Vendée Globe: Innovative ways to immerse viewers in the heart of the action

The 2020–2021 edition of Vendée Globe is an opportunity to unveil and appraise innovative technologies designed to enhance spectator experience, centred on two key principles: immersion and interaction. This race will give us a taste of how sporting events will be experienced in tomorrow’s world when watching from home.

“A mix of enhanced connectivity, lightweight capture capabilities and next-generation video-stream management platforms to improve audience immersion”

How can we reinvent the way we consume and watch great sporting events? On the occasion of Vendée Globe, the prestigious solo race around the world that Orange Events is proud to partner, two unprecedented formats are available to help spectators feel close to the action and the adventurers of the high seas.

Live experiences created using small-scale equipment

The name of the first device, Backstage Virtual Tour, is self-explanatory. In short, it offers a virtual and interactive look behind the scenes of the race. A programme is produced and broadcast live and with duplex audio thanks to 360° capture, enabling users to freely navigate the pictures being broadcast and direct questions in real time to participants via social networks or a dedicated app. The second feature, called Immersiv Race, brings spectators to the helm at the start of the race, alongside skippers Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Coeur), Romain Attanasio (Pure-Best Western) and Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence). This is where immersion takes on its full meaning, with options to choose between helicopter images and on-board shots taken with a 360° camera and smartphones, which are put to the test with objects strategically placed around the yacht. Once captured, processed and organised into a cloud-based remote production facility, these shots can be coupled with guest comments, such as those of comedian François Damiens. Going beyond the connectivity deployed, Yann Ruello, programme director at Orange, claims it is the “miniaturisation of technologies” that makes these experiences possible. “The devices involved are ultra-lightweight, simple and cost-effective to use, such as an Insta360 ONE X camera and a smartphone mounted on a boom mic for the Virtual Tour, devices developed by CrossCall, including reinforced mobile phones, another 360° camera for Immersiv Race, plus an AviWest camera system for helicopter takes”. This generally small-scale equipment is capable of generating optimal immersion.

Networks, Cloud etc.: drivers of immersion…

The configuration of the two solutions—which were met with particular interest in a health-care context when the Vendée Globe was launched on camera—is currently supported by WiFi (Virtual Tour) and 4G (Immersiv Race) connectivity, specially bolstered for the occasion. Furthermore, the solutions enhance the ecosystem’s resource and expertise in producing audiovisual content and media. Immersiv Race is based on a next-generation control platform developed by Dazzl, a start-up from an Orange spin-off that enables live videos to be produced in the Cloud and images to be distributed across multiple digital platforms. Backstage Virtual Tour benefits from the expertise of IDVIU in processing and managing video streams. The start-up also worked with Orange’s Innovation teams to co-develop the Virtual Tour app, which is based on an existing solution designed by Orange — LiveCall 360.

… and looking ahead, a 5G-enhanced experience

These innovations provide top-quality experiences on new and emerging media for watching major events, both in the sporting world and beyond. They are expected to grow stronger yet in the lead-up to the 2024 Olympic Games, by which time the deployment of 5G networks with stronger Standalone standards will have been finalised.

“Solutions such as Backstage Virtual Tour and Immersiv Race are inherently designed and created for 5G broadcasting”, says Yann Ruello. The new generation of mobile networks will be a stepping stone not only in terms of the accessibility, development and democratisation of these new experiences, but also in terms of quality. This increase in connectivity will necessarily benefit the optimisation and fluidity of the experience, including that of mobility. Moreover, it will also be used to widen the scope for how it can be used, including virtual/augmented reality and drone capture, among others, and to improve the overall experience in terms of immersive sound, improved latency, rendering of VHBB images etc”.

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