Grass Valley Saddles Up HD for Keeneland Racetrack
By Andrew Lippe
Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, KY, recently took another step forward in its transition to HD with the addition of a Thomson Grass Valley Kayak HD production switcher and three Thomson K2 media servers. The gear will be used in an HD control room alongside other gear from EVS, Avid, and others.
“The Grass Valley equipment gives us a competitive edge over other racetrack production facilities, as we are the first track in North America with HD equipment on-site,” says G.D. Hieronymus, director of Broadcast Services for Keeneland. “It’s really made a difference for our visitors to the track. HD images are displayed on hundreds of LCD screens located throughout the facility and position Keeneland as a premiere destination for race fans across the country.”
While Churchill Downs makes use of only one HD camera, Keeneland has gone all in, with a complement of 10 Thomson Grass Valley LDK 4000 HD cameras, four Thomson Ignite HDC robotic cameras, a Thomson LDK 6000 camera, and a Thomson LDK 8000 SportCam for super-slo-mo shots. “The only time you see a full-fledged HD production,” says Hieronymus, “is the Breeders’ Cup or a Triple Crown event.”
The camera signals are transported back to the control room, where they are switched using the Kayak switcher. An EVS system with DNF controllers and two Avid editing systems (one of which readies race content for a digital-asset-management project) are also used during races. A MediaEdge IP server system replays previous races.
Currently, the HD feed does not reach viewers at simulcast locations across the country because Roberts Communications Networks has not installed the gear necessary to deliver HD signals coming from all racetracks. “We were fully prepared to do some testing with Roberts this month, and we hoped to have our Keeneland signal on a few selected sites in October,” says Hieronymus. “But RCN was not ready.” He expects HD signals to start being delivered next April.
The HD gear has already helped out ESPN, which used the cameras for a race on Oct. 4. Keeneland’s next project is to put in a TV studio and rebuild the postproduction facility at the track. Says Hieronymus, “We have got a lineup of things we want to get accomplished here.”