Inside the game: SIS Live & the BBC at Royal St George’s
Sandwich: Maybe it is a British thing after all, but it’s really hard to talk about the weekend’s Open Championship without mentioning the weather at least once.
“The weather was a real challenge as you can imagine with that much rain kicking about, but all in all we didn’t do too badly I think.,” says Jon Mason, Account Director at SIS Live who put the host broadcaster coverage together for the BBC. “We had one or two cabling faults with water getting in joints, which kept us on our toes, and on the cameras themselves the main issue we had was water on the lens, which when you’re pointing into the rain there’s not much you can do. We also had a few problems with lenses steaming up, but you just swap them over, get them back and dry them off. And we had a few problems with water getting into focus and zoom demands, which was again just a case of replacing equipment as we went along.”
And it seems that every year there’s more to replace as the level of resource increases. Mason ticks off a raft of recent advancements: the three-hole feed for the BBC Red Button, a country-specific player update feed; an elevating camera behind the first tee; Soundfield mics on the 1st and 18th capturing 5.1 audio.
“Taking it HD last year was a challenge, and cabling distances are more of a consideration now,” he says. “The R&A fibred St Andrews up pretty well last year, in the sense that there were a lot of nodes – eight or nine – around the course that we could tap into. However, while they go back to St Andrews every five years, they go back to the others on list list approximately every ten, and the fibre networks reflect that.”
The result is that a third of the course is cabled directly back to TV Compound, which would explain SIS Live’s use of 70km of cable to cover the course. Next year is, of course, the 141st British Open Golf Championship, which will be held at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire for the first time since 2001. A significant amount of cable will probably be needed there again, while Mason is already toying with ideas for new angles on the coverage (SIS, IMG and ESPN all collaborate on new tech, for sample sharing the feeds – and the cost – of the Flair-carrying fixed wing airplane at St George’s).
“Mini-helicopters are one idea,” he says. “We’ve also been trying to get some very low ‘tee-cameras’ right down near the ball looking back at the golfers – there are a few options there that we’re looking at.”