Race followers have been brought closer to the drama and excitement of the Volvo Ocean Race than ever before, thanks to the technical expertise of specialist communications company Livewire Digital Ltd.
The company has been involved with media delivery from these “Formula One’ race yachts since 1997. Since then, the video acquisition and media management system, both on-board and shore-side, has undergone several design and innovation phases which have culminated in the highly sophisticated system used in the 2011-2012 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
This evolution has been matched by continual improvements in Inmarsat services, which have seen bandwidths increase and terminal sizes reduce. The latest system manages two satellite terminals, an Inmarsat FB500 and an FB150.
The gruelling conditions encountered by Volvo Open 70’s as they race around the globe, dictate that media equipment has to be resilient, reliable, lightweight and low power. The system also needs to be simple to operate, so that the Media Crew Member (MCM) can concentrate on getting his story back.
The complexity of video and audio acquisition from multiple fixed and handheld cameras and microphones, as well as management of the satellite terminals and data and voice communications, is presented to the MCM as a series of intuitive workflows. System configuration then occurs behind the scenes, allowing the MCM to focus on his media objective rather than the underlying technology.
The workflows include: live video calls with broadcasters and sponsors or for streaming to the internet, the delivery of high quality HD material, radio interviews and during the in-port racing, live HD using the on-board microwave links.
Improvements for the 11th edition of the race include: reduction in size and weight and increased functionality of the fixed HD roll compensated and HD PTZ cameras; advances in the camera electronics has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cables and therefore weight; integration of multiple Inmarsat Fleet broadband terminals; a more sophisticated delay-line technology and more intuitive user interface.
The Volvo Ocean Race MCM’s have produced some stunning imagery which has resulted in more consumer engagement, increased TV coverage, readership of print articles and page views on the race website, all of which is great news for race sponsors.
The extensive use of M-Link Live X has been particularly successful. Live, high quality video interviews from mid ocean have raised the excitement and increased the connection of race fans with the race.
Livewire MD Tristan Wood comments: “This has been the most successful race yet; the quality of the media coming off the yachts has been outstanding and I believe that the standards in media delivery and consumer expectation have been raised’
Jack Lloyd, race director at Volvo Ocean Race, adds: “We are delighted that the media system, designed manufactured and installed by Livewire, has performed so well in this harsh and testing environment.’