Shamrock Upgrades NYRA On-Air, Simulcast Production

By Ken Kerschbaumer
Shamrock Communications is looking to bring some new luck to the New York Racing Association (NYRA) via a recent upgrade and rebranding of its on-air racing and simulcast presentation system. Two new 50-foot HD-ready trucks, complete with EVS and Omneon storage systems and Vizrt graphics, are slated to produce up to 10 races a day six days a week.
Venue Services Group provided integration work.
The units are used at three NYRA tracks, including Belmont Park, home to the Triple Crown’s Belmont Stakes, and the preeminent summer meet at Saratoga Racetrack in Saratoga Springs. Pat Scanlon, owner of Shamrock Communications, built the two trucks.
The A-unit truck is used mainly for production, and the B unit houses the main servers for storage and replay; the nonlinear editing system used for creating features, commercials, and production elements; and the satellite-transmission and encryption equipment. Two Ross production switchers are on board alongside multiple Thomson Grass Valley Concerto routers (68×68 analog, 96×96 HD/SDI, and 96×96 audio).
The use of both EVS and a 16-channel Omneon MediaGrid storage system in a production truck makes the NYRA units unique. “We need storage, as we will be recording every race for the next three or four years,” says Scanlon of the 3,000 hours of Omneon capacity. “We will also be going HD in the next two or three years, so we wanted to future-proof the truck. Eventually, storage upgrades and HD cameras will make that possible.”
A Miranda Kaleidoscope multi-viewer will also make the switch to HD easier, allowing the monitor walls to make a transition from 4:3 SD to HD. Right now, there is little need for hi-def because track infrastructures are not HD-capable and very few of the OTB locations are HD-ready. “We will most likely transition to 16:9 SD first with title bars and then make the jump to HD,” says Scanlon.
The EVS unit functions as a standalone replay device, and Apple Final Cut Pro editing systems are used to edit races. The EVS unit will also play a role in instant replays.
Also, robotic HD cameras were included in the project to capture additional views of the live racing without additional manpower, and a radio-frequency mobile camera was added for location shooting all over the massive racetracks, providing production flexibility and enhanced coverage options, such as paddock views and a variety of starting-gate positions. On-screen graphics were completely overhauled for an updated, network-quality look, with state-of-the-art graphics machines capable of 3D animation to provide better quality and quantity of race information to simulcast viewers in the hopes of increasing the number of bets placed.
“They need a lot of additional cameras for instant replay, as the review process is similar to that in the NFL or college,” says Scanlon. “We also get a lot of requests for duplication and need to handle race replays for handicappers. It’s a unique niche.”
Says NYRA EVP/COO Hal Handel, “We are all very excited about the new trucks and just delighted with the job that Pat and his company did for us.”
Previously, NYRA outsourced its video transmission and production and, in 2007, decided to update the technology and bring it in-house. With back-to-back racing schedules at three tracks, a highly mobile system was needed to handle coverage. NYRA also wanted a system that was up-to-date with regards to digital technology and would be HD-ready, and the effort needed someone with the appropriate background who would be capable of overseeing and leading the entire project.
Handel approached Scanlon to discuss the association’s needs and hired him as project consultant. Scanlon and his Atlantic Highlands, NJ-based company were responsible for every aspect of the process, guiding the transition from an old analog system to a brand-new HD-ready one. He managed the project as the trucks were designed, configured, and adapted for the NYRA. Once they were built, Shamrock also provided on-site training to NYRA staffers operating the equipment.
“The project progressed very smoothly,” Handel says, “and we had complete confidence in the way it was handled by Pat and his company from start to finish.”
Scanlon, an award-winning broadcast-management specialist with more than 30 years of television experience on both sides of the camera, is well known in the tri-state area for his innovation and balanced, logical approach to projects.