Sun, 2013-12-15 21:15

This was visit number 18 to Mugello for Valentino Rossi. Mugello is where his heart lies

Unfortunately, he would not get much further than this. Rossi and Alvaro Bautista took intersecting lines on the first lap, and both crashed out

Marc Marquez broke many records in his first year, including fastest crash, bailing at the end of Mugello's straight. He escaped relatively unhurt

The race in Italy would be a three-man affair, until Marquez crashed out, leaving Lorenzo and Pedrosa to slug it out

Scott Redding looked like a champion at Mugello. Tragically for the young British rider, his luck ran out at the end of the season

Joy for Ducati - Andrea Dovizioso bagged a front-row start at Mugello. Overall, they didn't do too badly at home

After a strong 2012, 2013 would turn out to be a very tough year for Randy de Puniet

Red lights in the morning, mechanics' warning

Ben Spies made an early return at Mugello, but quickly realized it was too early. He would not race

The hills mourn his passing


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Tue, 2013-12-10 23:20

Red, white and blue. With red, orange and black.

Stefan Bradl, ready for Texas

Alex Rins, Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom would dominate the Moto3 championship in 2013

Marc Marquez made history at Austin, becoming the youngest ever winner of a MotoGP race. It would be the first record of many

99 problems, and the brakes were one

Austin was Ben Spies' home race. But Texas would only bring him a muscle injury, compensating for his recovering shoulder

Getting the light right, and the front light

The scuffed leathers tell the tale. Marc Marquez hit the tarmac 15 times during 2013. But only once in the race

Oh the runaway train comes over the hill...

Hold on, this could get ugly

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Sun, 2013-12-08 23:35

Marc Marquez, on the grid at Qatar. Did he expect to be champion by the end of the year?

Jorge Lorenzo's second title defense would be tougher than he expected

All smiles at Qatar, but by season's end, Valentino Rossi would have ditched Jeremy Burgess

The first Moto2 race of the season, and Pol Espargaro had already signed a contract for MotoGP

Brother Aleix would be the best CRT rider by a long way. That would prove to be an expensive mistake

They see him rollin', he's Hayden

Moto3 would provide great racing once again, but only three men would dominate

Burn baby burn

Bradley Smith had an impressive rookie year, though overshadowed by Marc Marquez

Stefan Bradl, one wheel only

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Thu, 2013-11-14 10:51

A new hope


This is what an injured rider looks like while riding: Scott Redding goes flat out on the Production Honda

Honda. Building stunning motorcycles since 1955

Savior: Silvano Galbusera's task is to help make Valentino Rossi competitive once again

Savior: Gigi Dall'Igna's task is to help make Ducati competitive once again. The smart money is on Dall'Igna succeeding before Galbusera

Industrial espionage is a commonplace in pit lane during testing

Andrea Iannone has been exceptionally impressive during testing at Valencia

Just wait till next year, Dani

Slick welding, engineered flexibility. Ducati's chassis.

Our photographer is spied by Aleix Espargaro

Cal Crutchlow's office

Jorge Lorenzo: He's going to get him next year

Society of the Spectacle: Stefan Bradl gets his elbow down.

Production Honda Porn

Hi, Hiroshi

This should be good, Scott Redding

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Mon, 2013-11-11 14:49

99 problems, but the pits ain't one

Nicky's last Italian hurrah

Journalist: 'It looks like you are always on the limit.' Marquez: 'Yes. Yes I am.'

It's been a rough month for Scott Redding, and it's starting to catch up on him.

Happy Honda Hut

Dani Pedrosa would end the season with 300 points for the second year in a row. But no title.

Valentino Rossi pleased the crowds in practice. But displeased them with news he had sacked crew chief Jerry Burgess

Luis Salom led the championship coming in to Valencia, and led the race too. But then it all went wrong

Big sky country

Bradl bustin' berms

Little champ

Alvaro Bautista has found a real burst of speed in the second half of the season

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Wed, 2013-10-23 12:51

The Doctor, up and over

If it's spectacular vistas you want, Phillip Island is second only to Miller Motorsports Park

Wind is a problem at the island. Some riders believe that drilling the fairing helps...

... and some riders believe it doesn't make any difference

An old friend pays a visit. Albeit temporary

Aim for the tree, and you'll be right

Alex Rins. Getting better every race.

Pol Espargaro, new king of Moto2

Crazy Joe. But crazy enough?

Lorenzo's Land Down Under

The calm before the storm. And what a storm it would be

Maverick Viñales is seeing the 2013 Moto3 title slip gradually from his grasp

Alvaro Bautista's development work on Showa and Nissin is paying off. That RCV1000R might end up being pretty good...

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Mon, 2013-10-21 21:32

Lorenzo came to Australia hoping to win big. He never knew just how big he would win

Stefan Bradl came, tried, and realized that a newly pinned ankle wouldn't hold up

Crowd pleaser

Jack Miller is killing it in Moto3, despite being handicapped by a dog-slow Honda

Luca Scassa is doing admirably as a replacement for Karel Abraham

Marc Marquez found out the hard way that grip was finite at Lukey Heights

Ready to rumble

Aleix Espargaro, King of the CRTs

Wrestlemania, Part I - Pedrosa vs RC213V

Wrestlemania, Part II - Crutchlow vs YZR-M1

Yamaha. Two wires. Two sensors. Just in case.

Over the edge of the world

Yonny Hernandez burying it on the brakes

Lukey Heights, the spot Valentino Rossi owned for years

Homeboy Damo Cudlin, stepping in to replace Hernandez at PBM

Owning track scooterage: the sidesaddle wheelie

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Wed, 2013-10-02 13:06

Most images from a race weekend are tossed for one reason or another. Either they are flawed somehow (out of focus, part of subject cut off, etc.) or they are simply uninteresting and not worth showing on PHOTO.GP. There are often many of these boring shots, because sometimes I'll notice a section of track where riders occasionally do something cool. So I may photograph many bikes coming through that section in case the magic happens, and find later when viewing the images on the computer that nothing at all happened the entire time, so I toss the whole batch. But if this strategy pays off with even one really good image, then it was worth the time and effort (and is a good example of the kind of thing we can do in digital photography that would've been prohibitively expensive on film).

Of the small percentage of images that become contenders for display to fans and customers, only a small percentage of those make it into the Portfolio collection on PHOTO.GP. To make it there, the image has to have something special about it that sets it apart. 

Occasionally, there is something special even among the Portfolio images, and when I come away from a weekend with one of those I feel like I've really accomplished something. Sometimes that accomplishment is the result of careful planning and experience, and sometimes it's just serendipity. There's no way to plan for another photographer's flash going off during my exposure, for example, but that has led to some of my favorites among my own work.

It's the images that I plan and then execute that are the most rewarding, and at Laguna Seca I was able to get one like this. If you happen to have read the second part of my interview with Dorna TV director Sergi Sendra, you may recall his comments about their efforts to get the high-speed video camera in a position at Laguna Seca from which it could capture in slow motion the bikes 'flying' through Turn 1.

During this interview, as I listened to Mr. Sendra describing this (and indeed our chat had been delayed for some time as he and his staff discussed how best to bring this footage to TV viewers), I wondered if I might be able to capture in a still image what he was trying to catch in slow motion video.

Until that interview I had no idea this was happening, and the Dorna crew didn't know if they'd be able to capture it on video: They only had comments from a few riders saying that sometimes it felt to them like both wheels were off the ground. But with the naked eye, this happens so fast you can't tell where or even if it has happened on any given lap.

Still, the possibility of capturing this in a still image was compelling enough to abandon my usual plan for Saturday afternoon. Instead of spending it in pit lane during Qualifying, I went to the inside of Turn 1 to see what it was like. The first time a bike passed me at full speed, I assumed I was about to waste fifteen minutes of otherwise valuable MotoGP track time. 

There are certain sections of MotoGP tracks where the movement of the bikes through those sections is simply breathtaking. The shallow right-hander between Veenslang and Ruskenhoek at Assen. Turn 12 at Sachsenring. Turn 3 at Phillip Island. Biondetti at Mugello. Turn 5 at Estoril. These are just the first ones that come to mind; you may have your own favorites. But to stand at any of these places as MotoGP bikes pass by, it's amazing to behold. 

I now add Laguna Seca's Turn 1, viewed from the inside, to this list. Though the MotoGP bikes are 'only' going around 165mph, there is something thrilling about how they appear suddenly due to the crest of the hill blocking their approach, and how the camber of the turn suggests they should fly off the track when going that fast. 

Trying to get a sharp still image of these bikes at that section of track seemed nearly impossible as I stood there. I couldn't see wheels off the air as I watched. But I knew that to get a useable image I'd have to pan with the 500mm lens, trying to follow a subject going 165mph without the benefit of knowing when it was going to appear. I kept saying to myself, this is a waste of time.

But there I was for a short session, and the alternative was to start walking to another spot and get some useable images from the inside of Turn 2. I decided to do that. But first, I'd just take a shot at Turn 1 to see if I could get anything at all.

There are two photo holes in this section of track, and I had no idea which, if either, would allow a perspective that showed wheels off the ground. So with the 70-200mm lens (to allow a broad area of track coverage) I tried a few laps at the first hole, then moved to the other, shot a few laps, and then walked quickly to Turn 2 so the session wouldn't be a complete waste of time. I finished QP2 there and returned to the media center.

When I looked through the Turn 1 images, I got exactly what I'd expected, shot after shot of a blurry half a bike, sometimes the front half, other times the back, sometimes just a wheel... Though I could hear the bikes approaching Turn 1, I didn't stay long enough to developing a rhythm that would help me catch the entire bike in the frame.

I did, however, catch this single image while scouting :


When I zoomed in, I saw this:

It's a throw away image because of the blurry subject, but it does show what I was after, both wheels off the ground. I knew then this this shot was possible, but I had no idea if I could do it. 

There are many clichés in the world of photography, and one of them goes like this. Question: How long did it take you to make this photograph? Answer: All my life! The point of that is that photographers bring the sum of their years of experience to each session, and that experience is often the main difference between an amateur and a pro. At this point I wondered if my experience would be enough in this situation. And right away I knew that experience alone would not suffice. I'd have to get very lucky, too. It was entirely possible that I'd do everything I could do to the best of my abilities, and still come away empty-handed. 

Another popular photography adage is Ansel Adams' A good photograph is knowing where to stand. Experience told me that the thing NOT to do was show up the next day and try to figure out during the race where I'd stood for the above shot. I needed to sort that out ahead of time. So early Sunday I went back to the area and took a series of sample shots on an empty track to determine just where I'd been standing when I got the above image. I simply shot a variety of perspectives from each photo window until the background features matched the wide shot above. Once I knew where I'd stood to catch a blurry Pedrosa in the air, I was ready to attempt a shot in focus.

But the weekend hadn't become all about trying to capture this White Whale. I still had obligations to customers and needed a variety of Race shots. I couldn't spend all 45 minutes inside Turn 1 hoping to get lucky. I followed my race day plan by shooting the grid, then scooting up to the corkscrew for the first few laps. I stayed there just long enough, or so I thought. As I was passing through the gate I heard the crowd cheer the Marquez pass on Rossi. If I'd stayed one or two more laps I'd have that from the weekend, too! Oh well, nothing to do at that point but move on…

From there I went directly down the hill to my spot inside Turn 1 and tried to capture any of the top riders in mid air. Of course at the time I didn't know who would win the race, so I tried for a variety of the top guys, shooting each one as best I could when they came by. Friend Barry Munsterteiger spotted me from the Red Bull party and grabbed this shot of me rolling the dice:

Technically, the shot presented some challenges, as I've suggested. The speed of the subject was the first, as something moving toward the camera at 165mph is going way too fast for even a pro DSLR to track focus. The only option was to pre-focus on the area on the track were I hoped the wheels might be coming off the ground. This was one place where I needed a lot of luck since I couldn't see anything useful with the naked eye, and my test shot at 200mm was only so helpful when using the 500mm lens.

One camera gear-related comment I hear often goes something like this: If you want to shoot sports, you need a camera with a high frames per second capability. If asked my opinion, I point out that I rarely shoot at the fastest FPS setting. The reasons why are perhaps better explained in a different post, but I spend most of my trackside time at around 4-5 fps. 

However, trying to catch a bike in mid air was an instance where I had my Nikon D4 set on its highest (10) FPS setting. As each bike came past, I employed a pro technique call Spray And Pray, trying my best to keep the bike in the frame, hoping that when the bike passed into the small section of track that was IN FOCUS, the wheels would be in the air. 

Since I couldn't tell for sure if I'd got it by using the camera's LCD, I would shoot a few laps focussed on one section of track, then change the focus slightly and shoot the next few laps. I did this several times, hoping that a bunch of factors would line up: 1. Top (ideally the winning) rider captured, 2. In focus at just the right moment when 3. Both wheels in the air and 4. Entire bike in the frame.

As I chimped away each time the first 10 or so riders had passed, I saw that I was getting instances of the front tire off the ground, or the rear tire off the ground, and perhaps once or twice, both. It was exciting to think I might have one really good shot in the hundreds I was burning through.


Eventually I had to say that I'd tried my best and move on. The race was wrapping up and I still had the story to tell, including parc fermé and the podium. So I moved away from the area and finished up the Sunday images, wondering all the while if I'd gotten a winner inside Turn 1, and which rider it might be if I had pulled it off.

As it turned out, I got a handful of decent images considering the situation. But I got only one that is as good as I could ask considering the speed of the subject, and it happened to be of Marc Marquez. Perhaps that isn't entirely a lucky break, since I probably made more attempts of Marc than any other rider, given that I expected him to win and that he always came around in the clear. Riders who were just behind another rider didn't often make it into the collection simply because I couldn't see who was coming up next. I shot on movement and usually got the leading bike in a group. So Marc helped out a lot by leading so many laps.

But in the end it boiled down to setting myself up as best I could to get lucky, and then actually getting lucky, probably the hardest part. 

When I saw that I had a good image, of course I was thrilled, and I knew immediately that I wanted to make it a limited edition if I could pull that off. This process is yet another story, but the best part of it was working with Marc for the first time. In an usual twist, the deal was done before Marc had seen the photograph he was going to sign. So I showed up at Indianapolis with fifty mounted prints (in a suitcase that weighed, coincidentally, 93 pounds!) and presented First In Flight to Marc for the first time. 

His response was better than I could've hoped for. He gave a small gasp, then said, "Whoa!" I got the impression he was just as thrilled as I had been to see himself in flight. He was then just as courteous and professional in person as he is courageous on track. Seeing how much he liked this special photo just made it that much more satisfying.

So I'm now very pleased to offer Marc Marquez: First In Flight as the fourth PHOTO.GP Limited Edition after Casey Stoner: Elbow Down, Casey Stoner: Lukey Heights and Kenny Roberts: The King Rides Again. I hope the story behind the image adds some enjoyment of it, even if there's no space on your wall for one of these signed copies. If you're just looking for the fun of it, here's a large version viewable on PHOTO.GP website.

If you would like to own a copy of this edition, signed by Marc at Indy, here is the link. And there are other rider-signed prints available on this page

If you have questions about the image or situation, photography-related or otherwise, please post them in the comments and I'll try to keep an eye out here in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading,


Thu, 2013-09-19 06:48

Shine on, you crazy diamond

Stefan Bradl, color explosion

Dani Pedrosa demonstrates what the Honda does best: get the bike stopped for the corner

Pol Espargaro needed this one. The win put him back in the fight for the championship

Marc Marquez, lying down on the job again

Jack Miller. On a factory KTM next year, he'll be the man to beat

But then, Alex Marquez will only be better in 2014 as well.

Tough weekend for Moto2 championship leader Scott Redding

Cal Crutchlow, speedway style

Nobody carries the corner speed that Jorge Lorenzo does

Marc Marquez crashed during free practice, and during warm up, bringing his total to 12 this year

Valentino Rossi's half brother Luca Marini had his first Grand Prix at Misano. He didn't make it through the first lap

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Tue, 2013-09-10 16:48

At the second MotoGP round in Austin, I spoke to Sergi Sendra, Director of Dorna Sports TV Production, about what goes on behind the scenes when bringing MotoGP to TV audiences around the world. Mr. Sendra graciously found more time for MotoMatters at Laguna Seca, so that we could ask him about the popular slow motion shots, among other things. You may want to read the first part of this interview, here, before continuing on to the conclusion of the interview below.

MotoMatters: Now that we have some idea about the complexity of the TV production, I’d like to know how you manage the logistics of getting everything from race to race. For example, last weekend we were in Germany, and now we’re at Laguna Seca, so in a couple of days you had to get everything packed up, flown across an ocean, and then set up again.

Sergi Sendra: The system is designed to work so that we can install everything in two days, that is normally between Tuesday and Wednesday. Some people at the circuit may begin on Monday, because the main cable for the cameras at the track is sometimes run by a company separate from us. This company usually starts Monday and continues on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But the main equipment arrives, let’s say late Monday or early Tuesday. And then we spend two days installing everything. Thursday is the day that we have to do all of the tests. Maybe there are some issues when they finish the set up, and the technicians we have are now a standard group of key people. 

Now the way we work is more specialized, and we gain time by spending the money on somebody who knows the job, so it takes them less time and they are more effective.  And this also helps to avoid many mistakes because the cabling process is as important as [anything else].

If you don’t put the cables together properly… For example, every circuit has different layouts, this affects us profoundly. So the plan is that the way the things are installed is as effective as the way you dismantle them. If you don’t think about the dismantling process it will take you longer.

We spend Sunday doing that, after the races, we usually finish around 10pm in Europe and between 11:30pm and 12 midnight when we are abroad, or when we have to jump from Europe to America like we did in Germany. For example in Germany, everybody left the circuit at 11:30pm.

This is a big challenge and now it’s something that is really positive for us as our people can sleep or have time to catch a flight. It’s not a brilliant time to finish, but this is something we are working on for the future. You learn year by year and you try to simplify things, use special packing cases, use fewer cases, compact the things we can. If every year we bend something then this changes the logistics. Once a part of the process is stable, we say “Ok, now we will compact this and make it better for the following year.”

MM: So the cable contractor arrives on Monday, and your gear is in transit on Monday…

SS: The gear goes to the airport at night, and on Monday will be travelling by plane to wherever it is going. Usually this takes the whole night, because you get to the airport, unload the equipment from the trucks and then load it onto the plane and it goes. This is a process that Dorna has managed for the last 6 or 7 years and we have learned a lot by now because we know which equipment must arrive first, second etc. as there is more than one plane.

MM: So while the gear is in the air, they start running the cables at the circuit…

SS: It depends. There are different situations. Sometimes the cable comes on the plane and sometimes the cable is at the circuit. For example, in Australia the cable is at the circuit weeks before.

MM: And that’s not Dorna cable?

SS: There are different cases. In Europe, it belongs to the same company. In Malaysia and Japan it’s the same company, in Australia and America it’s local companies.

MM: But that’s not Dorna’s—you don’t own that cable?

SS: No, but if you want to know more about cable, which so important and this is interesting because it is just increasing and increasing. Just the radio frequency equipment that we manage, and that is for the on-board cameras, the antennas for sites around the track, to cover the pit cameras and the boxes and cameras in the paddock, the helicopter and so on—all of this requires 16km of fiber. This fiber arrives with all of the equipment and will be distributed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

MM: By ‘fiber’ you mean fiber optic cable?

SS: Yes, fiber optic. This is something that we own and we need to implement it at every circuit because many of our cameras depend on this cable. Also, the fiber now allows us to be more efficient with the audio, with the commentary positions. Really, the fiber optic cable has become one of the top issues and the biggest advantage is that you can manage a lot of signals with a very thin cable.

MM: Are you gradually moving toward all fiber optic cable?

SS: Yes, even the track feed. The track feed is moving to all optical fiber. In fact, here in America we work with a local company, in Laguna and Indy, everything will be fiber. There is no triax. The old cable is very thick with a lot of signal loss, so fiber is definitely the best way and you can increase the speed of communication, no? We are in the 1 gig area if I’m not wrong, but you can go to 3 gig with fiber, it’s the only cable technology that allows it.

MM: When the telemetry for the bikes is shown on screen, where does that information come from and how accurate is it? On screen we see the lean angle, it shows the revs, braking and acceleration…

SS: All of the information comes from the bikes, from the telemetry of the bikes. We share the system but not the channel. I mean, the bikes have their own channels [to communicate with the teams]. From the beginning, when we agreed with the manufacturers to do this, we decided to have a complete, spare and independent parallel channel, it is called “CAN-Bus.”

This channel is dedicated to Dorna, which as I said is an independent channel: If there is something happening with the telemetry, it will not affect our output. Maybe we’ll have no data but when [the teams] go to the bike to pick up their information, they can do it on a separate CAN-Bus.

So, there are two different channels. One for their telemetry reading and one for Dorna which is live data acquisition. And for sure we are increasing the amount of information that we’re requesting from them. We started with RPM, speed and gear, then we requested the throttle and brakes, and finally we requested lean angle. So all of this information is something that we manage with our own electronic boards. We also have GPS, then we have boards dedicated with accelerometers and gyroscopes to pick up the balance of the lean angle.

At the end, the accuracy in some parts is total, in others it’s not. There are people who say “I don’t believe it’s 18,000 revs!” The information we receive we want to be as accurate as possible so that we show something with credibility. This is like saying if you give somebody five samples per second, you have less information than if you give 100 samples per second. Ok, we receive a lower sampling frequency and the final drawing [on screen] is not perfect, but you can feel the changes. It’s important to know that technically, we are in a situation where we are not giving wrong information, as this would be negative for everybody.

MM: So just to make sure I understood that, the channel that goes to the team’s data engineer has more samples per second?

SS: Exactly, they have more accuracy than us, but our accuracy is a true accuracy. It is not wrong information. And as you can see now, for example, the lean angle is really, really accurate because there is a magic number, that nobody wants to say, for the lean angle, but we know it’s close to 60 degrees. And one of the goals for us it that the [viewers] understand and learn something that we never did before.

When you arrive in MotoGP nobody tells you “Oh, the bike has two wheels and the lean angle is 62 degrees.” No. You have to start learning that the bike leans and this is maybe the nicest thing that our sport has compared to all of the other sports. This year, the goal has been to achieve a real number, but more than a real number is how we can best explain to people in order for them to understand that this is measuring degrees. And the degrees are in respect to a horizontal level when the bike is standing at zero degrees.

To show how the bikes lean, we will make some kind of a video which will be launched this year where we will compare a scooter, a custom bike, a street bike, a superbike and then a MotoGP bike. This is for people to understand, oh wow, we are at the highest level. And the lean angle number is important. Because I know, when people study, it’s easy to learn about linear measurements but people don’t like trigonometry! For us, it’s very important to explain it and to draw it in the best and easiest way so that everybody can finally talk about this concept as one MotoGP concept that we can have forever.

MM: So that’s interesting because I think of the things like the telemetry that Dorna presents as intended to entertain the audience, but you say that you put that up also to educate the audience and help them learn more about MotoGP. Can you do other things, like the telemetry, to educate the people who are watching instead of just entertain them?

SS: I think we can now bring the show to a level where you will learn and understand better and therefore you enjoy it more. The tires, the tires are another of the big surprises. Now with the slow motion and the high speed cameras, we are watching movements in slow motion that we’ve never seen before.

There is another family of concepts, like the spinning, the steering, the over-steering, that to people who don’t like or aren’t interested in bikes, it’s our slang. We have our own slang. For an inexperienced viewer, someone not a motorcycling fan, he will need to understand easily what he sees on TV and say:  “Oh wow, the rear wheel is faster!” For us, we ask, “Can we see this? Can we show it? Can we explain it?” And then when you draw it and people understand it, it attracts people more because they’ve learned something that they didn’t know.

So I think there are a lot of concepts that we need to take care of because some of them are very technical and very complicated. For instance, the spinning is measured in percentages over 100%. That makes things complicated, managing percentages, you know? If you talk about 50% you understand it’s half, if you talk about 115-120% it’s like “hang on a second, only 100% is possible.” You must explain that it’s a comparison between two different speeds.

So our goal, step by step, is that at the moment you show something the viewer hasn’t seen before, you need to explain it from a basic point of view to make it accessible and accepted in order to make non-bike fans like it, because then they’ve learned something by watching MotoGP. 

MM: So, speaking of the high speed camera, how do you decide where to place it and can you change that easily? For example if you put it on a corner on Friday and it’s not as good as you thought, is that camera easy to pick up and move on Friday night so that it’s in a different spot on Saturday?

SS: Well, the high speed camera is a big camera, it looks like a studio camera so it’s heavy and it takes more than 2 people to move it up and down or left and right. It needs a platform and it has fiber connected to it, and at the other end it has a complex buffering system absorbing a huge amount of information. Because the level of memory that you need to buffer for one shot that instead of 50 frames per second is 1000 fps, it is a very large file. With the high speed camera you create very large files compared with other cameras.

In any case, this camera that we started using last year, is for us a wonderful tool to learn, to discover, to see and to show new things that we couldn’t see before. Our philosophy [for camera placement] is first of all let’s analyze the circuit before we go, and by analyze I mean we talk to different riders, we talk to different engineers, we analyze from our side, from the television point of view, in order to decide the best spots. We have a lot of information with the circuits because we’ve been there before (some circuits we’ve been going to for more than 10 years).

Usually the spot for the high speed camera is going to be directly proportional to the speed of the bike. Fast corners, ends of breaking points, but in fact we are learning circuit by circuit.

The difficulty is that sometimes we arrive, we plan the spots, and then when you see them after all of the work, you think “Ok, spot one was better, spot two was not what we expected.” But the important thing is that every time we go to a new circuit (by which I mean a circuit where we didn’t have the high-speed camera before) you learn a lot.

And also you discover the behavior of the camera, how it works, because if we put this camera on a slow corner, it’s going to take ages to see the picture. The concept of high speed is that one second of reality becomes 40 seconds. One second recorded at high speed means you will have 1000 samples of something that lasts one second. In one second you normally have 25 samples (as the normal speed is 25 frames per second) so your eyes see 25 samples in one second and your sensation of speed is normal.

If I put 1000 samples, obviously you need more time so this second becomes 40 seconds but the reality is you are watching an extremely low speed and this allows you to see things that you didn’t see before.

For instance, here in Laguna today, we’re having a big debate because we want to see on the first corner the bikes flying, with both tires in the air. The goal was, ok let’s go to the track, look for the position, so we were walking all around this straight. Why do we do this? How do you know the bike is flying? If you haven’t seen it, you can’t know... This is because some riders have said in the past: “Ah, at Laguna when the bike goes out of the first corner after the hill, for some time the bike doesn’t touch the ground.” We can only see this fraction of a second if you convert it into a long sequence of frames to slow down the reality. So if this fraction of a second can be viewed over 10 or 20 seconds, it means that for those 10 seconds you will see the bike flying.

This is the goal here. I hope that if it’s sunny this afternoon, and the pace is higher than it is now [Ed.: It was cold and foggy during this interview], we will increase the speed of the camera and maybe shoot at 2000 fps because then the time that the bike’s flying will be longer visually. So this is a goal here now, but it depends on the height of the camera, the heat haze making the tire look like it is low to the ground.

MM: I have the same problem with photography. Heat haze ruins many photographs.

SS: Exactly, sometimes you love the heat, sometimes you hate the it, because it’s showing you things that don’t exist in reality. The interesting thing is you don’t put the camera in position, make the shot, and move on. You have to analyze what you have done, and when you have done it you can then tell the people what they are seeing.

I know many people watch the TV and don’t see the whole information but we try to make it very easy. Today the shot of the bikes flying out of the corner, it will show the top speed on screen and we also tell the commentators to make sure that they understand which way the shot is going to go and when they talk they can explain. Or maybe we make a circle to highlight something.

MM: So when you decided to try to get that shot, you moved the high speed camera into a position where you think it will capture the bikes in the air.

SS: Yes, this weekend, the first day it was at the Corkscrew, today it is at the first corner and based on the results we’ll decide what to do with it Sunday. Maybe we’ll move it to another position.

MM: You must end up with more good footage than you can show.

SS: The other day in Germany, at the start of the race, we had a special shot of all of the bikes going through turn ten, all going down, that was a beautiful shot. It could’ve lasted for one minute! It’s like you’re at a museum looking at a painting and you could stay there and listen to classical music, the shot was that amazing. It was just a fraction of what we had. It was like, ‘I’ll show you something nice, but now I have to go!’ This is because we didn’t know what we might miss.

The way we direct the races, we know where somebody will overtake, we know that prior to the overtaking, because we have studied the overtaking positions, and they don’t overtake in crazy places. They overtake in the hot spots. But we are not Superman, all we can do is study the hotspots in order to show the viewers what’s happening.

Then, because of the weather, the tires or something else, something on that weekend changes and Marquez overtakes in a place that was not expected. In Austin, it was a new circuit, so… But it was not expected by the riders, either, because in Austin, we discussed it with the people who had been to Austin for the test. We asked them about the points where we needed to watch out for overtaking, they said ok, watch out here, here and here. Of course they didn’t expect the overtaking of Marquez.

That happened in our first year in Austin, it takes us three years to learn where overtaking is standard, and also for them, they ride and they fight each other, they discover the places where they can go for it.

MM: You said that you can put the high speed camera up to 2000 fps. When do you do this?

SS: You can see something at high speed from 200 fps and higher. The physical limit of the system today is 2500 fps. We used higher fps on a top speed position, for example in Mugello. In Mugello we have a top speed shot of Rossi going perpendicular to the camera to see how he looks, and that was 2500 fps because he was going 340 kph.

MM: You talked about the huge amount of data that the camera is generating because it’s shooting that many frames in HD. But your other cameras, your regular cameras, are always running, right? To make sure they catch as much as possible?

SS: We record all of them, yes.

MM: So the high speed camera, it’s not always going. You must record only when you want to capture something specific.

SS: Yes, you see the electronic picture on the monitor, but you only record to capture certain scenes because there is a limit on file size. One of the problems of the high speed camera is that it’s not that you record everything and then you look to see what is best. At the moment this is impossible because of the capacity.

This requires us to be very smart. The cameraman needs to be very smart, the replay people need to be very smart, and also the way we manage the camera must be smart. For example, we might say “Oh, this shot of Valentino is very good. Ah, it’s out of focus, let’s do it again, oh now he’s in the pits, wait for another lap, oh now it’s raining, we don’t have another chance…”

MM: That sounds like my life as a photographer!

SS: This is similar to you, I mean, you know you have chances and you need to take them. It’s like when you travel and you go to a shop, if you like something, buy it! Because tomorrow you don’t know if you’ll be back there. We’ve learned that when something is working you need to squeeze it because you won’t be given too many opportunities.

MM: So when you capture the high speed corner, the signal goes to a server somewhere, then someone sees the footage and decides to use it. How long does it take for you to say, “We got it, let’s put it in the feed?”

SS: It depends, there are 2 ways to do it. One way is you could take the risk, and while we’re loading it [from the buffer], you just put it on TV. But you don’t know what you’ll see. When [the camera operator] records a two or three second clip it goes by like a short video clip piece of noise, pffft! If you expand this noise, only then do you see if it’s out of focus, if the framing was good, and so on. But while he’s recording it, your intuition can tell you that it’s a good shot, but when you expand it is when you realize if it’s something incredible or not. But at that point, then we cannot change it. 


As you one of the busiest people in the paddock, Mr. Sendra's time is in high demand and we thank him again for sparing some to talk to us. And again, thanks to Pol Bardolet for assisting with the scheduling of the interview.

Thanks also to PHOTO.GP intern, Kerry Port, for transcribing this interview.