Beijing Cycling, Marathon Connections Set to Run Clear with Euro Media Group

By Carolyn Braff

During the 16 days of competition at the Beijing Olympics, 34 events will be showcased from dozens of venues throughout the city, requiring a great deal of organization to get those HD feeds to viewers around the world. Luc Geoffrey, CTO of the Euro Media Group, has the daunting task of connecting the images from 10 of those events, including two of the toughest: the 42 km marathon and the 248 km cycling road race.

“Cycling is the biggest challenge because it’s a very long race,” Geoffroy explains. “The start of the cycling race is in Yongdingmen Door near

Tiananmen Square and the finish line is near the Great Wall, so it’s a big area to cover. That’s why it’s so complicated and why we have 11 terrestrial receiving points.”

The HD production requires two trucks, one at the starting line and one at the finish line, as well as 11 digital receive sites spread throughout the 248 km in between. For both the cycling and marathon productions, Euro Media Group is utilizing Grass Valley LDK 8000 cameras, Canon lenses and LiveTools receivers and transmitters.

The start line of the cycling race has a relatively small setup, incorporating six cameras: three hard cameras with 86 lenses, one handheld cam, one handheld super slo mo camera and one mini camera. The finish line, however, is another story.<

Along with a second production truck, the finish line is home to 11 cameras: 5 hard cameras with 86 and 70 lenses, 2 handheld portable cameras with wide angle lenses, 2 hard super slo mo cameras with 86 lenses and 2 handheld RF cameras with standard or wide angle lenses.

For the racing area between, four motorbikes, two cars and two helicopters – weather permitting – will transmit the RF feeds via 11 terrestrial receiving points along the course to a switching center in Beijing.

“Each terrestrial receive point will receive the eight mobile sources and each receiving point sends those eight feeds to a switching center,” Geoffroy explains. “The switching center will receive all the feeds and choose the best picture each time. The director in the finish line truck then makes the production of the race with the RF camera feeds coming from the switching center and his own cameras on the finish line.”

Unlike the Tour de France, which Geoffroy’s SFP group also oversees, there is no airplane available to relay the feeds in Beijing, making this production far more complex than the stages of the Tour.

“We have to do the RF coverage without aerial relay, just terrestrial relay, and it’s a huge setup,” Geoffroy explains. “We have approximately 100 receivers and 60 or 70 people involved.”

Preparing for the marathon running race involves many of the same challenges as the cycling event, but since the marathon is just one-fifth the distance of the road race, it is not quite as daunting.

“For the marathon we only have 8 terrestrial receiving points and all those receiving points are on the roof of a big building in Beijing,” Geoffroy says. “It’s a bit easier because it only takes place inside Beijing.”

A dedicated production truck is responsible for feeding the starting line of the race and relies on seven cameras: three hard cameras, two handhelds, one handheld super slo mo and one RF.

“As with cycling, as soon as the runners are gone, the work of the truck on the start line is finished,” Geoffroy explains. “On the road we follow the runners with four motorbikes, two cars and two helicopters and all the pictures are approximately the same setup as for cycling.”

The marathon production relies on the same basic setup as the cycling race, using switching centers to send RF feeds to a second production truck at the finish line, which is located inside the “bird’s nest” National Stadium.

Portions of these mammoth setups will be utilized for other events, such as triathlon and race walking, but the sheer distance covered by the road race and marathon make them unique challenges, even for CTO’s RF experts.