For Raised Belmont Stakes, ESPN on ABC Goes Wireless, Platform-Full

By Carolyn Braff

With Big Brown one race away from becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is receiving plenty of broadcast attention. ESPN and ABC will provide seven hours of high definition coverage of the event across nine platforms, and Broadcast Sports Technology is providing the wireless support to ensure that viewers at home will not miss a frame – or decibel – of the action. Forty cameras will be used to capture the action and pump it through NEP Supershooter 14 and 28 and then out to viewers.

Beginning at noon ET, ESPN will air five hours of pre-race programming before race coverage shifts to ABC. Utilizing the RF and wireless support provided by Broadcast Sports Technology, coverage of this potentially historic event will also air on ESPN2, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN Deportes, ESPN360.com, ESPN International and ESPN Mobile TV.

“We didn’t originally have this event, but because of the possibility of the Triple Crown, the production company – ABC and ESPN – saw the potential for a much larger show than they originally anticipated,” explains Clay Underwood, business development manager for Broadcast Sports Technology. “They looked to use to provide a larger-scale solution than the current vendor was capable of doing.”

Because it is not possible to have a line of sight between all the necessary operational areas at Belmont Park, the on-site RF needs are daunting. To ensure there is no break in the feed delivered to all nine of ABC/ESPN’s platforms, Broadcast Sports Technology has equipped Belmont Park with multiple receive sites.

“We have six sites strewn about the area from the barns to the paddock to the track,” Underwood explains. “All that RF is fed over fiber optic cables back to the television compound where we turn it from light back to RF and use our intelligent diversity receive system to choose the best site at any given moment.”

Broadcast Sports Technology has a variety of components in use inside the Park, including three handheld HD RF cameras; two HD POV cameras, one on Big Brown’s starting gate and one in his barn stall; and sufficient talent microphones and IFBs to equip all 13 of the ABC/ESPN commentators in attendance. The intelligent diversity receive system ensures that not a frame of coverage will be dropped, no matter where the cameras might be.

“By putting these receive sites around the facility, it allows us to provide seamless coverage as the cameras and wireless microphones move throughout the facility, even though they might not have line of sight to a single particular receive location,” Underwood says.

The ABC production will utilize more than 30 camera angles to bring fans into the race, but the marquee angle will originate from the rail cam.

“The rail cam has not been seen on either of the first two legs of the Triple Crown,” explains Mike McQuade, vice president of production for ESPN. “It is two cameras mounted to the back of a pickup truck. Viewers will get closer than they’ve ever been before to the running of the horses. It’s a great, great shot.”

Setup for the broadcast began last Sunday and equipment testing will continue throughout the week to ensure that come Saturday, viewers everywhere can access all the sights and sounds of the Belmont, on any platform they may choose.