The Masters: snowbound snooker at Ally Pally
Cast against the sky in the midst of a fierce blizzard on one of the most intensely cold days in the English capital for some years, Alexandra Palace – the late Victorian building in north London affectionately known as ‘Ally Pally’ – provided a suitably imposing venue for the 2013 Betfair Masters snooker tournament. What’s more, the drama outside the venue was more than matched inside, with Mark Selby battling defending champion Neil Robertson to collect his third Masters title in a tense 10-6 final.
SVG Europe’s visit to the temporary production office of IMG, which delivers all of Masters host broadcaster the BBC’s snooker coverage, took place on the morning of the Selby/Robertson cue-off. Introducing key IMG personnel as they took shelter from the storm, production manager Melanie Jane Clark explained that the Masters had benefited from “a great consistency” of team members in delivering the broadcast coverage, both at previous venue the Wembley Conference Centre and Alexandra Palace, to which the event moved in 2012.
Whilst the distance between broadcast production facilities and Alexandra Palace’s West Hall is not without challenge, the consensus is that Ally Pally provides an ideal venue for the 38-year-old event. A single-table format and seating capacity of 1,500 – plus a clearly demarcated space housing multiple practice tables that the players book themselves – makes for a compact setting and one that only seems to intensify the drama of snooker’s most prestigious invitation tournament.
In a further continuation of a long-term association between the two companies, IMG again enlisted NEP Visions to provide broadcast facilities for its Masters coverage – specifically HD2, offering a spec featuring a Calrec Sigma console, Grass Valley Kalypso HD switchers and Philips LDK cameras; and HD9, whose inventory includes gear from Sony, Calrec and EVS.
Long-time snooker specialist and IMG director/producer Simon Wheeler says that the filming style has remained essentially unchanged from 2012, with HawkEye – first deployed for this event in 2010 – continuing to play a pivotal role in delivering dynamic and varied coverage. For the future, an additional camera to augment the current nine-camera set-up is a possibility, but as he points out “we have good feedback for our work on the Masters, and we don’t want to make changes for change’s sake.”
Back in the production office at the end of the tour – and shortly before SVG Europe returns to the snowscapes of North London, feeling distinctly Scott of the Antarctic-like on the return to Wood Green station – Jane-Clark confirms that “the Masters is an event that has benefited from a very well-established workflow and core production team. The snow has brought a few challenges in terms of getting people in and out, but its impact has been minor. Organisationally and technically, we’re very happy with the way things have gone.”