MPEG-1 Layer II with QPSK and 16QAM modulation.
Valentino says some shots from this were used but the conditions proved “difficult” with the jet ski bouncing over the waves. “But it proved itself in being completely water-proof, as it was designed to cover sailing events,” he comments.
Pro France 2012 was shown on Eurosport and Fox Australia, with live streaming through the website.

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