Magpie triggers technological trickery

Shrewd observers may have noticed a discrepancy between the moving vision and the photo finish in Race 2 at The Meadows on 26 September.

Vision of the race shows a magpie flying in the opposite direction to which the greyhounds were running as they crossed the finish line (see image above), yet the photo finish (below) shows the magpie travelling in the same direction as the dogs.

Callan Brook, of Brook Group, the organisation behind the FinishLynx Photofinish system, has provided an explanation.

“The FinishLynx Photofinish cameras are what is called a line scan camera. The camera will take timestamped vertical captures as small as a pixel width and will then thread these together in the FinishLynx software to present the photo finish images on the computer screen,” Brook said.

The FinishLynx system from Race 2 at The Meadows on 26 September automatically flips the magpie so it appears to be flying in the same direction as the greyhounds.

“In the FinishLynx software settings we tell the software the direction that the objects will cross the finish line, and the software will thread the captures in that direction.”

“Hence anything crossing the finish line will be heading in the direction that the images are told to thread together.”

“At The Meadows, the FinishLynx Vision Pro camera takes more than 5000 scans per second and threaded to the right hand direction.”

Mystery solved – and most of us may never have known this if it weren’t for that magpie.

WATCH: Vision of Race 2 at The Meadows on 26 September shows two magpies flying into view, with the second one sparking an explanation from Brooks Group.

Q&A with Callan Brook

Q. How often does this type of incident (the magpie situation) occur in greyhound racing?

CB: It does happen, however not too often for greyhound racing as the finish line is well secured from anything entering the track. The reason for the Magpie at The Meadows to be so clear in the final result was it was probably flying at a similar speed to the greyhounds. Usually, if the speed does not match similar to the greyhounds’ speeds and, based on how the technology works, the rogue object would be unidentifiable.

Q. How long has the FinishLynx system been in place in greyhound racing?

CB: Digital Photofinish by FinishLynx was first brought to Australia in the 1990s and Gosford Greyhound Racing Club in NSW was one of the very first adopters. Sandown/The Meadows have had FinishLynx since the 1990s as well. Photofinish has long been a critical component of greyhound racing as there is no technology more accurate and which provides more proof of a finish result then the Photofinish technology. Prior to Digital Photofinish there was black and white slit film cameras. Sandown still has the dark room upstairs from those days. Back then, you would have to wait for the film to be developed before an official result could be published.

Q. Is this technology in operation across all our 13 Victorian greyhound racetracks?

CB: All 13 GRV venues use FinishLynx Photofinish systems and Brook Timing system for race day and trial days. In fact, all major greyhound racing venues in Australia and New Zealand use FinishLynx Photofinish with Brook Timing.

Q. What other sports / industries use the FinishLynx Photofinish system?

CB: Any sport which involves racing to a finish line would be using Photofinish at official levels. This includes rowing, athletics, motorsport and thoroughbred racing, just to name a few.


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