The new EVS replay system in operation in the Steward's Room
From the Cheltenham Festival to Royal Ascot there are countless meetings on the UK horse racing calendar and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) ensures that fair play and integrity prevails at all.
In need of upgrading its replay systems which are vital in helping raceday stewards to adjudicate on race incidents, the regulatory authority embarked on a search to identify a solution that met all of its strategic objectives.
“There were some key criteria,” explains Paul Barton, BHA, Head of Stewarding. “We were in the process of replacing our archive with a new advanced digital system and whatever we used in the studio had to be able to feed into the OB unit to be sent back to the new archive. Most importantly for our stewards who attend each race meeting, the system had to be very simple and intuitive to use.
“We started searching for the best system we could to replicate and better the advanced systems of other racing and sports authorities. Most we looked at were either too complex for our stewards to use or unsuitable for our budget.”
The EVS Xeebra system, however, fit the bill. “Everybody who sat in front of it can pretty much use it within 30 minutes,” says Barton. “Everyone can find their way around the touchscreen.”
The BHA’s current integrity workflow involves recording to racks of XDCAM discs in each OB unit. Five camera feeds are typically recorded per race including one head on to the horses, another captured from behind the racing group, one remote camera on the other side of the course, one camera side-on to the track and another side-one but close-up camera.
“The OB unit sends pictures into a 4-screen configuration in the steward’s room and if we need a replay after a race we instruct the operator in the OB unit to locate the clips we need and run it back,” explains Barton. “It’s a process that does work, but its clunky and doesn’t give the stewards much control. For example, we may need clips of something that happened at the final furlong and perhaps then need to trace the incident back three furlongs. We may need to go back even further for another incident. All of this information has to be communicated by talkback to the operator in the OB unit. There is very limited level of control for the stewards and it’s slow and not very interactive from our point of view. It lacks flexibility and speed, which are key requirements during a short time window when many scenarios can arise.
“What the new system gives us the ability to bring those feeds under the steward’s full control. It means we can whip back and forth between the key moments instantly and better analyse any incident. It means we can view four images of the same incident in sync, or a single feed or combinations of that configuration.”
With Xeebra, referees in all sports can review action using a touchscreen, as well as narrow views from 16 to 4, 2, or full screen as needed to review every angle in detail – and in complete synchronization – providing everything needed to make the right call. From the touchscreen or a dedicated controller on the scoring table, users can pilot dynamic layout browsing, zoom directly into the replay with a touch and zoom, and mark and label the most important situations for review and export later.
EVS tailored the Xeebra software for BHA
The authority initially purchased one Xeebra and fitted it into the main RaceTech OB unit for use at premier fixtures. The next unit is scheduled for implementation in the new year.
“We are really pleased to have arrived at a solution that meets racing’s many regulatory challenges, says Barton. “The next stage is to introduce all the racecourses and participants to the new technology and to upgrade the screens in the steward’s rooms at each of the UK’s 60 race courses.”
A key task of the Xeebra was to push files out to the archive in Raines Park.
Currently, assets on hard drive are physically posted to Raines Park and ingested on arrival, a process which can take up to 3-4 days. Unlike some sports the regulator archives not just the TX but every moment of every feed per race. If the stewards want to view a five second clip of a race post event locating the clip in five hours of daily race footage this is no trivial task.
EVS successfully tweaked the software to make this happen.
“The medium term plan is to link every racecourse up to the central archive using fast broadband connectivity direct from the Xeebra.”
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