As already mentioned elsewhere our main activity is to provide photofinish facilities at races in England and Wales. We have, on occasions, travelled to other European countries including Ireland, France, Belgium and Holland, and also to Malaysia, where we were delighted to do Le Tour de Langkawi a couple of times. Although at one time we covered events in Scotland, these are handled now by a camera operated by the SCU. The main man up there is Bill Dunscombe who has helped us out south of the border on several occasions. This short page is not designed as a tutorial, but will provide something of an overview of our 'bread and butter' activities.
Our cameras come from Lynx System Developers in the United States. They manufacture the FinishLynx series of cameras, and we operate EtherLynx 2000 models. They provide exactly the service which is required for cycle racing and are the same as those used at major international races.
We mount the camera on a tall Manfrotto tripod which is really designed for lights or speakers but is ideal for our use. They will wind up to around four metres, but our normal operating height is around three metres. This is about as high as we can safely climb in order to make the final camera adjustments. The image (right) shows the camera setup.
Traditional photofinish principles used to dictate the distance the camera should be from the side of the road. In fact the manufacturers still give guidelines as to the height of the camera and the distance it should be from the roadside. We rarely have the luxury of setting up in ideal conditions and have to make do with the available location. It means of course that we often have to try filming across a wide road from a very narrow verge.
A recent addition to our equipment is a small video camera, also supplied by Lynx. It is called IdentiLynx and is networked with the traditional photofinish camera. Located before the line, it films a back view of the race and makes it easier to read those numbers which cannot be seen from the side.
The picture (left) shows the video camera.
Although appearing quite a simple piece of kit, IdentiLynx adds an extra degree of functionality to our photofinish operation. Of course, using a video camera to film the backs of riders is not a new idea, but in this case the images from both cameras are synchronised so that scrolling through the photofinish picture automatically moves the video to the same rider.
A typical screen display can be seen below.
Our vehicles double as working areas (left). The camera is connected into a laptop, and we have a printer which we use to provide race officials with our provisional result. It goes without saying that the van must be located adjacent to the camera tripod.
Power is supplied from 12 volt batteries from which we produce our 240 volt ac by means of battery/mains inverters. These are perfect because it is quite rare for a genuine mains electricity supply to be available, although if an organiser can provide the latter we are always very grateful.