Denis Harvey (Executive producer, ACTV): new technology, new sport
To access the “broadcast zone”, you have to undergo strict security checks. An interview with Denis Harvey, executive producer of the broadcasting of the America’s Cup.
What role has technology played in the emergence of the America’s Cup as a “global” sport?
When they won the cup, Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts decided to make this sport more accessible. One of the main aims of any sport
is to ensure strong viewing figures. Long discussions were held and were the source of various innovations: the choice of boats, the duration of each race and
the televisual side of things. Nobody has a
two-hour attention span any more! The development of the “AC liveline” software - an innovation which won
an Emmy award - under the leadership of Stan Honey in 2011 was a very important step. He had already developed the “Sportsvision” system which enabled viewers to visualise the 10 yard line in American football and to understand the position of racing cars in Nascar, but AC Liveline literally created the field of play in our sport. It’s because of this software that boats must now remain within specified boundaries and it’s thanks to this software that the public can watch them! Since the San Francisco edition, everyone understands the race and the gaps and we can create real “story telling” by combining maps of the boundaries within the water, on-board cameras and a range of data, collected in real time.
“The show focuses on the sailors,
not the boats.”
How does the AC liveline technology work?
It’s complicated technology. Stan Honey - who’s an excellent sailor, by the way - had thought that it would be too expensive for a sport like sailing, but he
didn’t know much about Larry Ellison! The complexity lies in the fact that we needed to know the GPS positioning of the helicopter at any time, along with the camera angle and lens, to combine all this data in real time to enable the system to map the field. As a result, the race takes place closer to the coast and is even more spectacular. Augmented reality has
literally changed this sport. It allows fans to follow their team on a second screen: their mobile phone. 70 people work in my team.
Can you tell us a bit about your career?
I started working on the America’s Cup in 1992 for TV New Zealand. We had helicopters at our disposal but the races were long and boring. It was a niche sport. We introduced 3D animations in real time to make broadcasts more interesting. Today we have technology which makes the sport better to watch on TV and can include advertising to attract sponsors. For that matter, we produce two signals: one with
advertising and one without. I think that in the future, it will be possible to customise adverts for a vast range of broadcasters.