Woodbine Entertainment, Dome Productions Join Forces on First-Ever 4K Horse Racing Broadcast in North America

The Queen's Plate, which predates both the Kentucky Derby and the Confederation of Canada, will be broadcast in 4K on TSN 4K and DirecTV 4K.

The Queen’s Plate, the first jewel in Canada’s thoroughbred racing Triple Crown, is steeped in history. As the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America, the Queen’s Plate dates back to 1860 – 15 years before the first running of the Kentucky Derby and seven years before the Confederation of Canada.

However, the Queen’s Plate is hardly caught in the past. Instead, it will become the first horse race to be broadcast in 4K in North America.

The broadcast of this weekend’s Queen’s Plate, contested this weekend at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, continues a wave of 4K production that began in early 2016, thanks to the combined efforts of Dome Productions, Rogers’ Sportsnet, and Bell Media’s TSN. In the year and a half that’s followed Dome’s first foray into 4K production, the mobile-truck provider has supported more than 300 sports and entertainment events in 4K. But this Saturday’s horse race will be a first.

“From my perspective, the beauty of this sport [really lends itself to 4K],” says Woodbine Entertainment Director of Broadcasting Rob Platts. “When you think of the pulsating muscles of the animal, the movement of the jockeys, and the excitement that the crowd experiences, it’s those kinds of images that will shine in a 4K format. [We will be] able to produce something that looks spectacular in HD in the highest resolution possible today in North America.”

TSN, the longtime rightsholder of the Queen’s Plate, first approached Woodbine Entertainment with the idea of broadcasting the event in 4K. On Saturday, Platts will serve as Executive Producer of the 158th running of the Queen’s Plate, while TSN’s Peter Buchanan and Richard Wells will produce and direct, respectively.

Dome Productions’ Pioneer 4K mobile unit will be on site at Woodbine Racetrack, and be responsible for both the 4K and HD production of the Queen’s Plate. The race will be produced natively in 4K and sent to TSN for its TSN 4K channel (available on Bell Fibe TV and Rogers), as well as DirecTV 4K in the U.S. A downconverted HD feed will also be sent to TSN.

Woodbine Entertainment will surround the track with 16 cameras, including Pioneer’s 13 cameras (all Sony 4300s, capturing content in native 4K), a FOR-A VFC-7000A variable frame rate camera, a DJI Inspire 2 drone, and a truck-mounted gyro-stabilized camera. In the truck, Dome has enhanced its EVS replay servers to handle the native 4K replay. Although this year’s cameras boast higher resolutions than previous years, Platts plans to use his team’s tried-and-true camera positions.

“[The camera positions] are fairly similar to what we’ve used in the past,” he explains. “You can only cover a horse race so many ways – there’s a certain way to cut a race where you don’t confuse the viewer, and there’s only so many angles you can get… We here at Woodbine Entertainment have been doing this for a long time, so we’ve become pretty expert at figuring out the best angles and the best spots to put cameras for covering horse racing at its highest potential.”

The biggest challenge, says Platts, will be sharing space with the in-venue video production. Woodbine Entertainment will also have two video-production teams on hand to produce content for three permanent in-field LED displays and two rented LED displays (all content for those video displays will be produced in HD, not 4K).

And, like the Kentucky Derby, the Queen’s Plate is hardly the only event going on at Woodbine Racetrack this weekend. Woodbine Entertainment will cover 13 horse races and several concerts over two days. Add in Canada Day celebrations on July 1, and Dome Productions and Woodbine Entertainment certainly have their work cut out. But they also have plenty to celebrate.

“We pride ourselves in our innovation, in terms of our facilities and what we do in our world,” says Bruce Gaum, Director, Client Solutions and Technology, Dome Productions. “Bringing together two companies like Dome and Woodbine Entertainment to bring this event to an even higher level speaks volumes to what both our companies stand for in terms of technology and trying to reach the pinnacle of innovation.”

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