Landmark broadcast for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Fittingly for its 60th year, Andy Murray, the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title in 77 years, was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2013. The event was broadcast live from the First Direct Arena in Leeds on BBC One and BBC One HD, with additional coverage through the Red Button.

The Sports Personality of the Year Award was first presented in 1954 as part of the BBC programme Sportsview. The recipient was middle and long-distance runner Christopher Chataway and the broadcast, from the Savoy Hotel in London, lasted 45 minutes. Since then more awards have been added – including in overseas and team categories – and the show now runs for over two hours.

SIS LIVE has provided facilities for the production over several years, when it has been staged at arenas instead of TV broadcast complexes such as BBC Television Centre in London and The Studios at MediaCityUK in Salford. This year the main hub was SIS LIVE’s OB 1 dual production area truck. The triple-expanding vehicle’s second VT section was used for editing footage of the sports stars and attending celebrities as they arrived. Chyron graphics systems were run in OB 1’s second production area, which was also used for the ‘hotline’ between the BBC executive producer and the BBC’s telephone voting compliance department.

Double-expander unit OB 2 worked on the main broadcast in parallel with OB 1; specifically the audio mix of the live orchestra featured during the ceremony was performed on the vehicle’s 60-channel Calrec Audio Alpha console. OB 16 was used both for the Red Button output and, when that programme was over, live audio and video feeds to news vehicles, the press room and the BBC Radio 5 Live programme enclosure.

OB 16 also handled incoming and outgoing circuits, including the main programme reserve feed, which went to SIS LIVE’s teleport at MediaCity and then onto to the Red Bee Media play-out centre in west London via the BT Tower. Link 21 dealt with the main programme signals, which were sent directly from Leeds over satellite to Red Bee Media.

Inside the arena 19 cameras covered the various awards. The majority of cabled units were Sony HDC-2500s but the complement also included seven RF cameras and two mounted on Jimmy Jibs. The scale of the event and the venue was captured by a 40 metre horizontal tracking camera down one side and a 7-metre vertical tracking system suspended from the lighting rig.

Commenting on the production, Jon Fay, SIS LIVE’s engineering manager for Sports Personality of the Year, says: “It was great for SIS LIVE and for me personally to be involved in this special 60th anniversary broadcast of BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year. Having been involved in many of the broadcasts since Gazza [footballer Paul Gascoigne] won what was then called Sports Review of the Year in 1990 I have seen first-hand how advances in broadcast technology have been used to create more all-encompassing and compelling coverage of this awards event. The main technological advances of recent years have included the superb visual quality that HD offers and the versatility and increasing reliability of mobile RF cameras, which can now be used to create coverage from all areas of a venue.”

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