SportTech UK: A summer of shortages?
With the UK about to enter an extremely busy summer, which starts with the Diamond Jubilee and ends with the Paralympics, you would think that every single truck in the country is booked up. And you might be right. It just seems that no-one told the broadcasters…
Speaking on the Producing the Iconic Events panel at the SportTech UK conference, James Clement, Sales Director, SIS LIVE said: “The surprise is the number of broadcasters coming to us asking about our availability over the summer. We have requests and requests coming in asking if we can get an uplink truck for an Olympic venue, and you wonder what was going through their minds when they came up with their plans. The overestimation of the amount of resource we have in this country is impressive.”
While the OB panel at the Conference had already highlighted the fact that the majority of the trucks working on the Olympics itself were going to come from outside the UK, that in no way means that the UK industry is at a standstill. CTV is one of the many companies that is booked absolutely solid, with two cricket matches and three golf tournaments on the slate for the Olympic opening weekend alone.
“We’ve had to trawl the world to get all the equipment,” offered CTV Technical Director, Hamish Greig. “It’s going to be a very tricky summer, especially when you look at catering for illnesses and extras. The biggest problem is glue. SMPTE cables, for example, are an expensive resource, and whereas once upon a time you’d ‘only’ use 70k of cable on a golf course, for the last Ryder Cup, for instance, we used over 120k.
“Production companies do have to realise that there is going to be a dearth of equipment over that period and companies are not going to be as competitive as they like,” he concluded.
As Neil Blake, Technology Partner Manager, Avid, pointed out: “Every time some form of new media comes along that’s more resource required. It’s more lines out, it’s more edit areas and so on,” (and seeing as how the company is currently putting together one of the largest Avid systems ever built alongside and meshed with one of the largest EVS systems ever built for the Olympics, he knows very much of what he speaks).
Possibly the man with the trickiest job in the room though was Mervyn Hall, Broadcast Manager for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and essentially the man charged with making sure the Wimbledon Tennis Championships are a success every year. This year, he has 16 days to transform the SW19 venue from hosting the 126th Championships to being an Olympic venue and temporary landlords to Olympic Broadcasting Services.
Problems include the lack of an established Mixed Zone, which is critical to the Olympics, and also the commentary positions. “The OBS rulebook has specific requirements, and none of the 120 positions we have at Wimbledon fit the bill. So, new ones are being built in 16 days,” Hall said.
Interestingly, at the other end of the contract scale, Hall’s just had a ‘fairly large visitation’ from ESPN, who, of course, has signed an extremely long-term deal to be the exclusive US rights holder for the Championships. “That was genuinely constructive with a lot of ideas flowing from both sides,” he said. “We know what is possible to deliver, they know what they would like to have delivered. It will be terrific. To have a long term partner with that level of expertise is a great plus.”
He also gets the last word from the panel with one of the best soundbites of the day. “Innovation isn’t just putting a camera in a different place and pointing it at a different thing. It’s a far more creative process than that…”