GOING LIVE GETS THE GREENLIGHT
In just one weeks’ time the Isle of Man TT races will make history as it streams full uninterrupted live coverage for the first time ever exclusively through the new digital channel, TT+.
Any event with a history spanning 115 years will have established many remarkable milestones along the way and when the Isle of Man TT returns in May it will usher in a new one. In fact, something many thought, due to the vast size of one of the greatest and most challenging race circuits in the world, would simply never happen.
MAKING HISTORY: FULL LIVE COVERAGE DELIVERED AROUND THE WORLD FOR THE FIRST TIME
Full live coverage of the TT will be available to the masses around the world for the first time with coverage beginning from the first newcomers’ wheel turning along Glencrutchery Road on Sunday 29th May until Friday 10th June when the Milwaukee Senior TT trophy is lifted aloft at the end of a breath-taking fortnight of motorcycle racing.
It is widely known that live broadcast sport has a proven track record in encouraging many of those watching on screen to go to the event and experience it for themselves. Indeed, the Isle of Man TT is one of those spectacles which many declare as a ‘must-see’; those who do go often find themselves going back again and again.
Coverage of the TT has evolved from the early days of newspaper articles on the racing expanding into radio reports and Pathe newsreels in the middle of the last century followed by live radio commentary then TV highlights. Now live coverage is the next step on the evolutionary ladder for the Isle of Man TT Races.
THE LIVE PRODUCTION
The production team behind the live coverage is Isle of Man-based Greenlight Television. They began covering the TT in 1994, in fact, they first attempted live coverage of the event in that first year with two cameras at the Grandstand and an on-board bike camera sending pictures up to a helicopter and being broadcast simultaneously on Sky Sports. However, the motorbike was caught up in an accident around Union Mills on the opening lap so that brought about an unexpected early end to what was, to be fair, not full coverage of the race but a taste of the future ahead of its’ time.
Those bold, tender first steps may well have been forgotten but now, almost thirty years later, with technology having significantly evolved, Greenlight TV Director, David Beynon, says the time is right to take the event to another level. “This has been 25 years in the planning,” he says. “We've been through various stages of it nearly happening, not nearly happening but now everything is in place. The technology is there but the major factor has always been budget. Costs are nowhere near as big as they used to be and while it’s still not cheap it’s now affordable.”
BEHIND THE SCENES: OVER 200 PEOPLE WILL BE WORKING ON THE LIVE PRODUCTION
Which is no surprise for a two week long event, involving 200 people, 26 cameras and two helicopters. Perhaps though, one of the unusual benefits of the recent pandemic has been the necessity to work via remote production as travel and face-to-face contact with other people was near impossible. As well as their headquarters in the Isle of Man, Greenlight has offices and production units in Manchester and Florida, USA. In the States they cover a number of series from the TransAm car championship to P1 Powerboats which takes them to cities the length and breadth of the US. The pandemic changed the way they had to operate as David Beynon explains. “In February 2020, we covered the first TransAm race of that year as a remote production, which we did from our Tampa office instead of being at the racetrack some 200 miles away. It went very well then lockdown hit and when they started racing again a few months later we were still unable to get to the States. We had no choice really but to try and produce each event from the Isle of Man even though the racetrack was 3000 miles away. However, everything worked beautifully. Since then, with that series, we’re producing the 14 rounds of the TransAm series from the Island with the cameras and onboard operators only in the States. Everybody else is back here in Tromode.”
To do this Greenlight uses a system of transmitters and receivers that can work with mobile cellular coverage as well as via either WiFi or an Ethernet connection, with enough bandwidth to get the HD video signal which takes around two and a half seconds for the live feed to arrive in the Isle of Man from Florida.
CALLING THE SHOTS
ALL THE LIVE ACTION WILL BE PRODUCED AND BROADCAST ONLY A MILE AWAY FROM GLENCRUTCHERY ROAD.
Greenlight will apply this same principle for the live coverage of this year’s Isle of Man TT coverage. The broadcast centre will be based at their Tromode office using the gallery that covers the American motorsports which will be supplemented by a second Gallery that will operate as the control room for the live broadcast. “This will include a bigger mixing desk,” adds David, “plus more receivers, in fact there’s more of everything really. Simply put, the camera pictures will come to us in Tromode which is about a mile from Glencrutchery Road then we mix it, send that signal to the commentary team at the Grandstand and from there it comes back to us with the voices on and from there we send it to the world.”
Is it all going to work though? That’s the million dollar or, perhaps, £14.99 question. David and the rest of the team at Greenlight are confident. “We've done a lot of testing,” he says, “plus we have a lot of experience in this field now with getting signals back from various locations, certainly across the United States. We've also done a little bit at the big racing events in Northern Ireland plus we did a test at the TT in 2018 which worked perfectly and was beamed into the VIP hospitality unit at the Grandstand.” That involved four cameras on the start/finish at Glencrutchery Road with two each at Glen Helen, Ballaugh Bridge and Ramsey hairpin along with the helicopter link.
TT+ LIVE PASS: WATCH EVERY QUALIFYING SESSION AND RACE LIVE FOR A ONE OFF PAYMENT OF £14.99
NEVER MISS A MOMENT
“Nobody has ever seen the whole of a TT race before, this is uncharted territory.” he adds. “We now have the space that we don't get in a highlights show. With an hour long TV show we have to reduce an exciting hour and forty minutes worth of racing down to around thirty minutes and quite often we have to leave footage out that we would have loved to have kept in as there's simply not enough space left in the edit. Now, we have all of the build-up, all of the race as it happens and all of the post-race reaction for fans to enjoy. This is much more in-depth coverage plus as the race is a time-trial it will give a true picture of the race as it's happening which can sometimes be distorted slightly in a television highlights show. By that, I mean you can tell the story of the race but now with the live broadcast fans can see how gaps are either opening or shrinking. We'll be showing the Island in such a different way even in terms of qualifying which really has been condensed into a small TV package but can now be enjoyed throughout its entirety and there's often many wonderful things happening in these sessions which everyone can experience.”
LIVE COVERAGE GIVES FANS AROUND THE WORLD ACCESS LIKE NEVER BEFORE.
HOW TO WATCH
Greenlight certainly seem to have things sussed in providing a service which appears to have been meticulously planned. For those TT fans who can’t make it to the Isle of Man to watch what legendary commentator and son of a TT winner, Murray Walker called ‘the greatest motorsport event on the planet’ then watching it live on screen has to be the next best thing. Certainly, nothing beats being there. Get yourself a TT+ Live Pass, a copy of this year’s official programme and imagine you’re sitting on a grass verge or viewing area around the course, watching the race unfolding in your hand, charting their progress around the circuit and they’re flying past you for real. I’d call that priceless. In fact, it’s £14.99.