Sony 4K Camera To Capture Run for the Roses for Panasonic 4K Videoboard

Churchill Downs will be at the center of the horseracing universe for the next two days. Today the Oaks race is being run, and tomorrow the main event, the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, takes to the track. And while fans around the globe will tune in to watch it on TV, fans in the stands will watch the race in a completely different way: the world’s largest 4K screen will give nearly everyone on-site the chance to see the action as never before, thanks to a Panasonic 4K board and a Sony 4K camera.

The board measures 171 ft. wide x 90 ft. tall and sits 80 ft. above the ground on the backstretch. It has an active display area of 15,224 sq. ft. and can display more than 9 million lines of resolution and 281 trillion colors, giving operators an array of creative capabilities ranging from replays, image close-ups, betting odds, and race results to advertising, recorded programming, and multiple split-screen views.

Overlooking the backstretch, Churchill Downs’ Panasonic 4K videoboard has a 15,224-sq.-ft. active display area.

Overlooking the backstretch, Churchill Downs’ Panasonic 4K videoboard has a 15,224-sq.-ft. active display area.

Every great 4K monitor needs a great 4K camera, and the installation at Churchill Downs is no exception. A Sony PMWF55 CineAlta 4K camera is in use, and its image sensor captures a true 4K 4096×2160 DCI-standard cinema image and features 11.6 megapixels (total), 8.9 megapixels (effective). The Frame Image Scan technology used by the F55 sensor eliminates flash band and image artifacts common with conventional CMOS sensors, and it offers 14 stops of exposure latitude.

“The F55 was originally set up more for cinematography and documentary, but, [introduced last year], a traditional camera adapter gives the user the ability to control it through fiber, use a CCU, and have remote camera shading and controls,” says Mason Hollis, regional account manager, Sony Professional Solutions of America. “So we took a documentary-style camera and turned it into something that could be used for live applications.”

The venue marketplace may see fast adoption of 4K technologies because issues like delivering the signal to homes via broadcast, cable, or satellite platform are non-existent.

That will be the case especially for outdoor venues, where the size of the scoreboards can benefit from the 4K resolution, Hollis notes. “And the costs will become a bit more affordable although, even now, the premium is not three or four times the cost of an HD camera.”

John Studdert, VP of strategic sales, Sony Electronics, adds that the flexibility of the camera, from its ability to shoot 350 frames per second and to be used for super-zoom extraction of 720p and 1080i images, also makes the camera more attractive to all users. And this weekend’s event will only help drive 4K overall marketplace momentum.

“The Derby is an event that doesn’t need to do a lot to draw fans, but a lot of stadiums are struggling to get fans to come out,” he adds. “So they need to do something special, and this is another way to tell the story in a creative and brilliant way.”

The Churchill Downs control room features a Grass Valley production switcher, and Big Screen Networks is on hand to produce the in-house show. When the horses are on the backstretch, fans in the stands will see a split screen with, on top, a wide camera shot from the 4K camera and, on the bottom, a tight shot captured via an HD camera. When the horses are on the frontstretch, the screen switches full screen to the 4K shot.

“It means everything to have 4K at the Derby,” says Studdert. “There are only a few iconic events that happen during the year, and the Derby is up there with the World Series and the Super Bowl. We’re honored to be a part of it.”

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