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  • I don’t know about it being equivalent to televising the AFL Grand Final… I haven’t seen many 200km wide footy fields :D

    The amount of work that must go in to the production guides though must be immense.  With all that actually goes in behind the scenes, it’s hard to imagine how the whole event is profitable to run.

    • From what I understand France TV does not pay anything to the ASO for broadcast rights of the Tour.  However, I heard various figures on how much it costs to produce the feed every day, and it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (which I’m guessing that France TV pays for).

      Matt Keenan had a interesting article in the AFR about the ASO’s financials: http://afr.com/p/lifestyle/sport/cycling/how_the_tour_makes_money_8BT3QKUHpO73VRR4RB2grK

  • Anonymous

    I was always impressed they didnt have collisions with any vehicles, let alone the helicopters. Most people have trouble managing logistics with 2 dimensions, then you add the height of the choppers etc, its amazing. Some very talented people work on the tour that’s for sure.

  • This is a great article. I’m especially impressed by the technical details (as an ICT Engineer) conveyed-you don’t usually get that. 

  • jules

    great stuff CT, really interesting. i’ve looked a bit at train communications, which is kind of similar – moving vehicles which need to transmit data. a lot of train operators are moving to GSM platforms, on either a public or private cellular network – the latter requires them to install their own infrastructure (towers etc.) i wonder if one day the public networks have sufficient coverage that this kind of grand circus is unnecessary? pretty impressive though in its own right.

    • It’s a good point Jules. I did ask if the mobile networks were used at all but it’s not possible. There are too many coverage holes. But the more I think about it, the more it would make sense for them to do it this way. 

      Some of the network’s live broadcasts from the roadside were done using mobile infrastructure. For example, Scott McGrory was working with Fox TV and Ben the cameraman had a backpack that had 7 SIM cards inside which would split the signal and send it onto a base station.

  • Notso Swift

    SBS had a dozen people… that will bring a tear to Tommo’s eyes as he remembers the days when it was Him, a camera man and a sound engineer in the back of a Transit!

    (I remember him doing a story on that, and in reality it wasn’t that long ago)

  • Bracks_ashat

    Engineering at its finest

    • Ryder

      Shattering for these engineers when they sit down to enjoy the cystal clear reception as a result of their work and millions of dollars, only to hear the monkeys commentating can’t distinguish the cycling style of Adam Hansen from Jurgen Van den Broeck.

  • Nitro

    Does anyone know the pro’s take on the constant clattering of helicopters that they must have to put up with for every km of the tour
    ?

    Part of the job I guess – without the publicity the riders wouldnt be the celebrities they are – but must be pretty offputting.

    The helicopters deliver some amazing footage, but they’re not the quitest things to be around, even if you’re several hundred feet below them…

  • Matt

    We managed to jump the fence (with passes) and wander through the media area during the grand depart two years ago in Rotterdam – the amount of infrastructure really is immense, and was packed a lot tighter than footage like Dave Maccas clip above would suggest.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, thank you.

    But here’s something I’d like to see. The overhead coverage of bunch sprints are fascinating, but it would be great if they could start from further out. I saw Matt Goss give up his chase of Cavendish on the Champs Elysees, but it would have been good to see the final 1 – 2 km from above. How much work had he done to get there? How good was GreenEdge’s delivery?

    Can’t see any technical reason why not.

  • diamondjim

    I think it’s fantastic that ‘their proprietary digital modulation technique (based on DVB-T ) uses QPSK, QAM16/32/64 combined with 16 bit time-interleaving over a carrier with 10MHz bandwidth achieving 15Mbps (14Mbps video, 1Mbps audio)’, but their 2 Relay Airplanes appear to be Mitsubishi Zeros.  :-)

    • Peter

       I laughed until I stopped, really!

    • Anonymous

      I wasn’t sure whether they were zeros or Focke Wulfs. Over France, probably better Zeros..

  • Nic_3

    Does @FakeMattKeenan also get a speakers booklet? Can we get him one next year?

  • Mariano Kamp

    if only it would be possible to watch the nbc reporting in Germany. the german commentators on eurosport are a real pain.

  • Robert Merkel

    Great piece.

    One obvious question – what’s next for TDF – and cycling – coverage?

    It would be possible to add all sorts of statistics to the coverage if so desired, including real-time telemetry from power meters.  But it seems to me that ASO has made a deliberate decision to keep it simple and concentrate on the scenery.  Which is fine. 

    So what else?  On-bike cameras for sprints is one obvious one, though I gather the UCI is leery of this.

    Another exciting possibility is the use of UAVs (drones) for additional aerial coverage.  This is actually not such a big deal for the TDF, but it could be a very big deal for smaller races because it might allow the equivalent of helicopter shots at a tiny fraction of the cost.  Imagine how much more attractive the NRS would be as a TV proposition if it has overhead shots of all the sprints.

    • I completely forgot to ask Luc Geoffroy’s his thoughts on the future of cycling broadcasting and upcoming innovations. I did email him immediately after and I’m looking forward to his response. 

      • Paulgolf5

         Wonder if we’ll ever get to the point where we have a split TV screen and have for example one motocamera showing a descent in it’s entirety and the other showing the chasing riders as they crest the mountaintop.

        • Robert Merkel

           That’s technically possible right now.  It’s the director’s choice not to do so.

          What may be coming at some point in the future is the ability to choose which camera or cameras you’re looking at at a given moment.  Formula One tried this for a little while (so, for instance, you could watch the in-car shots of Mark Webber battling Fernando Alonso for 20 laps if you wanted) but I don’t think they could make it pay.

          I’m not sure I could be bothered having this facility for watching the race live, but it would be really nice to be able to slice and dice sprints yourself, rather than relying on the director to do it for you.

          • Simon Atkinson

             I would guesstimate that that would be something we’d see in the future (not just for TdF, but for all sport – much like FoxSports does with viewer’s choice matches, or live concert DVD’s where you can select the angles).

            Perhaps it’d need to be limited to several cameras, as having 7 cameras following the riders + up to 20 cameras near the finishing straight would be a headache for a viewer to navigate. Perhaps a “break moto/peleton moto/helicopter 1/helicopter 2/scott sunderland dressing room” option?

            Great article Wade, really interesting to see how it’s all put together. One thing I saw whilst watching an NBC clip on YouTube was that they have graphics on the live feed that can track a rider in a sprint and point them out. Given they have 10x the SBS staff, I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t make it here in Australia soon, but I thought that was great, and would be an excellent resource for new viewers trying to keep up.

            Given how well the Skoda Tour Tracker app was put together in terms of monitoring the race, TV will have to continue to innovate at a rapid pace so as not to be left behind.

  • thanks for the detailed description. I remember Inner Ring also did a less technical version of Le Tour’s coverage  efforts: http://inrng.com/2012/04/tour-de-france-tv-preparation/

    From now on, I will never take even a pirated stream of a bike race for granted.

  • Rossco

    Amazing post, thanks Wade. Very interesting indeed!

  • Great article Wade. Thanks.

  • IF

    Is Euro Media France the same entity as Euro Media, which Johnny Hoogdrland is taking legal against after his crash during the 2011 tour?

    • Good eye IF. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this is the same company. 

  • this is a very cool post!

  • ed

    CT you are (were) an engineer – “respect!!” as Ali G would say.

    From memory Stuey O’Grady somehow fitted in a B Eng Elec at Adelaide Uni in his younger days – respect to him too.

    As impressive as all this technology is my thoughts are the scale of the Tour and entourage that follows it is making the race a little dull. All these media crews & trucks need stage finishes with good access to get in, set up and then move out quickly. As a result stage finishes are in locations that facilitate this requirement – wide open boulevards. Compare this to the Giro or Vuelta which isn’t as popular as the Tour. As a result they dont have the same logistical headaches and can have a stage finish up in a citadel, up some little goat track to a small village or a lesser known ski village – usally more exciting finishes.

    good article btw

  • Chadwick

    I did have a bit of a nerdgasim reading this.

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant read mate. Incredible amount going on behind the scenes to bring it all together. I was super impressed by the belgium fellow who described some of the broadcast requirements and how they spent qpprox 5hrs a day up in the plane relaying images and radio. He and the flight crew were very happy to be at the hotel each night sitting back and enjoying a beer.

     

    • Thanks for bringing it to my attention Pat!

  • John Cole

    I was there for the TDF in 2011 and at one stage there were NINE helicopters in the air over the race.

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