TV Mobiles is Ireland’s largest outside broadcast contractor covering a variety of top quality programmes in sport, entertainment and state occasions. Some key events covered this summer included coverage of President Obama’s visit to Moneygall, Queen Elizabeth’s visits to Dublin and Cork using and the IFTA’s (Irish Film & Television Awards) with our fleet of HD trucks.
One of our major sporting clients is TG4, the independent Irish language channel. They have the broadcast rights for the traditional Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football, as well as the infamous Magners League rugby. As part of their continuing efforts to add production values to coverage they were keen to use virtual reality graphics to enhance the audience experience, and asked us to help.
Augmented reality in sports adds information like the distance and direction of a kick, or places scores and logos on the pitch. One of the critical elements in doing this seamlessly and successfully is not actually in the graphics computer itself; it’s knowing precisely where the camera is pointing so the virtual elements line up precisely.
TVM has been in business for 25 years now, and during that time we have exclusively used Vinten heads and pedestals. I think everyone would agree that the products are top quality and deliver on performance, which is what our experienced camera operators demand.
We talk regularly to Vinten, and they keep us up-to-date on the latest developments. Just as we started talking to TG4 about virtual reality, the Vinten team revealed the new Vector 430i, which is the encoded version of the popular Vector 430.
The Vector 430i has all the functionality of the innovative Vector 430 pan and tilt head, but incorporates intelligent technology which determines the precise angle of pan and tilt, accurate to 0.1˚. Once aligned it tracks the camera movement continually.
With TG4’s applications the camera is used with a 40:1 zoom lens, which also provides a data stream of zoom and focus settings. This is combined with the data from the Vector 430i in a small external unit, the VRI box, which then provides precise positioning of pan and tilt to allow graphics to be placed perfectly into the live environment. From the VRI a single continuous stream of positional data is sent to the graphics software down a single cable.
Having looked at the market in consultation with TG4, we chose the tOG-Sports package from RT Software. Chris McIntyre of Vinten and Gerry Clarke of RT Software worked with us to get the system working and to make sure our engineering managers were comfortable with it on site. They provided a very quick turnaround on the project, and it has proved effective and reliable.
We have been using the system for some months now, and we couldn’t be happier with its performance. Believe me, my camera operators would be the first to tell me if the technology was less than perfect! The feedback has been great, and one of the biggest benefits is that all the data from head and lens goes down one data stream, which makes it very quick to rig and simple to set up and align.
Most importantly, the client is delighted. Pol O Gallchoir, the director general of TG4, is thrilled with the coverage we are providing and feels the virtual reality graphics are delivering new levels of excellence for his viewers.