Red Bull is pushing visual boundaries and spicing up televised coverage of its Air Race with the inclusion of dramatic informational graphics. These added graphics, which become part of the live background, must be positioned accurately in relation to the output of the broadcast camera using precise camera tracking technology. Up until recently, this level of precision has been almost impossible to achieve in challenging situations such as the Air Race or, for that matter, motorsport’s Formula One. That is mainly because the distances involved when following the close up action of fast moving objects require extremely long lenses. under such circumstances. Optical tracking systems, on the other hand, have been thoroughly tested and although they work on shorter ranges, the narrow end of the zoom lens still presented obstacles – that is until Mo-Sys became involved.
When the graphics company Netventure approached us with exactly that problem we provided a solution based on our experience with gyro stabilisation. High spec gyro sensors in combination with tracking technology that removes any ‘drift’ is mounted on the box lens and provides accurate motion data of the tiniest movement of the lens – even when the camera is swaying 50 metres in the air. This Mo-Sys GyroTracker technology premiered last year in Austria and was further tested in Spain over the winter break. The first real outing was in February in Abu Dhabi, the first stop of the new Air Race season. After tests to fine tune the software, we achieved a tracking result that was satisfying and quite promising for future development. For the next races in Croatia and Hungary the system was fully working and provided stable tracking.
Alongside the GyroTracker, Red Bull acquired a Mo-Sys L40 remote head for virtual graphics. The L40 proved to be a power house. Ultra precise tracking information, including lens data, plus a responsive and intuitive operation is possible through single mode fibre. The tracking data from Mo-Sys L40 and GyroTracker was collected by our specially designed triple gateway with fibre conversion, and fed into Lenses like the Canon DigiSuper 100XS are required for dramatic coverage, but these achieve a viewing angle of just 0.5 degree when zoomed in to the action. This means for HD or even 4k, the tracking data must be resolved to nearly 10,000th of a degree. In normal circumstances, holding the camera steady even with such a minute viewing angle is not too difficult, but when an unstable platform of a cherry picker 50 metres up in the air is involved, the challenge is more complex.
The data was used for a new and exciting graphics feature, where not only the camera is tracked, but also the participating planes using high precision GPS. This allows a recording to be made of the flight position data of a plane that can be later played back. A ‘ghost plane’ is augmented into the live scene to compare two planes, all in real time. Expect even more far reaching improvements in the future.