EVENT360 specialises in production and delivery of sport presentation, entertainment and stadium ceremonies, and, as such, we're always looking for new, interesting, and innovative crowd engagement tools.
One of those engagement tools that we'd been using for many years was a crowd-surfing ball - basically a sponsor-branded beach ball thrown into a crowd to bounce around above their heads. We've delivered these at countless events including the London 2012 Olympic Games. It's just a pleasing, fun, crowd-engagement device.
However, we were looking for ways to bring the crowd-surfing ball into the modern era, so we started knocking around ideas in the office and eventually thought, "Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could use the ball to record footage of fans underneath it as it's bouncing around above their heads?"
The original idea was that we would just use any footage we captured as a pre-record, basically by fitting a micro-camera/GoPro or something similar to the ball. We initially tried this in a very simplistic way at the 2015 Marriott London 7s rugby tournament at Twickenham Stadium by attaching a GoPro underneath the ball. We threw it into a crowd for the first time and, to our disappointment, the footage was entirely unusable. What became apparent was that a camera attached to a wildly spinning ball makes for a pretty unstable, and unwatchable shot.
Despite this minor setback, we still liked the idea, but our approach to getting content out of the ball needed to be adapted. We started giving some further thought about how we might create a more stable image. We spoke to our friends at The Dream Engine who we'd worked with for many years on various aerial stadium projects and they came up with an ingenious way of giving the sphere a much more stable flight.
The result was the second generation EYE IN THE SKY, which indeed gave us a much more usable picture. The only remaining problem, and it's a fairly significant one for sports entertainment, was a lack of immediacy. In other words, although the footage we were capturing was much better, we still had to record it, get the ball back, extract the footage from the camera and do a bit of editing, and then upload it to YouTube or wherever. It was fun and we got some great material, but it was always after the fact, which diminishes its value for crowd engagement and entertainment.
Undaunted, we started researching how to get a live picture out of the ball - and by this time we were working with America's National Football League (NFL) for their International Series games in London, where a sold-out Wembley Stadium would be a perfect opportunity to really get EYE IN THE SKY completely right.
We were aware of GoPro's Vislink-driven HEROCast(TM) system, which we became increasingly convinced would be a good option for us. We approached GoPro who liked our idea so much that they lent us a HEROCast system as well as an engineer to help us put the whole thing together.
We filled our ball with a mix of helium and air, which gave it a very nice, gentle, floaty motion rather than the abrupt, uncontrolled bouncing we had experienced before. The result was a great deal of live footage that was just fantastic. Everyone went mad for it, and we've never looked back.
We ended up using it for all three NFL International Series games in London in 2015. One of the representatives of the Jacksonville Jaguars liked the EYE IN THE SKY so much that we were asked to take it to EverBank Field, the Jaguars' home stadium in Jacksonville. The NFL subsequently decided they wanted to use one for Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in San Francisco in February of 2016. The live images were transmitted to two giant screens in the stadium, each the size of 600 domestic television sets.
We've now done EYE IN THE SKY projects at a number of football, rugby, and other major events and a number of broadcasters worldwide have expressed interest in taking some of the footage, most likely as a pre-record for cutting into highlights packages. Broadcasters always want to show the colour and atmosphere of a major sporting event, for which EYE IN THE SKY provides a compelling, and fun-filled, perspective.
Although there are a number of micro camera transmitter/receiver systems that we could have used, having spoken to GoPro and Vislink at length about our idea - both of whom have been really supportive - it became clear that HEROCast would be our answer, and it was GoPro that put us in touch with Presteigne Broadcast Hire, one of the only major UK hire companies that had stock.