The Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06 attracted a cumulative global television audience of 1.8 billion. According to Harold ANDERSON, Executive Producer of the Volvo Ocean Race, the advent of HDTV will swell that number as HDTV broadcasters seek compelling content.
'As more and more broadcasters around the world push for more high definition product this decision will ensure that the weekly programmes covering the race will be much sought after,' ANDERSON said.
'We are already getting plenty of interest as a result. The pictures from the race, always dramatic and compelling, will be greatly enhanced by high definition.
'Just as the yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race represent the cutting edge of sailing technology, so the television coverage will mirror that.'
HDTV is a digital television broadcasting system with a significantly higher resolution than the traditional standard definition (SD) format, leading to enhanced picture quality. At present, a number of broadcasters in the USA, Japan and Europe carry HD programmes. The list will grow in line with the increase in consumer take-up of HD-ready television sets. Traditional SD broadcasters which take the Volvo HD product will benefit as the picture quality of SD will be improved.
With the Olympic Games and Formula One recently announcing that HD is part of their broadcast plans, the Volvo Ocean Race will be in esteemed company. Andrew FERGUSON, Head of Technology and New Media for the Volvo Ocean Race, says that by switching to HD the Volvo Ocean Race will be elevated to the 'early-adopter' league of global sports.
'What will set us apart from other sports events is that all our footage will be HD quality even the material we collect and transmit from our on-board cameras from the depths of the Southern Ocean,' FERGUSON said.
'In a sports arena which spans 39,000 nautical miles and where not just the athletes but also the on-board equipment is at the mercy of the elements 24 hours a day and that is some achievement.'
For the 2005-06 event, Volvo was already on the front line of advanced technology in terms of the audio and video equipment on board the boats. Every sound bite and frame captured on-board was transmitted to race headquarters in Great Britain from Media Desk on each Volvo Open 70. Media Desk is designed by Livewire Digital, the race's on-board broadcast systems partner.
Upgrading the on-board capability to cater for the transmission of HD material, says FERGUSON, brings its own challenges, 'For 2008-09, in conjunction with Livewire Digital, we will again use the best available codecs [compression/decompression device] to efficiently send HD quality footage via satellite from our on-board cameras.'
'In simple terms, we are taking an HD quality camcorder, stripping it down to the minimal components of the lens and the circuit board, and then repackaging it into a highly 'marinized' bespoke case, which can withstand the elements. No easy task.'
The switch to HD will also future-proof the race archive. It will mean that material from the 2008-09 race which is archived will already be in HD format for those broadcasters which make the switch over the next few years. 'We won't have to play catch-up when the HD broadcasters come calling for archive content,' FERGUSON adds.
The 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race will be the 10th running of this iconic ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, it will for the first time, take in ports in the Middle East and Asia. Spanning some 39,000 nautical miles, stopping at around 11 ports and taking nine months to complete, the Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier yacht race for professional racing crews.The Volvo Ocean Race is an ISAF Special Event. For more information on the Volvo Ocean Race, the Volvo Open 70 and the teams competing, visit the official Volvo Ocean Race website - www.volvooceanrace.org.
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