Camera Corps Keeps Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race Coverage Afloat

Camera Corps returns to the Thames during the last week of March for its fifth consecutive Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race, working in partnership with Omni TV, which will be providing engineering-management support for 021 Television & ITV Sport during the race. Camera Corps will equip each of the competing teams with two miniature cameras connected via wireless link to a controller in the follow-boat.

“Our specialty is acquiring exciting and unusual television content from exceptionally challenging environments,” comments Camera Corps Director of Operations Matt Frost. “The Thames in late spring often delivers enough wind and rain to challenge every OB team and sometimes even to sink one of the boats. First Rig is scheduled for Wednesday March 25, with the actual race following Sunday.”

Camera Corps is installing a camera with remote pan control on a 1-metre-high glass-fibre mast at the rear of each boat. An image stabilizer in each of these cameras is used to prevent velocity variations’ being visible on the video output. An additional camera will be incorporated into each vessel as a floor-level “cox-cam.”

“Besides sharing space with the rowers and cox,” says Frost, “we have to fit our equipment in and around pumps deployed to remove rainwater or splashback from the oars.”

A Camera Corps interface unit in each competition boat feeds DC to the cameras, the transmitter, and a GPS receiver. The interface also powers an electrically activated air canister, which can be pulsed from the follow-boat to blow rain or spray off the camera lenses. Video from the follow-boat is transmitted to receivers at various locations along the riverside and passed onward to the main OB unit at Barn Elms.

“The Boat Race is one of the most popular events in the annual sports calendar,” says Tony Cahalane of Omni TV. “Providing live television coverage from the Thames demands a great deal of preplanning. Camera Corps has maintained a very high standard of responsiveness and dependability since we began working with them for this contest in 2005. Their ability to deliver high-quality video feeds from unusual angles during major sports events is legendary. Complications such as rain and splash-over reaching the camera lenses are seen as technical challenges rather than insuperable problems.”

First held in 1829, the Boat Race is contested each spring between Oxford and Cambridge university boat clubs. It is rowed by a crew of eight plus cox along a 6.78-km course from Putney to Mortlake, heading upstream on the incoming flood tide. An estimated 250,000 people watch the race live from the banks of the river, joined by a UK television audience of 7 million to 9 million people on television in Britain, plus an overseas audience estimated at around 120 million.