Onboard race footage from the Formula E racing cars has been captured at the first race of the season by full HD cameras supplied by Vislink. The system has been designed by the group's Gigawave subsidiary, and features an H.264 transmitter with the capability to broadcast four videos feeds from the cars. Utilizing the technology behind Gigawave's existing full HD micro cameras that feature a 1/3" sensor, bespoke designs have been created to house the cameras for the Formula E cars, with a minimum of six positions being available on every chassis. These include a unique roll hoop mounted T-piece design which has the forward and rear cameras positioned directly over the center line of the car.
The entire system will be powered by a dedicated supply rather than using the Spark-Renault power train, as with the location and amount of cameras on each car being fully at the discretion of the TV director, any car that has the full quota fitted would be at a disadvantage to those without.
Vislink's brands are ubiquitous in the outside broadcast arena, and have been involved in the coverage of high-profile sports events for decades. This is particularly true when it comes to their contribution to motorsports, with Le Mans, the DTM and WRC to name a few receiving the benefits of Vislink's expertise. Add to this a long standing relationship with MotoGP, where the Gigawave brand not only provides onboard systems, but is also the official supplier of all RF, and it is clear that Vislink will be more than capable of meeting the demands of this unique new brand of motor racing.
MotoGP already uses the Gigawave HD micro cameras that will be used in Formula E, which provide stunning imagery under the extreme conditions presented. With top speeds over 200mph, eye-popping acceleration and deceleration, fierce vibrations and lean angles of 70°, if an onboard system can survive in MotoGP then Formula E should almost be simple!
However, the challenges don't start and stop with the vehicle the cameras and transmitter are fitted to. The next task is to receive the pictures being broadcast around the circuit, and whereas in the past a helicopter would often be used (and still is for slower sports) this would require line of sight to receive the images, meaning that a director would not be able to add the footage from a car on the other side of the track to the show until the helicopter had repositioned itself. To counter this multiple ground-based receivers are used, placed strategically around the circuit, allowing for access to the onboard pictures from any car anywhere on track.
With Formula E taking place on temporary street circuits this adds a layer of complexity in knowing where to place these receivers to ensure the complete coverage demanded. This challenge falls at the feet of the film and television production company Hayfisher, brought in by Aurora media who are the TV Rights holders for Formula E, to handle the engineering side of the production. Having been involved in live events coverage since the '70s, Hayfisher certainly have the experience and skills to ensure the viewers at home won't miss a millimetre of action being broadcast from the cars.
Vislink have already tested their systems on the Spark-Renault during shake down tests in France earlier this year, where their experienced engineers were able to ascertain the perfect positions for mounting the cameras prior to finalising the designs.