Ferrari is one of the F1 race teams that has been utilising Riedel’s radio and intercom system.
By Josephine Tan
Riedel Communications has been providing communications infrastructure to some of the largest international sporting events in the world, including the Olympics and the Formula One (F1) World Championship.
Particularly for F1, which Riedel has been involved in since 1993, the company follows all the races that take place annually from March to November across five different continents, supplying its radio and intercom systems to the race control and various race teams.
On the racetrack where peak noise levels typically exceed 130dB, these systems are critical in enabling “seamless, real-time” communication between race control, teams and drivers. And all these audio and video feeds are being managed at the Command and Control Centre, which Riedel has built specially for F1.
The Command and Control Centre is a single flyaway system, which is equipped with Riedel’s MediorNet media network devices, and Artist 64 and 128 matrices, which collectively provide all radio and intercom services for the race.
The key responsibility of the Command and Control Centre is to manage all the feeds received from more than 100 cameras positioned along the circuit, ensuring that these feeds are available to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula One Management (FOM), as well as all the F1 race teams throughout the race, said Alexander Wilczek, motor sport solutions specialist, Riedel.
He told APB: “We manage a variety of feeds — such as analogue inputs, SD, HD and IP feeds — and we need to ensure these feeds are visible and viewable by the race teams, the FIA and FOM at any time during the race.
“The reason for a mixture of different source feeds is because not all the race circuits are equipped with IP cameras; some of the circuits are still using analogue cameras. In order for us to record every feed available from the circuit, we need to have a hybrid video recording system which is capable of handling both analogue and IP feeds.”
From the Command and Control Centre, video streams are distributed to each race team’s garage for monitoring of the progress of their cars along the circuit. In this way, Wilczek added, each team is able to get the opportunity to monitor its cars along the circuit, as team engineers at the garage are able to switch between the track cameras through these video steams.
Additionally, Riedel has installed a software solution that enables the FIA race control to monitor each situation and each track decision during the race. Elias Kreko, IT specialist, Riedel, explained: “The main purpose of this system is to analyse critical scenes while monitoring the entire race, and how each driver is performing on the track.
“We also manage telemetry data, which each team is providing to the FIA from both cars. Telemetry data is analysed by the FIA software engineers to decide how each car is performing on the track. Using this data, the FIA engineers are able to compare different car situations at different track laps, before making any decisions that may impact the race.”
To enable the distribution of audio and video feeds from the Command and Control Centre to their respective destinations, Riedel provides its RiLink Global Fibre Service that transports bidirectional links not only at race circuits, but also to RTL Germany.
As the F1 rights-holding broadcaster, RTL Television is responsible with furnishing the feed sent from host broadcaster FOM with services — including vision and sound control, editing suites and replay servers. The production team is based in Cologne, and has been relying on RiLink Global Fibre Service to enable a remote production concept.
Patrick Mandl, motor sport solutions specialist, Riedel, elaborated: “Fibre connectivity is very important here in F1, and also critical for us, because all our communications from FIA to the teams rely on the RiLink Global Fibre Service. The biggest advantage of developing our own fibre network is having absolute control and knowing what we can rely on.
“Of course, we did consider both options of installing a fixed fibre network at every track, or having a fibre network that travels from race to race. We picked the latter because we’re only at each racetrack for a week, and in the 55 weeks in between, we’re unable to control and maintain the condition of the network infrastructure.”
The remote production concept is supported by a MediorNet on-site backbone that provides de-centralised router functionality, alongside six MediorNet MicroN signal distribution network devices and two MediorNet Compact frames. With this network infrastructure, RTL Television only requires its presenters, reporters and editors, cameramen and technicians to be at the racetrack.
“Now we do have more opportunities to produce and edit simultaneously while having increasing production reliability. Due to the ability to produce and edit in our Cologne headquarters, we do have instant access to our content library to enrich our reports,” said Stefan Flügge, head of sports production at RTL Television. “Reduce the team? On the contrary, we expanded it to ensure the quality of our broadcast workflows, and to increase the amount of content.”
The recently concluded Japanese GP also saw the first deployment of Riedel’s Bolero wireless intercom system being tested on grid. Launched this April, Bolero offers connectivity that can be applied in three ways — as a wireless beltpack, a wireless keypanel and a walkie-talkie radio.
Dario Rossi, head of motor sport division, Riedel, explained: “We have already tested Bolero at several races this season, such as at the Italian GP and the Monaco GP. For instance, the race director has already used Bolero at the Italian GP, and the FIA is currently using it at the Japanese GP.
“We will acquire data and feedback from the engineers who have used Bolero while continuing to test it throughout the 2017 season. We look forward to rolling Bolero out progressively to the race teams, the FIA and FOM, for the 2018 season.”
Moving forward, Rossi revealed that the 2018 season is going to be “challenging” for Riedel, as there will be a total of 21 races from the current 20. He concluded: “For the first time, we will have three back-to-back races, which is more complicated for us because we will have to bring in new procedures and carefully plan the equipment.
“Travelling from racetrack to racetrack is another challenge because we’re dealing with different set-ups. Hence, our equipment has to be highly flexible when it comes to managing different video inputs, and the infrastructure of each racetrack.”