Grass is Greener at Wimbledon Thanks to HD and SIS OB; Hi-Motion Cameras Captures Action

By Kevin Hilton
SVG Europe editor

The Wimbledon tennis championships are underway and once again broadcast technology is making itself felt not just on the television coverage but also the decisions made by match officials. New to the BBC’s domestic and host transmissions this year is the Hi-Motion camera, which produces ultra-slow pictures for closer analysis by commentators and viewers.

This is also the first year that the outside broadcast facilities are provided by SIS OBs, the new name for BBC OBs under the ownership of Satellite Information Service (SIS). The Hi-Motion camera, developed by NAC Image Technology, has been hired by SIS OBs from exclusive European agent ARRI Media. It plays back at speeds six times slower than standard pictures for giving greater detail.

More UK viewers have the opportunity to see the tennis action on Centre Court and Number 1 Court in high definition because the BBC’s HD channel is available on Freesat, cable and satellite. Audio is being mixed in 5.1 for the two main courts to accompany the HD pictures but is stereo on all others, with SD video.

On site are SIS OBs’ CMCCR (Colour Mobile Central Control Room) as the central production area for the BBC’s domestic coverage, supported by two video trucks, VT2 and VT6, with Unit 2 covering Number 1 Court. Because the bulk of SIS OB’s HD fleet has already set off for China to provide facilities to host broadcaster Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, Arena Television’s Unit 8 has been hired in to work on Centre Court.

A total of 67 cameras is being used around Wimbledon, consisting of 33 Sony SD cameras, 20 Sony HD units, plus five three-times-speed slo-mos, and four Thomson Grass Valley LDK 23s super-motion cameras.

SIS OBs’ lead engineer manager for Wimbledon, Adrian Kingston, has worked on every Wimbledon since 1985, although he did miss 1990, when he was at the World Cup. He says the “overall shape of the technical operation at Wimbledon” is constantly developing as new technologies become available.

In addition to the Hi-Motion camera EVS X-File drives are being used for the All England Club archive. An innovation from last year is the use of the EVS IP Director, which works in conjunction with the main XT server system.

Editing for the BBC’s domestic output still has two tape-based systems but there are also three Avid Adrenalins connected to an Unity media server, plus an ingest position.

The Hawk-Eye multi-camera tracking system is again being used for on-court appeals as well as television analysis. Players are allowed three challenges to umpiring decisions per set, with an additional appeal for tie-breaks. Centre Court and Number 1 Court each has a data generation system for Hawk-Eye, with one set of cameras for multiple outputs, including for official Wimbledon use and BBC unilateral feeds.