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Chaco 08-25-13 06:28 AM

Question about TV Coverage
I think the coverage of the Tour has really spoiled me. There's hardly any breakup or pixelation, and everything's in high def. The coverage of the Pro Tour is purportedly in high-def, but they can't seem to get an image on the tube for more than a few seconds without it breaking up. The images from the helicopter seem to fare better. I notice this doesn't just happen in bad weather or on mountain passes. It seems to be the case all the time, no matter where they are in Colorado.

I'm just curious why this is from a technical veiwpoint. Is it the altitude in Colorado? The Equipment? Or something else?

PhotoJoe 08-25-13 06:56 AM

Question about TV Coverage
I used to work for a wireless company. I'll tell you it has NOTHING to do with altitude. We did wireless video from the tallest mountains in the world.

The pixelation problem is a mix of equipment quality and system design. Most often poor coverage is either the company doesn't have a clue how to do it right or the client's budget won't support what it takes to do the job well. Helicopters are expensive to run. In higher altitude, you need bigger helicopters. A-stars run from $1,500 to $2,000 per hour. In L.A., we could run Robinson R-44's for $550 per hour. That adds up fast.

The microwave from the aerial is above the trees and has a better line of site to the receiver/repeater. If they didn't spend the
Money for another helo to be a repeater, coverage will suck. If they do have a helo repeater but their transmitters aren't powerful enough, or they're working in the more fragile frequency ranges, then coverage will suck.

And trees are not friendly to microwave.

SpeshulEd 08-25-13 09:51 AM

Hills and mountains aren't friendly either...if the receiver is around the bend of the mountain, the reception will be bad as well.

The Pro Challenge isn't as bad as some that I've seen.

Chaco 08-25-13 12:26 PM

As long as I'm on the subject of wireless transmission, I'll ask another question.

I saw a video of a Cat 4 race made with a GoPro. It was MUCH more exciting than watching a race from the point of view of a helicopter. I know Nascar has live cameras inside the cars.
Is this a possibility/probability in pro cycling events? IMO, it would help popularize the sport if they could get more exciting coverage, and video from inside the peloton/leading groups would definitely help.

What, in your opinion, is the main obstacle to this? Extra weight on the bikes? Technical issues?

SpeshulEd 08-25-13 12:47 PM

I don't think the technology is there yet for racers to transmit video from within the race.

A gopro on a bike is one thing, its fairly light, you post the video later.

There's a lot more involved in transmitting a video signal. If the motos have a hard time doing it with full size equipment, imagine what it'd be like with slimmed down equipment on the bike, plus you're going to add a couple of pounds worth of cameras, transmitters, batteries, etc - would you want to be the guy climbing up a steep mountain with an extra 3lbs of gear?

In time, as technology advances and equipment continues to get smaller and lighter, it will probably become a reality. Seems like they could work up a smaller camera that could stream via bluetooth or wifi to one of the motos nearby, but hard to say how great the quality would be.

PhotoJoe 08-25-13 05:05 PM

We did RF on a bike in the 80's. The issue isn't being able to do it. We (actually THEY, it was before my time) did it on bikes, bobsleds, motorcycles, etc. The issue is ALL weight. A 160-WH battery will run a transmitter for 30-45 minutes - and that battery weighs just shy of 3 lbs., let alone the mount, antenna, cables, camera, etc. There are some beautiful broadcast HD POV cameras that are only slightly larger than a GoPro. Like S.E. said, the riders don't want that weight disadvantage.

There is other technology coming, but it's not there yet. The issue for live television is latency. The systems we used had about 45 milliseconds of delay (less than two frames) for broadcast quality. We could get it down, however, image quality would suffer. Bluetooth's bandwidth is too limited. There is a system out that splits 1080i up into multiple cell channels over multiple carriers, broadcasts it over the cell channels, then remuxes it in the receiver on the other end. I was part of a shoot-out of the top brands, and can say that it's impressive, but slow. Latency is not in milliseconds, but in seconds, which is completely unacceptable for live television that has multiple cameras on the same subject (football, autoracing, etc.) I could see it as a very viable tool for marathons. Right now, it's limited to (and a very valuable tool) for news gathering.

But, like I said, cool stuff is coming....and quickly. The Nick Wallenda tightrope walks used some very small cameras and a new "smaller" transmitter, however, batteries were the same old stuff.

Chaco 08-27-13 10:19 AM

SpeshulEd & PhotoJoe, thanks for very informative answers.

Chaco 08-28-13 04:36 PM


Originally Posted by SpeshulEd (Post 15997006)
Hills and mountains aren't friendly either...if the receiver is around the bend of the mountain, the reception will be bad as well. The Pro Challenge isn't as bad as some that I've seen.


Originally Posted by PhotoJoe (Post 15997980)
But, like I said, cool stuff is coming....and quickly. The Nick Wallenda tightrope walks used some very small cameras and a new "smaller" transmitter, however, batteries were the same old stuff.

I just quoted you guys in hopes you might be able to answer a follow-up question. I've been watching the Vuelta, and though it's low-res, there's absolutely no pixellation or breakup at all. So my two question are: 1) Is the difference that hi-res requires so much more bandwidth to transmit that it's prone to problems? Or is it something else?
2) IMO, the Vuelta coverage, even though not hi-res, is MUCH more satisfying than the Pro Challenge coverage was. What good is it to have hi-res if you can hardly ever see the picture? The broadcasters must be aware of this. So do they do it just to brag about "hi res coverage"? Or do you think they thought things would go OK this year, even though it was a disaster last year?

PhotoJoe 08-28-13 05:13 PM

Happy to help. Microwave can be done so well....and soooo poorly.

1) All HIGH-END broadcast microwave systems can do both HD and SD. The difference is in the digital technology in encoding and decoding. There are different brands of RF systems, including NuComm, Link, GMS, etc., etc. They all do it differently. The Link stuff worked the best for what we did with it. Very versatile. Also, the power output was key. For small "shiney floor" events like Dancing, Idol, Talent, etc., a very low power setting worked fine. To reach from Santa Monica to Griffith Park for a Marathon helo-to-repeater hop, we'd use a 5-watt amp with different antennas. There are so many variables that go into a solid signal (or not in some cases) that if you don't know what you're doing, it's very easy to not get pictures. Yes, 1080i needs a boatload of bandwidth, but if you have a solid link, that bandwidth isn't a problem. If you don't have a solid link, even SD is going to suck.

When it comes to frequencies, we were licensed to work in some freq's that others weren't. We like the 2GHz the best. It blasted through stuff that 7GHz just couldn't, but you have to pay the Gummit to use it.

To add to that, there is compression in there. For cycling, it's going to be heavily compressed. For MNF, we'd use two bands side-by-side allowing far less compression and delivers an image that is rarely discernable between wireless and wired cameras.

2) There are some companies that are far better at sales than RF service. They promise the world and under-deliver. I swear they have pictures of someone doing something they shouldn't be doing. One company screwed up the Tour of California so bad one year that the owners (who also own TdF) will only use the production company that does the TdF. I worked for one of the two best RF companies in the US, and we could never get the chance to earn that business becasue of that one bad experience with a company who didn't do it right.

Now, specifically relating to cycling - to be fair (and repetitive), trees are not friendly to microwave. Even if done right, with the right microwave, antennas, amps, helicopter repeaters, etc., a think enough tree canopy can kill the signal.

SpeshulEd 08-28-13 05:25 PM

PhotoJoe, I'd love to hang out with you for a night, have some beers, and listen to you talk geek. I'm no where on the same level as you, most of my knowledge comes from recording live concerts as an amateur, something I haven't done in years but I love to geek out with this stuff.

Loving the depth of your answers.

Chaco 08-28-13 09:58 PM

Again, thanks for a really informative answer. Too bad I can't give you 25 karma points!

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