For U.S. Debut, World Equestrian Games Get Olympic Treatment
This year, for the first time, the equestrian world championships have come to the United States, and an Olympic veteran will be producing coverage for the world. Jim Carr, principle of Carr-Hughes Productions, has worked on 10 Olympic Games for CBS and NBC and will serve as senior coordinating producer for the World Equestrian Games, a competition taking place Sept. 25-Oct. 10 in Lexington, KY. With all the challenges of a human Olympics — including venues that are not yet complete — plus the added complexity of putting cameras alongside horses, Carr has an intricate plan.
“Carr-Hughes Productions is based out of Saratoga Springs, NY, which is another horse area for thoroughbreds,” Carr says. “We were awarded the contract back in 2005-06 to handle the world feeds and also domestic coverage on NBC and Universal Sports, so we’ve got a plan in place.”
Partner With NEP
That plan, which will deliver 130 hours of world-feed coverage and 30-plus hours of domestic coverage, was developed in cooperation with NEP. Three NEP mobile-production units will be on-site to support the coverage of all eight events, plus opening and closing ceremonies: Summit will serve as the main control room, SS10 will support competitions from the indoor arena, and Super B will provide studio integration and transmission.
“Over the last five years, the folks at Kentucky Horse Park invested heavily in putting in a single-mode–fiber infrastructure,” Carr explains. “We have fiber going to the indoor arena, main stadium, and a couple of the other venues, all brought back to a central compound.”
Instead of moving mobile units around to each of the competition venues on different days, that fiber infrastructure allows Carr’s team to bring every feed into one central compound. That way, for the largest events, such as cross- country, which require 30 cameras, all the facilities in the compound can be used without having to pack up and unpack somewhere else.
“We’re linking everything together all the time,” Carr says. “Summit is the lead truck, but SS10 is doing some subcutting for these events, because you have different horses on the course at the same time, so it gets a little bit complicated.”
It Works for Golf
Carr’s team has boiled that complicated setup down to a science. In the past, the coverage followed a single horse as it left the gate and traveled through the entire event, ignoring the other two horses that had joined the course since the first started. Now Carr’s team mimics a golf production, jumping from the start to the finish to the middle of the course, mixing and matching storylines to show the best action at any given time.
All together, Carr’s team has 40 cameras at its disposal, including beauty and point-of-view cameras, ENG packages with XDCAM HD, and super-slo-mos to cover the full 16 days of action. All the coverage will be produced in HD, supported by four Avid edit suites networked with EVS servers.
“That is very similar to what we do for the Olympics with NBC,” Carr says. “We integrate the Avids with the EVSs and bring clips over that way.”
Five Chyron Duet graphics engines are also interfaced with the scoring and timing vendor to provide clocks and live results, which are then embedded into the feed. Toronto-based Big Studios helped Carr develop an animation and graphics package that will be unique to this event.
Also unique to this event is the challenge of with a different type of athlete. Horses, it turns out, do not always love the camera the way their human counterparts do.
“You can’t put a camera so close that you’re going to spook a horse,” Carr points out. “You have to take that into consideration. A lot of times you want to put a camera in a certain area, but you can’t be in the horse’s view, so you have to work around that.”
Another workaround comes with any Olympic-size production: waiting for the venues to be complete.
“They’ve been building all these venues up until the last minute, so only when they’re finally built can I determine where to put a camera,” Carr says. “We have been waiting to finalize a lot of stuff for when the stands are finished, but we’ve had a good game plan all along.”
A Wide World Feed
In addition to providing domestic coverage for NBC and Universal Sports, Carr’s production of the world feed will be shown in Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Mexico, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, among other countries.
“We’re getting pretty good exposure this year,” Carr says.
Around 50 staff members from countries taking the world feed will be on-site in Kentucky to add their own embellishments to the coverage, in addition to the 160 Carr-Hughes crew members on-site. That should make for a crowded — and international — production compound.