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Special cameras support coverage of A1 Grand Prix Championship

BBC Outside Broadcasts is providing live onboard camera coverage of the new A1 Grand Prix series, which will transmit live into over 290 million households across 50 countries.
In September, eight global networks had bought the rights to broadcast the championship, including Sky Sports, Al Jazeera Sport and ESPN STAR Sports.
Using revolutionary digital ground-receive technology, pioneered by BBC Outside Broadcasts and Gigawave, the onboard camera coverage will provide exciting pictures in a difficult RF environment.
The new event is the first World Cup of Motorsport due to its unique format, which sees drivers from 25 different countries compete against each other in identical Lola cars with 3.4-litre engines.
Headed up by Paul McNeil, BBC Outside Broadcasts’ special cameras team has been involved right from the start, consulting with A1 Grand Prix organisers to ensure that the cameras were fully integrated into the design of the cars. Twelve of the 25 cars will be rigged with up to four custom-built digital live onboard camera systems to capture the speed and excitement of the race from inside the vehicles.
Before they go out to the grid, the cars will have a bespoke Gigawave transmitter fitted by BBC Outside Broadcasts engineers to reflect the production’s need to get the story of the race. There will be ten possible positions per car, offering shots of the driver and forward and backward facing shots to capture overtaking moves. Pictures from four cars will be available on the mixer at any one time. The rest of the cameras can be operated remotely via an RF data link from a control room in the pits.
In addition to supplying, installing, operating and maintaining all of the live onboard systems, BBC Outside Broadcasts’ special cameras team is providing a Kerb cam to capture the action from the ground. Practically indestructible, Kerb cam can even be run over or hit by the cars and provide viewers with a unique and exciting angle on the action. All cameras will be fitted with a remotely operated ‘clear screen’ cleaning system, to deliver clean, crisp pictures throughout the race.
The new digital ground-receive system uses up to three sites with MRC (Maximum Ratio Combining) and packet switching, based on techniques from the BBC Research and Development department. This eliminates the need for helicopter relays, making coverage more reliable and continuous.
A custom-made mobile fly-away control room is being built by BBC Outside Broadcasts to support the onboard camera coverage and to provide links for three radio cameras in the pit lanes, plus a link from a helicopter camera. BBC Outside Broadcasts team will work closely with the host broadcaster in each of the countries to provide expert special cameras coverage.
BBC Outside Broadcasts’ Special Cameras Manager Paul McNeil says: “A1 Grand Prix is a really exciting event to be involved with and promises to be an exhilarating experience for TV viewers. The fact we’ve worked so closely with the race organisers from the outset enables us to bring viewers the best pictures possible, as the cars have been designed with the camera positions in mind.”
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