X Games Live: ESPN’s Rally Car, Hot Wheels Coverage Reaps Rewards of Cameron’s Deep-Sea Dive

In March, filmmaker James Cameron became the first human to complete a solo journey to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, Earth’s deepest known point at nearly seven miles below the Pacific Ocean surface. To capture the two-and-a-half hour voyage, Cameron deployed a series of ultra-miniature 3D cameras inside titanium housings that were the first of their kind.

Now, three months later, those same cameras are embarking on a voyage of a very different nature – around Los Angeles’ downtown streets for ESPN 3D’s coverage of the X Games Rally Car and Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare competitions this weekend.

“They fit in the palm of your hand like a very small ice cube,” says Cameron-Pace Group CTO Patrick Campbell. “It’s about 10 ounces in weight with HDSDI hookup coming out the back. We have been tweaking them in the shop ever since Jim’s dive and this is the first time we will be using them.”

Rally Car Returns in 3D
ESPN, which produced Rally Car in 3D two years ago but declined to do so last year, will have two of these 3D “Nano-rigs” at their disposal for the Rally Car and Hot Wheels events. The bleeding-edge rigs only arrived on site on Wednesday evening, making ESPN’s task even more challenging.

“It’s really difficult from the standpoint that it is hard to find a good place in a car to fit a 3D camera, which is why they are so small this year,” says Steve Raymond, associate director – event operations. “There is very little room in the car and everything is so jammed together that it is hard to find a shot with much depth inside the car. It’s a challenge to work in that tight of proximity and still get some 3D layers.”

In addition to the 3D rigs, ESPN will deploy eight HD on-board cameras and more than 15 coverage cameras (primarily 3D rigs with the 2D show taking the left-eye feed) throughout the ¾-of-a-mile RallyCross course. The 2D on-board cameras will be placed in various locations, usually with two cameras assigned to a single car – one inside shooting the driver and one outside shooting the course.

BSI is handling the RF transmission of the cameras, providing ESPN with a total of sixth paths that can be taken at any given time. Since there are a total of 12 feeds (eight 2D and two left- and right-eye feeds for 3D rigs), the ESPN crew inside the NEP Denali Summit Truck will alert BSI as to what feeds to assign to these six paths as the show progresses.

Even though cars with 2D systems will be able to deliver two paths back to the BSI truck (one for each camera), there can only be one 3D system per car since the left- and right-eye feeds are transmitted discreetly over the dual transmission paths.

“The real pinch point is the frequencies – we only have six paths total,” says Raymond. “So if you put out two 3D cameras, then you only have two other discrete cameras on the race. That is obviously very limiting to what we would like to do for Rally Car.”

A Whole Lot of Orange Paint
The most eye-catching (albeit stunt-like) event at Summer X this year is certainly the Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare – a 60-foot-tall double loop located across from the L.A. Live complex. The competition will feature two drivers simultaneously racing though the harrowing six-story vertical loop and coming out the other side. For anyone who was a Hot Wheels fan as a kid – or still is, for that matter – the Double Loop Dare is a dream come to life.

“I’ll tell you this – that is one of the largest usages of orange paint I’ve ever seen,” says X Games and ESPN 3D Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins. “It’s simply massive. But two cars drive into a 60-foot loop and come out the other side – you just can’t beat that.”

A 2D and a 3D on-board camera system will be utilized during the Hot Wheels telecast on Saturday, with one in each car.

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