On location in AlUla for the Fursan Cup: Ben Spencer
We grab 10 minutes with members of our team as they work on the ground around the world.
In this edition we talk to Ben Spencer, in Al Ula for the staggering endurance horse race, the Fursan Cup.
Hi, can you start by telling us your name and job title here at Aurora?
Hi! My name is Ben Spencer, and I’m a Director/Producer at Aurora.
A little bit about your background and how you got here?
I graduated from Southampton Solent University in 2014 having completed some incredible work experience at music festivals like Glastonbury and Bestival, which is where I caught the directing bug. Straight after university I joined Racetech, an outside broadcast company that specialises in horse racing.
I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to direct quite early on and I gained lots of hands-on experience, going freelance after 5 years there and then eventually joining Aurora full time in 2022.
Set the scene for us today
We’re here for the 2023 edition of the Fursan Cup; an endurance horse race set in the stunning desert landscape of AlUla, Saudi Arabia. It’s Aurora’s second year broadcasting this event, which sees around 200 horses and riders take on four loops of a course spanning a total of 120km, with Vet Gate pauses for the horses to recover and be checked over by a raft of expert veterinarians in between each loop.
Most importantly I’ll be making sure that the viewer at home feels as much a part of the event as if they were here with us.
Tell us about your role here in AlUla.
As the director, my main role beforehand is to make sure that we are covering every part of the event with cameras as best as we can so that we don’t miss anything integral to the event. Once we go live, I’ll be calling camera shots and vision mixing, tying together all the elements of the broadcast including VTs, sound and graphics so that everything is smooth and clean.
What are the challenges of working in this location?
It might not surprise you to learn that the desert here is the main challenge! It’s really quite difficult to manoeuvre through the sands, especially with heavy kit, therefore we have had to be clever with some camera positions so we don’t risk platforms or machinery getting stuck in the wrong place.
Radio frequency (RF) signal is a huge challenge here too, our helicopter camera is the only coverage available of the horses once they are out on each loop, and the many wadis, canyons and valleys here are very good at blocking line of sight reception to our RF receivers.
What is the one piece of kit you couldn't be without on location?
As in much of life - my phone! Without proper, efficient communication a production falls apart, and on a challenging outside broadcast such as this we as a group are constantly having to adapt. Keeping everybody in the loop is half the battle.
And where are you headed next?
After I fly back I’ll be working on remote productions for Sail GP in New Zealand, then Formula E in Sao Paulo. There’s always something going on!