To capture the excitement of its 115th anniversary celebration during the 2018 Labor Day Weekend, iconic motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson asked Nashville-based TNDV to provide facilities for live HD coverage of three motorcycle races around Milwaukee within an intensive, fast-paced 18-hour window.
Throughout the weekend, thousands of motorcycles filled the streets, and spectators gathered at three venues to watch the Flat Out Friday, Hill Climb, and Beach Brawl race events on venue Jumbotrons. The events were also produced for distribution over Facebook Live.
TNDV served as technical producer, managing two of the company’s high-end HD mobile units and TV crews, and worked closely with sports specialist Ohlmeyer-Kussero Group, which produced all three races. For the Hill Climb and Beach Brawl events, TNDV managed, crewed and operated the venue AV systems, including five large-scale GoVision LED walls and public address (PA) systems.
At the start of each event, TNDV sent a main and back-up program feed to Switchboard Live, a cloud-based content distribution service. Switchboard Live’s on-site technicians handled live encoding and streaming of the shows to more than 700 Facebook pages simultaneously, including sites associated with Harley-Davidson, their dealers, and fan clubs worldwide, making it appear as though the live events were originating from each of these pages. The service also provides in-depth reporting on delivery performance, audience reach and more.
“Harley-Davidson is an enterprise, and their objective was to extend the reach of their content to their global deal network, athletes, partners and other sponsors to a variety of consumer-facing, video sharing platforms,” said Jayson Fuhlbruck, Growth and Partnerships for Switchboard Live. “Our job was to provide the scale and reach they desired to connect their social media destinations, and activate their audiences wherever they were located. Working with TNDV, we demonstrated an exceptionally strong ROI compared to traditional broadcast delivery that really defines a new direction for the distribution of corporate and entertainment events.”
“This entire project involved coordinating a myriad of time-sensitive activities, tasks and resources at each production venue to flawlessly deliver the three multi-hour, action-packed live shows one after another,” said Nic Dugger, TNDV Owner and President. “We brought two of our most nimble trucks, Elevation and Inspiration, for rapid deployment in very tight spaces. Getting these trucks loaded and unloaded quickly and efficiently was crucial to staying on schedule during this challenging, two-day event. Producer/director Chris Ohlmeyer assembled an outstanding team of professionals to make the shows happen.”
Flat Out Friday
The first of the three events, “Flat Out Friday,” pitted motorcyclists “bar to bar” for a competitive, high-speed race around a flat, oval race track within the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, Friday, August 31 from 8-11pm. While this is not an official Harley-Davidson event, the company has sponsored it—and held the broadcast rights to it—for the past few years as part of its celebratory anniversary weekend. TNDV deployed Elevation, one of its custom HD mobile units, for this special indoor circle track event.
The very next morning, it was off to Little Switzerland, a ski resort 45 minutes north of Milwaukee, which, in the summertime, serves as a mecca for bikers that want to ride on the grass and dirt-covered slopes. For this three-hour, vertical Hill Climb Race at 9am on Saturday, September 1, TNDV used Inspiration, another of its capable mobile units, to produce content of the bikers riding up one side of the mountain and down the other to the finish line.
While the Hill Climb was underway, another TNDV crew was packing up all the gear needed for the Harley-Davidson Beach Brawl into Elevation, and drove it to Bradford Beach on the Lake Michigan shoreline to set-up in time for its 1pm start. This race featured motorcycles outfitted with specialized tires that could get traction on sand.
At each event, TNDV managed the playback of pre-produced video packages during the races, live reporters on the sidelines, and talent—including play by play and color announcers—sitting on small sets close to the action. Technical crews and talent used David Clark headsets to hear each other over the roar of the bikes and spectators. This ambience was also captured by specialized microphones to add excitement to the shows.
Working with Karmarush, a sports technology firm, TNDV also incorporated real-time rider tracking and live graphics. Karmarush’s workflow included active RFID chips from PrimeTime Timing, which acquired and converted real-time data for integration into custom-built templates for broadcast-quality graphics. This specialized telemetrics technology tracked which biker was in which position at any given time, with data updated every lap. These real-time metrics also enhanced on-screen graphics with leader boards throughout the races.
“Bringing live, real-time data to the screen requires the commitment of everyone involved, from the race director to the TNDV production team and others such as Karmarush in between,” said Dipen D. Shah, Owner, Karmarush. “This coordination, along with our custom results platform, allowed Karmarush to enhance the viewer experience with up-to-date start lists, live lap-by-lap standings, and real-time results for fans at the venue, at home, or on the move.”
The TNDV Infrastructure
TNDV’s Elevation and Inspiration trucks provided ample seating for crews along with top-flight, broadcast-quality production gear. The technical infrastructure included Hitachi HD-1200 broadcast cameras, Ross Vision production switchers, Imagine Communications Platinum routers, Abekas Mira slo-mo instant replay systems, and various graphics systems to produce uncompromised HD quality broadcasts.
Single-mode fiber was deployed across all three locations, using MultiDyne SMPTE-HUT transceivers to carry camera feeds over long distances; and Sescom SES-FA2BAL-BD extenders to move audio to the PA systems. TNDV also integrated special technologies for challenging elements of the live production, including the use of Marshall Electronics CV343-CSB cameras to capture motorcycles in areas where manned cameras were a safety concern.
“The best thing about working with TNDV is the positive attitude and professionalism they bring,” said Fuhlbruck. “When you show up to a site, they already have everything finalized from a production standpoint. They bring Grade A talent, broadcast-quality workflows and infrastructure, and a can-do approach that demonstrates their flexibility and commitment.”