Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Broadcasting the Volvo Ocean Race

Just back from a fascinating lecture on "Broadcasting the Volvo Ocean Race' in the race village, where media crew members Anton Paz (TELFONICA BLACK), Gustav Morin (ERICCSSON 3) and Rick Deppe (PUMA) spoke of their experiences filming using high-definition television, on their respective boats. Climbing up the mast, getting hit at 30 knots by waves, and sitting on the bow crashing up and down were all in a day's work. All the while, these media crew members kept a plan or theme in mind and looked for stories and action to document on film or to blog and podcast. Then, below deck, it was time for digitising, compressing, editing and then uploading via the Inmarsat system via satellite, followed by a few snatched hours sleep before doing it all again. This all took place under conditions of keeping electricity usage low (running off disel on these weight conscious boats) and stopping cables and wires from corroding with salty water. Heroic tales!

Dr. Seán Crosson from the Huston School of Film welcomed this rare opportunity to meet these "embedded journalists", as part of the Huston School's two day symposium on Representing Sport. Each of the boats are fitted with five fixed cameras and a delay camera, which is activated by a button to record 2 minutes back and six minutes forward- useful for things that go bump unexpectedly.

One of the biggest challenges noted (aside from sailing around the world at breakneck speeds) was the condensation that builds inside the housing for the HDTV cameras. Gustav spoke of the frustration at lining up a good shot, and then having to stop and somehow open the waterproof housing to clear the condensation and then begin again. Solid state cameras might offer some longer term solutions to the problem, but are unlikely to be as reliable as the DV tapes for the adventure this time around.

You can watch some of the footage on http://www.volvooceanrace.tv/. The replacing of the PUMA rudder mid-Atlantic by Rick Deppe won a media award for the Boston-Galway leg of the race.

Marcus Hutinchson, the race communications director, spoke about the potential to develop a more pedagogic and educational approach to the race, with recognising the value in linkages for learning between stop-over cities for a younger audience. To date, however, the videos, the race viewer (my favourite!), the online game, the regular updates, the weekly TV broadcast, have all combined to give spectators an unprecedented insight into ocean racing. Congrats to all the media production people involved!

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