3D Drone Model Shows Red Bull’s Rampage Mountain Bike Course Like Never Before
BY Zacc Dukowitz16 August 2022
The Red Bull Rampage is one of the biggest, gnarliest mountain bike events in the world.
It takes place in Southern Utah, and the course is created by the riders themselves, mapping out routes down sheer cliff faces that are nail biting to watch.
Red Bull often uses drones to get up-close footage of its events—but even aerial shots can’t fully capture a rider’s run on one of the Rampage courses.
To help viewers get more immersed in the action, Red Bull brought in a company called Frontier Precision to use drone data to showcase the course in a highly detailed 3D model made using photogrammetry. The outputs from that work were a gamified 3D model and aerial flyovers of each rider’s specific line down the mountain with animations added in to show where they road.
We first started working on Rampage about five years ago . . . trying to add value to the event broadcast so people at home can get a better idea of the depth of these jumps, how gnarly this terrain is. We went from doing virtual reality to augmented reality and now we’re at broadcast AR, where we’re integrating the game engine with the live broadcast.
– Ryan Whitehead, Executive Producer at XR Media Group
Both the 3D model and the flyovers helped solve the problems presented by trying to cover an event that takes place in such a large, rugged environment, where it can be hard to fully capture a rider’s run so that the viewer can understand what they’re doing and what the terrain looks like from one moment to the next.
How Frontier Precision Created the 3D Model of the Rampage Course
Frontier Precision typically works using drones for surveying, mapping, and engineering, but it was happy to take up the unusual challenge of creating a 3D model of a course for mountain biking.
While broadcasting the event live, the host of Rampage stood next to a detailed 3D model of the entire course made using photogrammetry—but this wasn’t an ordinary 3D model.
The 3D rendering that appeared on stage beside the host could be sectioned out to show viewers specific parts of the course, as well as all of the possible routes that the riders might take to get from start to finish.
The 3D model of the Rampage course
Possible routes down the course
How did Frontier Precision make the 3D model? Here’s an overview:
- Data collection. The company’s pilots collected thousands of images over 12 hours of flight time.
- Data processing. After data collection, the data was processed into a 3D mesh using high-end photogrammetry modeling software from Reality Capture.
- Adding features. After creating the model, different features were added to it to “gamify” the experience for viewers, allowing the model to be sectioned out or to have lines running through it showing the different paths that could be taken through the course.
Although the data capture and processing were intense from a labor perspective, the final step was by far the one that made the 3D model a groundbreaking way to showcase the event.
The plan was to create a 3D point cloud and turn it into a 3D mesh, much like we use in mapping applications where we’re doing photogrammetry—tying all the images together to create a 3D model. But what was interesting here is they were not looking for necessarily accurate measurements, but rather, an entertaining way to display the environment.
– Wyatt Robbins, President of Air-Supply Aerial (a division of Frontier Precision)
By allowing viewers to see sections of specific areas of the course or follow specific paths down the mountain, Red Bull brought them into the reality of what it might be like to face huge drops down cliff faces at high speeds, highlighting just how difficult it is to navigate a course like this on a mountain bike.
Details and Challenges around Creating the 3D Model
To make the 3D model, the Frontier Precision team started by collecting thousands of images of the course with a Phase One 100MP geospatial camera equipped with an IXM 100/ 35mm lens attached to a DJI Matrice 300. Frontier Precision says this was one of the only M300s with this specific payload in North America at the time they did this.
Image collection took place over about 12 hours of flying time in just a few days, with the drone flying back and forth up the 1,000-foot high cliff face at about 180 feet in the air to ensure they were getting enough coverage to create a detailed map.
The approach used for the data capture was basically the same as what you might use to create a 3D model for surveying or other commercial use cases, with the pilot flying a combination of grid missions capturing both Nadir and Oblique images using a flight plan that followed the terrain at a constant distance.
The environment was challenging, since they were flying at 5,000 feet of altitude with the density altitude around 7,000-feet, which meant the drone had to work harder than normal given the thinness of the air.
Another challenge was the time frame for flying. Since the landscape needed to be lit at a certain angle in order for it to be properly exposed, the Frontier Precision team could only fly early in the morning when the sun’s angle was just right before shadows began falling down the cliff face.
But all the hard work was worth it.
In the end, Frontier Precision created a highly detailed 3D map of the entire course that provided the kinds of animations Red Bull was looking for, pushing forward the way these kinds of events are rendered for viewers to make them come even more alive.
Want to see some mountain biking from the Rampage event? Check out this video of the winning run from last year: