Sky Slows Down Rugby Scrum via Arri

By Andy Stout

Beijing 2008 was a watershed for quite a few pieces of newly introduced OB kit, and no less so than for Arri’s super slo-mo Hi-Motion camera, where seven were in operation covering an impressively wide range of Olympic sports. It was recently put to use by Sky Sports for the England vs. Australia rugby match held at the home of English rugby, Twickenham in London, illustrating Hi-Motion’s growing popularity with directors. Within the first five minutes of the game it provided three replays at 200fps (not the typical 300fps used for rugby due to low light levels in the stadium).

“We have three replay modes now,” says Martin Turner, match director and executive producer, rugby at Sky Sports. “Normal slo-mo, the Sony HD Tri-Motion cameras [two were used in the corners at Twickenham], which provide fantastic quality but only slow you down to a certain level, and then the extremely high quality of the Hi-Motion. A great reaction shot is great in slo-mo, but it’s even better in Hi-Mo.”

Introduced in 2006, the rental-only camera captures images in 1920 x 1080 HD at a variable 12 – 300fps or 600fps, and there are now 17 of the cameras in use worldwide, with 10 based out of Arri’s UK headquarters and three in the U.S. operated by Fletcher Camera.

The Hi-Motion is used by Turner in conjunction with all the usual bells and whistles of the modern OB provided by Telegenic. At Twickenham, he has 11 cameras covering the live match footage, including a railcam, handhelds and a Steadicam, with additional cameras deployed for studio work, covering the player’s tunnel and so on. Eight EVS XT[2]s provide replay material for the game from a special VT section of Telegenic’s new for 2008 T16 OB truck.

Rugby is a complex sport akin to organized and violent warfare, so coverage requires a good deal of knowledge of the game on behalf of the director and the camera crew and great care in showing the viewer effectively what is going on. Fast cuts from mid-range shots that show the positions of players in the pitch to close-ups of the action are part and parcel of coverage.

“It’s fine detail analysis where [Hi]Motion] really makes the difference,” Turner says. “Also, rugby is a game part-verified by a video referee, so to have a tool like this that he can use can prove invaluable in helping him make the right decision.”

Developed by NAC in partnership with Arri Media, the Hi-Motion uses a combination of specially developed components and software and off-the-shelf parts from the likes of Panasonic and Fujinon. It records in native HD using three 2.2 megapixel CMOS sensors. Pictures are recorded directly as uncompressed RGB in the camera head onto 48GB of RAM, providing 22 seconds of slo-mo at 300fps and 11 seconds at its maximum capture rate of 600fps. This is piped using industry-standard SMTPE hybrid fibre to the CCU and then onwards to air, HD EVS or HD VTR.

Typically in sports OB, it records to an EVS XT[2], using one channel for record and one for replay. Currently the operator has to use two panels, one controlling the EVS and one controlling the Hi-Motion, though work is afoot between the two companies to collapse this workflow down to a single panel.

“We thought we knew all about slo-mos, but the Arri camera shows us a world that we had never seen before, such as the moment of impact,” concludes Turner. “It’s that ‘Wow moment’ that Hi Motion gives us.”