The view of New York from London

The New York Sail GP provided an opportunity for New Zealand’s Black Foils to extend their lead in the sailing championship, as well as a chance for the London-based production team to continue rolling out new technology, including 5G-compatible on-board cameras .

When SVG Europe visited the Ealing Broadcast Center in London during Friday training for the New York SailGP event (Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June), CBS presenter, analyst and former American football player Nate Burleson was midway through a ‘Sixth Sailor’ experience on the American team catamaran.

Friday’s training not only gave celebrities and influencers the chance to experience the thrill of high-speed racing (and generate shareable content, with additional angles from chase boats and helicopters provided by SailGP), but also gave the production team valuable time to develop camera angles. practice and solve any technical problems.

“If you’re racing anywhere in Manhattan, it’s really important that we get the amazing backdrops and iconic images like the Statue of Liberty in our coverage, as well as the crowds on Governors Island,” says executive producer Chris Carpenter.

Chris Carpenter, SailGP, at Ealing Broadcast Center (Photo: Andrew Baker for SailGP)

“In some ways, when you’re in a place like New York, it doesn’t matter where you point the cameras because it all looks iconic, but the challenging thing about sailing is that we can practice today and then the wind might be changes 190 degrees tomorrow, so the racecourse could be completely different and therefore the way we run the races could be completely different.

“So it makes it complicated for us because even though we might be happy on rehearsal day, it’s not always going to be the same when we go racing. Today is really about getting things in order and solving any technical issues that may arise because we don’t have a single wired camera and about 47 video sources during the entire production.

“There are never two days the same at SailGP, with endless curveballs, be it wind, thunder, connection issues, whales, dolphins… you name it, we get it! And this season – season four – has been by far the most challenging with a mid-season broadcast renewal, new locations and locations plus weather that’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict.

American traction

Last weekend marked SailGP’s first return to the Big Apple in five years, with the New York event the 12th stop on a 13-event global sail racing championship in which teams compete on identical flying catamarans at speeds in excess of 60mph. In New York, the New Zealand Black Foils triumphed in front of 8,000 spectators in the purpose-built Race Stadium on Governors Island.

Those not in New York could watch the live race via SailGP’s own app, Facebook page and YouTube channel, while viewers in Europe can also watch live coverage or highlights through deals with a host of broadcasters, including ITV in the UK and Canal+ in France. , Servus in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and Ziggo in the Netherlands. In the US, CBS Sports broadcast coverage of the weekend’s races after doubling network coverage of SailGP in 2024 compared to last season.

Read more Inside SailGP Part One: What it takes to capture racing action from the sea and the air

“We have four rounds in North America now, so we’re starting to generate a lot of buzz in terms of people watching in the US,” Carpenter explains.

The SailGP calendar also includes events in Chicago, Los Angeles, Saint Tropez, Dubai, Sydney – plus the final race on the calendar in San Francisco in July – but wherever in the world the 10 teams race, there will be live reporting from the SailGP production team at Timeline’s Ealing Broadcast Center in West London.

The in-house SailGP production team of around 100 people takes over a large part of the Ealing Broadcast Center during a race weekend, using the entire floor – including the main production gallery – plus LiveLine’s new dedicated graphics and data room and additional galleries for LivelineFX augmented reality graphics and the remote referee team, sometimes remote coaches and other integrated projects.

About 13 editing suites receive the program feeds, creating highlight packages and pre-built features. Overseen by three editors-in-chief, including a US-focused, 90-minute overnight delivery for CBS (which, given its New York location, is longer compared to the usual 44-minute show) plus a 47-minute show for ITV4 and an international highlights package. There is also a 47-minute French-language show especially for Canal+ and a Spanish-language show for RTVE.

Dedicated digital platforms also take over some of the highlights, plus the digital team and in-house editorial team to create bespoke content for online and social media.

All this is supported by five EVS machines with four operations and a VT coordinate that captures some 47 feeds. Another EVS is used by analytics producer Zoe Pike, who causes technical glitches at the end of each race.

Also based in Ealing is the commentary team of Todd Harris from the USA, former Olympic sailor Stevie Morrison as color commentator, and Emily Nagel, who specializes in the numbers and data to provide statistics and analysis. “They have an EVS and telestrator system, and Emily works with the telestrator (via LiveLine with RT Software) to create analysis pieces and she works with our 2D graphics; she works a lot on the numbers to break down races.

That means there is only a “minimal” production crew on site, including camera operators, the race management team with whom Carpenter keeps close contact, plus a crew supporting Liveline’s graphics team and 20 people from external production partner Riedel, which works with SailGP since season 2 and handles all RF, communications and onshore coaching tools. “(Riedel is) a big part of SailGP, as with any remote production, the on-site technical team is critical to success,” says Carpenter.

SailGP commentary team with (front) Stevie Morrison and Todd Harris. Behind Harris is Emily Nagel

Like all sports, SailGP aims to bring viewers closer to the action. As part of these efforts, it recently launched Team Talk, which takes audio from microphones worn by sailors and converts the speech into text through LiveLine’s system before sharing it with viewers on screen.

Producer Kyle Stoneham is overseeing it. He says, “If I see something interesting during the race that is relevant to the race, I can export it and make it available to Chris.” It is then presented on the screen with a small image of the sailor’s name and team, plus the audio, similar to F1. It also automatically translates into French and Spanish for their live feeds and highlight shows.

“One of the biggest differences between us and F1 is that all data is accessible to all teams, so everyone can analyze everyone’s data. So in terms of data, anyone can go back on land and look at other people’s data and learn from it,” Carpenter says.

Stoneham, like Carpenter and many other members of the production team, is a sailor and thus understands the nuances of the conversations. Carpenter says: “It means Kyle can edit his own work and if speed is of the essence and relevant to something happening at the moment, he can get it up straight away.”

SailGP is a purpose-driven competition with sustainability at its core, and with this in mind there has been a huge change in the way the teams’ coaches operate. Traditionally they would all have been out on the water on a chase boat, but now they are all based in RaceHQ – an F1 pit wall-style setup where coaches get multiple live video feeds that they can pause, rewind and play themselves, plus access to the huge amount of data coming from the F50 boats, all of which are controlled by the Oracle Cloud. This new setup also has editorial benefits for TV production as four fixed cameras and a roaming RF camera are also stationed at RaceHQ with the ability for the remote commentary team to interview the coaching team.

5G images

New to the SailGP New York event is Foil Cam. Positioned beneath all ten boats to showcase a new angle of the foils—allowing the boats to move through the water at greater speeds—the live feed from each camera will be transmitted over a standalone 5G network from T-Mobile.

“All ten of these corners come in via 5G and I have to operate a small vision switcher because we only receive one at a time with full bandwidth over the Tata fiber connection, so I switch to whichever one we can switch to live.”

Another relatively new camera angle is an onboard tracking shot that allows the sailors to be followed as they move about the boat. First used in Halifax, Canada (the race leading up to New York), it uses AI to tag a sailor’s image with his name as he moves across the boat.

SailGP Director of Liveline Tom Peel explains: “We originally had this event in mind, but with our mantra of ‘why wait?’ we rolled it out in Halifax.”

Peel is speaking from SailGP’s second gallery where the LivelineFX graphics team is based. Because the graphics are so essential to making the sport accessible to viewers without technical knowledge of the sport, it’s a busy room full of operators involved in tasks such as chroma keying each of the two helicopters and receiving the masses of data from the boats then used for graphics are fed to the app and for the umpires.

Tom Peel, director of LiveLine, at the Ealing Broadcast Center (Photo: Andrew Baker for SailGP)

In April, SailGP introduced a revamped graphical look and feel, designed to give viewers more information in a simplified way. It is based on SailGP’s proprietary technology and RT Software’s Swift 3D. Peel says: “We use (RT Software’s) engine for all our graphics output, and we’ve built our own plug-ins that allow us to get our specific effects and manage our data.”

About the onboard tracking shot, he says: “We use AI to recognize who is who on each boat because you can’t see their face. We also have human QA, because your computer is only so smart, and then we can fix it and polish it.”

“Right now it’s mostly about the name tapes, but the plan for the summer is to add things like wing comparisons (the main wind-powered motor for the boat) and comparing how much one boat moves theirs compared to another boat.

“We are very happy with it; We have made more and more improvements to it and more will follow next season. It’s not just about tracking people, it’s also about overlaying information in the form of a head-up display, but in a functional way to compare the differences between boats, rather than just putting all the data on to throw one heap together. We’re really trying to make more of it. a comparison tool… sailing without these images could just be a blank canvas of blue-gray. TV is a visual medium and Liveline makes it a very visual viewing experience.”

The final race of SailGP season four takes place in San Francisco July 13-14