Sony XDCAM HD survives Land Rover G4 Challenge

The first European production to use the XDCAM HD professional disc format the Land Rover G4 Challenge has been declared a success by BHP Sport, the crew tasked with the rapid generation, editing and delivery of commercial and broadcast content to promote the event.
The world s first professional disc-based HD camcorder was selected as the primary format for recording an event that has spanned continents and traversed the roughest and most unforgiving terrain imaginable.

The world s first professional disc-based HD camcorder was selected as the primary format for recording an event that has spanned continents and traversed the roughest and most unforgiving terrain imaginable.
The cameras have had to deal with sustained shocks, sand, dust and some of the wettest conditions on the planet with working temperatures ranging from a freezing 20 degrees Celsius to a sweltering 46 degrees. From the urban bustle of Thailand and Laos, to Brazil s epic Copacabana beach and the Bolivian Andes, BHP Sport, has used HDV, XDCAM HD and HDCAM camcorder equipment to produce content that will be viewed by audiences in the UK, France, Italy, Argentina, Norway, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa and Turkey.

To do justice to such a remarkable event, camera choice and placement was of vital importance. Cameramen captured footage using the Sony HVR-A1E and HVR-Z1E HDV camcorders wherever portability was key. This included installation onto helmets, bikes, kayaks and of course Land Rovers. XDCAM HD units were employed to capture most of the other most dramatic moments of each event stage. Notable high-points included the 40 minute, 4,500ft mountain bike race and the 2,500m ascent towards the Bolivian Altiplano.

We mixed different formats to suit the needs and limitations of each filming environment, explained Brad Lawson of BHP Sport. We had HVR-A1E cameras mounted in and on cars, HVR-Z1Es in water-housings. And, while HDCAM camcorders were installed into a helicopter, it was XDCAM HD that became the real workhorse format during the Challenge. The XDCAM HD cameras provided crisp, clear pictures and an amazing consistency across the five cameras we had rolling at any one time add that to the post-production workflow advantages of shooting on disc and we knew were onto a winner.

Timing was of paramount importance during the challenge. The production team had to turn-around a considerable amount of content in very tight timescales. Each stage required a VNR to be produced which had to include footage from the final moments of that stage which meant incredibly fast turn-around and regular eighteen hour days to ensure satellite feed times were met. If the crew missed a transmission window, the potential coverage that could have been generated from the feed would have been lost forever.

Sony XDCAM HD and its support for a non-linear workflow was a major contributor to the production team s ability to meet all of its timings, as Simon Fitzgerald, Joint Managing Director of BHP Sport acknowledged: The professional disc recording function really sped up the workflow for us.

Having random access to footage allowed us to tell the post-production team where to build the stories and the ability to review the storyboard as the events progressed. This saved us a great deal of time in editing because logging tape can be a very time consuming process.

With a file-based workflow, you can miss this step out completely and that means the total time to turnaround full productions is much reduced.

“XDCAM HD has held up really well,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re not creating an electronic news gathering programme, but something with high production values. As a company we want to be at the forefront of technology and HD and IT integrated systems are the way forward. The choice of XDCAM HD for this event makes sense because it’s about new technology being tested in extremes.”

Recent converts to the XDCAM HD format, Fitzgerald believes that Professional Disc really enables crews to work in a much more efficient manner. With the ability to annotate material on-the-fly, the camera teams can provide strong guidance on how footage should be pieced together as well as overall story flow, which in essence speeds up the entire process.

Users can store work documents, comments and other content on the disc and send the whole package to headquarters for immediate editing. As far as we re concerned XDCAM HD is the future of production because working with file-based media provides extra speed when it s needed, explained Fitzgerald. He continued: We believe that XDCAM HD offered the only viable and cost-effective file-based format for this production. With the equivalent of 6 terabytes of material captured, we were able to reap the benefits of low-cost and high-capacity XDCAM Media.

By the end of the challenge, the BHP Sport production crew will have produced six, thirty minute productions for broadcast on Channel 4 (UK); VT4, BETV, Belgacom TV (Belgium); M6 (France), TBS (Japan); RTL 7 (The Netherlands); Supersport (South Africa); Iz TV and Fox TV (Turkey). BHP Sport has also made a range of commercial promotions for Land Rover not to mention international versions of the rushes to send to other countries.

From a commercial point of view, being able to turnaround full edits in a matter of hours has really opened up new doors for us, concluded Fitzgerald. We now appreciate how XDCAM HD will enable us to secure additional programme revenues by enabling us to broaden our usage of the footage we capture. The potential for repurposing content is endless.

Daryl Blair, XDCAM HD Senior Marketing Manager, is also pleased with the format s performance given all the environmental and time considerations the crew faced: BHP s experience of XDCAM HD throughout the Land Rover G4

Challenge reinforces the physical robustness and capabilities of the cameras. The format enables producers to achieve high levels of HD quality at the fastest possible speed, he said. What the challenge also confirms is that it s not just news crews that need rapid production turnaround.

File-based production is the future and we believe BHP Sport is just one of many companies in our industry that will achieve the measurable commercial and productivity benefits of employing XDCAM HD as an integral component of their workflow.