Inside the game: Wimbledon in 2D
Wimbledon: With all the hyperbole surrounding the 3D broadcasts from the All England Championships this year, it’s been easy to overlook the fact that there’s a mammoth 2D operation taking place over the tournament’s fortnight run.
Alan Wright, Engineering Manager for SIS Live, is the one that puts it all together for the BBC’s broadcast, which he describes as a standard host with a domestic add-on. Given that it’s such a well-oiled and established operation, changes are only really incremental every year, with 2011’s improvements seeing the move of the BBC archive over to tapeless, an increase in the number of super slo-mo units around the courts, and the debut of a new Canon 100:1 lens on Centre Court, “Perfect for close-ups of the Royal Box from the other end of the court,” says Wright. But none of that is to say that it’s not without it’s challenges.
Chief amongst them is the cabling. Cables snake everywhere around the IBC and beyond – 80km worth all in all that sees the riggers arrive on site three weeks before the Championships commence. Some fibre has been laid to the southernmost courts in recent years, but as Wright points out, for a venue that’s only in use two weeks a year leaving permanent runs in is impractical.
“I would still like to make it easier to avoid bunches of cables,” he says, pointing to a particularly gnarly tangle on the roof of the IBC. “It would be good to save on the plumbing.”
Covering the courts
Down below in the compound, a handful of trucks are crammed together as if some giant has been playing Tetris. The outside courts – nine are covered in the first week, seven in the second – are controlled in de-rig galleries in the IBC, kitted out with Sony 2000 vision mixers and Panasonic 50-in monitors, while SIS deploys three trucks to look after Centre, and Courts 1 & 2. The latter is looked after by an ancient Type 8 (not a 7 as we thought it was last week – minus 10 truck-spotting credibility points for us) but that’s still a vehicle old enough to be the first HD truck in the UK .”It shows that Smiths did a grand old job of building them,” says Wright.
The Geminis being used for the 3D broadcast meanwhile are up the hill in the car park. Space really is at a premium here…
Roll to record
All in all, 74 cameras cover the Championships. 55 of them are the ubiquitous Sony HDC-1500s, with 6 HDC-950s working in split head mode, 9 Sony HD super-slos, three radio cams (two of which appear for the finals only) and an X-MoHi hyper motion system. Other specialist systems include two jibs, one robot tracking cam at the north end of Centre Court, and five robotic cameras sited on the umpire’s chair etc. 18 cover Centre, 12 are on Number One, five are on Number Two and so on…
All that plays into 21 VS LSM XT  machines, which provide recording of all courts and interview rooms, plus playout and edit feed channels, with 5 of the same providing slo-mo services.
In a fortnight it will all be gone again – much of it on to work a the British Open – and the IBC will be empty.
This year at least, however, people will have to make doubly sure that everything is packed up, de-rigged, coiled up and taken offsite, as everything has to be cleared to make way for the cabling for next year’s Olympics by July 10. If it’s still on site then, it’ll be scrapped. And that’s a lot of cable…