Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGP


Dorna Sports faces with a firm step a path of technological innovation that will lead them to be able to offer an immersive audio signal in 2024. Sergi Sendra i Vives, Head of Global Technology, and Pep Mendoza, Sound Manager TV Production, review the evolution of audio in the broadcasts of MotoGP and they face the keys to their future, which goes through the remote production of the audio of the meetings of the World Motorcycle Championship.

In the world of broadcast technology, audio has sometimes been called “the little brother”. Considerable priority has been given to video (and its innovation) at all levels, with the aim of enhance the spectacular and engagement with audiences. However, the sound and its development is absolutely essential for amplify the television experience and to be able to show all the details that the image does not reach. This axiom is present in each phase of the conversation with Dorna Sports.

Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGP

2001 – The first immersive tests

Dorna Sports, founded in 1988 and that in 2022 turns 30 having the commercial and television rights of the World Motorcycle Championship, does not hesitate for a single moment to value the audio as axis of its broadcasts. Participant of innovation and precursors of the first immersive tests in the field of motor sports, in 2001 carried out a hand test Dolby from the Donington Park circuit (England) to start shaping the Dolby Surround system, predecessor of the current Atmos.

Sound care is a self-imposed requirement with the aim of valuing the depth of a sport which takes place in an environment of very large dimensions. However, as emphasized Sergi Sendra, is also a response to followers who live with passion the races of MotoGP and the rest of the disciplines: “Our audio is very special, specific and particular. Some might be tempted to call it “noise”, even though it is actually a wonderful sound from different engines. What's more: our audience, just by listening to it, knows how to differentiate whether a motorcycle is a Honda, a Ducati or a Yamaha.

Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGP

2013 – Automation comes from the hand of Lawo

One of the most key moments in the treatment of audio was the jump to multichannel audio in 2014, which was driven by Lawo hand in hand with its CEO, Philipp Lawo. In 2013, Dorna Sports hosted a tender (an invitation to companies to offer a product / service to a company) with the aim of improve audio performance in your races.

Own Philip Lawo promoted a deployment that surprised the Sendra and his team: “He had the immense vision and intuition not only to sell us his product, but also to come to the Valencia Grand Prix, in which Marc Márquez could become world champion, to set up an operation with the audio management system with VSM (Virtual Studio Manager)”. Using Lawo's solution, the German company's team demonstrated that Dorna could fully automate the entire audio processleaving behind the three analog mixers with those who produced the audio of the races: the communications, track and effects of the international feed.

The test was so successful that Sendra he was not afraid to jump into the void to offer what was possibly the most decisive race of that championship with a unprecedented technology at workflow from Dorna Sports: “Saturday night I said to Philipp: “Tomorrow there is a Grand Prix and the world championship is decided. If you agree, and believe in your product and that tomorrow it will not fail, I bet on going out with Lawo without telling anyone. In this way, we conspire so that on Sunday the race heard like never heard before”.

Since then, the automation It is part of the daily life of Dorna Sport. From the Audio Control Room, Joseph's team mendoza benefits from a Audio Follow Video what orchestrate all microphones and its treatment when puncturing each of the cameras during a live production.

Audio Technica in MotoGP

2018 – Audio-Technica enters the scene

Progress in the audio section continued steadily. The audio team continued to deepen their tasks to improve all kinds of day-to-day processes in their races: reverberaciones, panning, contribute audio to replays, improve the intro music, audio and effects during production… From the outside, the effort and attention in the audio of the World Motorcycle Championship races was more than obvious.

Perhaps attentive to developments in this area, Audio-Technica approached Dorna Sports. The company, hand in hand with its CEO in Europe Robert Morgan-Males, just as you remember Sendra, offered to deepen at all levels in the sound acquisition layer.

Once an agreed partnership, the work of Investigation and development has accompanied each advance in the field of recruitment for MotoGP races with the essential assistance of Rodrigo Thomaz, Audio-Technica project manager for MotoGP, and its own CEO: “With Audio-Technica we have achieved improve all recruitment processes to be able to capture the sound of motorcycles in every detail: machines that go 300 kilometers per hour and have 240 horsepower. we will have microphones adhoc that will have variable dynamics, so we will be able to hear all the details of the bikes to differentiate the six brands down to the last detail: when they drag, when they start up…”

Audio-Technica - MotoGP - Prototype -Pep Mendoza - Sound Manager by Dorna Sports / Rodrigo Thomaz - Project Manager Audio-Technica for MotoGP

2020 – The immersive is approaching

Parallel, Audio-Technica offers Dorna Sports a microphone prototype designed by the team of engineers of the Japanese firm. This device, which has the provisional name 8.0 Concept and is made up of eight capsules, could help advance the system that is expected to be consolidated after stereo and 5.1: immersive audio, in the case of Dorna in format 7.1.4.

However, in order to consolidate this format, it is necessary to time, testing and its own industry definition, as noted Pep Mendoza in his speech: “The goal we have is to make a live that is as close as possible to a post-production. We have many sound sources, since the motor world is infinite: you have mechanics, tools, boxes, pitlane, podium, motorcycles, track or stands”. Also, it is important delve into new keys, Like the loudspeakers that are placed above the spectators: “We have to decide what sources we are going to put there. The Audio-Technica microphone is going to help us a lot in this case, because in principle, by discreetly routing the 8 capsules, we will have enough content. You have to try, try and try."

Dorna Sports, therefore, start a phase of definition, experimentation and collaboration with Audio-Technica that will take you to know all the dimensions of this new audio offer. This process will be carried out with a view to industrial evolution, since currently broadcasters are not requesting this level of audio. However, as Sendra points out, "a top-level product like ours must update its standards year after year to be prepared to offer it when it is necessary."

Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGP2022 – Audio in Moto GP

Currently and during 2023, Dorna Sports will combine your activity audiovisual production with the R&D in terms of immersive audio. The 2022 MotoGP season has over 200 sound sources, which start from the 100 microphones that are distributed by the clues O motorcycles, among other elements. As a novelty, this year they will capture 10 additional simultaneous channels, since it has been decided to share the audio of the voices involved in box management.

Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGPAll audio signals are managed from the Audio Control Room, a space in which work is done in parallel to offer a stereo signal and another in 5.1. Mendoza provides more details: “Among broadcasters, it is common to make a downmix of the 5.1 signal. We were not convinced. If you only have an audience, it is easier, but in our case we realized that we had to do a distinct stereo”.

Similarly, in-depth work on sound management will begin remotely from the Dorna studios in Sant Just Desvern, a space from where the control of cameras, telemetry and graphics.

Dorna Sports - Immersive Audio - MotoGP

2024 – The arrival of immersive and the consolidation of remote production

The objective for just two years from now is clear: to be able to produce audio in stereo, 5.1 and 7.1.4 remotely from Barcelona, combining the automation processes offered by Lawo, the advanced uptake offered by the constant R&D of Audio-Technica and the deep engineering work led by the teams Sergi Sendra and Josep mendoza.

However, there are several challenges to overcome. Sendra underlines the delay management as one of the keys, a problem that the technological team of another of the great motor sports competitions worldwide has already faced: “We have a good reference: Formula 1, with which we have a relationship at a technological level. His biggest problem was the delays, something that we will try not to happen to us since we will deal with the coding process of several of the RF sources from Barcelona: this way we will try to make sure there is no delay”.

mendoza shares his colleague's concern: “Although we are deploying large fiber networks together with Tata Communications, it is difficult to have all the bandwidth that we would like to have given the large number of sources that we deal with. In the case of audio, we have more than 200 sound sources, which forces us to compress it in OPUS or MPEG”.

There is work ahead, but Dorna Sports has a detailed Roadmap to meet their goals and overcome the technological barriers that lie ahead. Once, as Mendoza points out, the viewer can relive with their headphones or sound system the same sound sensation that they experienced that time they attended the circuit, they will know that they have fulfilled their objectives.

Of course, then new ones will arrive. The wheel of innovation does not stop.

A report by Sergio Julián Gómez

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By • 10 Mar, 2022
• Section: Audio, Automation, Study, media management, IP, reports, RF