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Getting the Balance Right: The Inside Track on the eSkootr Championship

16/05/2022

Getting the balance right: The inside track on the eSkootr Championship By George Bevir

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 10:03

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The first stage of the new eSkootr Championship (eSC) takes place in London on Saturday (14 May), which is a fitting location given that co-founder Khalil Beschir came up with the concept while in the city. Someone arrived at a meeting in London and said they just saw two people on scooters racing each other, and something in my head just clicked, he says. I was sitting next to my partner (eSC co-founder and chief executive) Hrag Sarkissian, and I said, why don't we do a racing scooter?' He thought I was joking, but it grew from there.

That idea has now evolved to a six-stage championship, with races in London, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain and the US. In each location, thirty riders from 10 teams backed by the likes of F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg and former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will race against each other in a series of short heats.

The riders, who are from a variety of sporting disciplines such as speed skating, BMX biking and snowboarding, will race specially designed electric scooters that can reach speeds of over 60mph, on inner-city circuits.

We wanted to look at production from a completely different perspective. What we didn't want, was another slightly different version of motorsport.

Sharon Fuller, ex- global head of central content creation for Red Bull and a former BBC Sport exec, is responsible for the creation of all eSC content. Her remit also includes overseeing distribution, media partnerships and production partners, including outside broadcast and production services provider NEP and production firm Boombox.

Fuller says that one of the things she has most enjoyed about her role at eSC is the joint vision of the organisation. What can happen [when you work on sporting events], is that as content person you are asked, here is an event, can you cover it?' But with eSC, I have been involved in much wider conversations from a very early stage.

Being involved in the start has allowed Fuller to ensure that content and broadcast plans were considered from the start and as the sport was developed. The placement of cameras on the scooters is a prime example of this, with the fittings and cabling integrated into the design of the scooters rather than retrofitted.

We have a fully integrated content and sport plan, says Fuller. We're as much of a tech business as we are a sport, and we have the unique opportunity to consider the tech, sport and the content all together. I'm not sure that anyone else has done that in the same way as us.

The Electrik City created in Unreal Engine will help us to blur the boundaries between real life racing and esports. It's really breaking new ground.

NEP was selected to provide broadcast and technical services, and Fuller says eSC has pushed them to do things they haven't done before, for example with regards to the onboard cameras. That's why they're such a great partner, because we know we can do that, she says.

Using the BSI miniTX UHD for onboard coverage, up to six scooters at one time will have up to three live pictures each during each race, including a forward, rear and rider-facing HD Minicam Marshall cameras. An onboard mic will provide feedback from the riders, plus noise from the scooters.

NEP director of sales Brian Clarke says the BSI transmitters are key to the onboard coverage. They can be configured to send 4 x 1080p signals, so you can send all signals from one very small form factor transmitter, he says.

Given the size of the scooters, weight and power consumption are very important, so we together with our BSI division have worked closely with the eSC team to make sure we have the right form factor integrated into the scooter. You have to do that; you couldn't strap this stuff on.

With Fuller opting for a belt and braces approach for the first event in London and a lack of fibre at the venue of the second stage in Switzerland, the first two races won't be remotely produced.

That means in London, NEP's Caspian and Mercury trucks will support the outside broadcast, with NEP Connect sending a dual dish truck transmitting five feeds, four in a MUX. These will be received by the Media City UK operations centre and passed on via the Anylive network to NEP Oslo for Mediabank and to NEP's London production centre at Gray's Inn Road.

There will be a shift to remote production for the rest of the season, in keeping with eSC's commitment to sustainability and the constraints of racing in city centre locations.

Clarke explains what a remote production for eSC could look like further into the season. Talent could be on site or offsite; you might have some production that are producing on site, but you've effectively moved the bulk of people including EVS operators, graphics and so on.

All signals will be taken back, via connectivity, so they can be used to produce full shows but also additional content and individual angles along with various broadcast and OTT and streaming formats.

As we progress, remote racking of the cameras will be back at Gray's Inn Road as well. People will always need to build and connect things on site, but you can get the footprint right down and maintain the sustainability and ethos of this new sport.

Electrik City

Boombox has created content across several Olympic Sports and X Games, as well as with esport leagues and Red Bull. It was selected following a tender process, but despite its list of credits the choice of the Canada-based company for production of live coverage and highlights may have surprised some, says Fuller.

We wanted to look at production from a completely different perspective. What we didn't want was another slightly
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