Visions’ four OB van set-up for World Snooker Championships

The 2014 World Snooker Championships will draw to its conclusion this coming Bank Holiday weekend, with full coverage on BBC2 HD and BBC2, the channel that over much of its 40-year history has helped popularise the sport and made it a televisual event. This year’s tournament has received extensive daily coverage during the week, with extended broadcasts from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield at the weekends.

This has been the norm for the last thirty or so years and contrasts markedly with the period from 1927, when the World Championship was first held, to the 1960s when snooker was rarely, if ever, seen on TV and was still regarded as a frivolous or even vaguely disreputable past time. BBC2 helped change that perception, highlighting both the skills and entertainment value involved in the game.

The BBC’s second channel went on air on 20 April 1964, with a remit to show more arts, culture and less mainstream drama and comedy programming than was seen on either BBC1 or commercial network ITV. This was taken further by naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, who became controller of BBC2 in March 1965. He implemented a diverse schedule, which included some sport, notably rugby league with the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy competition, and snooker.

The introduction of colour transmission on BBC2 in 1967, making it the first UK channel to move away from black and white, was naturally a gift for the green baize and coloured balls game. Two years later, to help promote the new colour service, BBC2 launched Pot Black, devised by commentator Ted Lowe, who was famed for his whispering delivery. It featured leading players of the day in a single frame per episode knock-out tournament. The winner of the first series was Ray Reardon, who would go on to dominate snooker in the 1970s, winning the World Championship on six occasions (and Pot Black again in 1979). It ran every year until 1986 and was revived in 1991 until 1993 and then 2005 to 2007.

Pot Black helped stimulate the public’s interest in snooker and led to coverage of other events. From 1973 to 76 the BBC covered the World Championships on its Saturday afternoon sports programme, Grandstand. In 1977, when the event was first held at the Crucible, two 50-minute highlights package were broadcast before the final day’s play. The big change came the following year. with nightly 50-minute round-ups, coverage on Grandstand for both Saturdays of the two week competition and live broadcasts on BBC2 on the second Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.

In recent years Visions has provided technical facilities for the World Championships and this year has four OB vehicles on duty. The majority of table coverage and the world feed come from HD1, while the newly refurbished HD11, which now has an upgraded production gallery, is the BBC presentation unit. Voyager 2 covered the second table in the auditorium during the early stages, while Voyager 1 houses the Final Cut Pro suites.

New for this year is a small studio alongside the main arena for coverage over the final weekend of play. This supplements the main presentation studio, an open air arrangement including a snooker table for members of the public to show off their potting skills, set in the glass splendour of the nearby Sheffield Winter Garden.

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