Aerial cameras have emerged as a unique and immersive part of sports broadcasting in recent years. But having a high-definition camera flying more than 20 metres above the action is no easy task.
With 11 of its 20 stadiums now using the technology, LaLiga Santander provides more of these cameras than any other football competition. To enable this, a huge team effort has been created across Spain, combining some of the leading audiovisual techniques to ensure the best experience for watching fans.
Aerial cameras can be found this season at the stadiums of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, CD Leganés, Getafe CF, Sevilla FC, Real Betis, Valencia CF, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, Athletic Club and Granada CF, while Real Sociedad will soon become the 12th club to install the technology in its Reale Arena stadium.
Making this possible are six expert ‘piloting’ teams from Mediapro, the official producer of LaLiga. Stationed at every match where the aerial camera system is in use, these three-person teams are responsible for managing the huge infrastructure that has been put in place.
Assembling the perfect shot
First, there is a technician who supervises the structure itself. Provided by Omnicam4sky, the system consists of four pulleys with moving cables and four 160kg motors. If the stadium roof cannot support this weight, four separate lighting towers are required. All of this is installed 21m above pitch level, a recommended ideal height that LaLiga follows.
Second, a camera operator manages the framing, zoom and focus for the match. The high-definition cameras use a 4/3, 14x zoom wide-angle lens, able to cover an area of 155 metres by 44 metres, larger than any standard football pitch.
Working with the third team member, a technical assistant, the camera is then mounted to the cables which can withstand a weight of 980kg, more than adequate for the 40kg device. This allows the camera to fly above the action, piloted by two team members using consoles and corresponding software. The camera can reach speeds of 36 km/h or 10 metres per second, ensuring it can keep up with the on-field action.
The final piece of the puzzle arrives in the form of fibre-optic cables, which transmit the footage from the stadium to a mobile broadcasting unit. This allows directors to share instructions with the camera operators, requesting a players-eye-view of a set-play, a wide-angle image of the entire stadium or a replay of a key incident.
When the stadium is empty, the team carries out its final task of disassembling the camera and transporting it to the next game. It is a significant undertaking on the part of the audiovisual team, but it is one that brings fans closer than ever before to their favourite teams and players, while keeping LaLiga at the forefront of technological innovation.