XL Video Goes Up Several Gears for Autosport Live Action Arena

Screeching tyres, burning rubber and hi-adrenaline action was enjoyed by up to 5000 petrol-heads, speed freaks and performance car enthusiasts per show, courtesy of XL Video’s spectacular 90 metre wide projection in the Live Action Arena at the 2014 Autosport International exhibition.

Staged at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham UK, XL has been involved with the popular Haymarket Exhibitions’ show for several years. Following the massive success of the widescreen projection last year – the first time in this format - it was back again right at the heart of the production design for the show under the Creative Direction of Malcolm Forbes.

XL was again working for the Live Action Arena’s technical production co-ordinators, Network Productions. XL’s Project Manager was Toby Evans.

The giant moving backgrounds were made up from a six-way blend of six stacks of two Barco projectors, consisting of six Barco HDF-W26s with six Barco FLM HD20s as hot backups. These were all rigged on trusses in front of the screen and fitted with wide angle lenses.

All the content was stored on and run via four Catalyst media servers – three live and a backup - each patched with 24 layers. The control system was designed, programmed and operated by Salvador Bettencourt Ávila using a Road Hog Full Boar console.

The playback video was created by Video Designer Colin Rozee of ZEEFX Motion Graphics Studio, all at 10,560 pixels wide which was the native resolution required to fit the 9 metre high screen. This was done for optimum quality.

Ávila wrote a batch script to divide the footage into chunks so it could be output via the three active Catalysts. A constantly animated dynamic visual environment was produced using Alpha Channels, featuring different graphics for the various elements of the show, with the final full images composited live in the media server.

IMAG camera feeds were also fed into the Catalyst. To blend these in elegantly with all the screen graphics and playback content, borders and frames were superimposed around the IMAG which produced an extremely streamlined, integrated finish once the PiP was active on the screen.

“It was a big surface and we were using very large resolution files, but essentially what we were doing was straightforward – it was the scale that was the challenge,” confirms Ávila.

Ávila was joined on the crew by Chris Johnson who looked after the projection once the show was up and running. They were joined by two additional crew – Alex Mulrenan and Gary Twigg for the get in and out. 

XL also supplied backstage and dressing room monitoring with a combination of LCD displays and 65 inch plasma screens, so presenters, artists, participants and crew could all follow the show.

The screen provided an impressive visual backdrop and a relay of the action that could be clearly seen from every seat in the grandstand, and once again, the Autosport Live Action Arena – this year presented by Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft and Pollyanna Woodward from The Gadget Show - was a huge pull for the crowds.

Photos: Louise Stickland