Commonwealth Games Up and Off Despite Challenges
By: Kevin Hilton, European Correspondent
Friday, October 8, 2010 - 11:10 am

The XIX Commonwealth Games (CWG) are into their second day in Delhi, India, after opening on Sunday Oct. 3 with the now obligatory “spectacular” Opening Ceremony broadcast live in high definition. The 17 events that will be seen over the next week and a half are being transmitted in 1080i by host broadcaster Doordarshan using facilities provided by SIS LIVE and Global Television.

These facilities include “just over” 350 HD cameras, predominantly Sony models but with some Grass Valley and a smattering of Ikegami. Most of the equipment has been supplied by Indian company Zoom Communications, which was contracted by SIS LIVE as broadcast- and technical-services provider for the Games.

Besides overseeing host facilities and technology, SIS LIVE has also organised production services for the event. According to Alan Bright, the UK company’s project director for the CWG, this includes postproduction and personnel, with approximately 1,350 staffers working on the broadcast and 300 local drivers making sure everyone and everything gets to where they are supposed to be.

The buildup to the Games was marred by reports of unfinished venues and team accommodations condemned as unfit for human habitation. The task facing the organisers was not helped by monsoon rains’ blocking roads and flooding compounds.

“The problems of late completion of the venues have certainly caused us issues,” says Bright. “Instead of several months to complete the installation of cameras and wiring, in some instances, we had only two weeks. Like the Games organisers and other agencies, we worked incredibly hard to make sure everything was ready.”

Broadcast facilities were operational in time for the start of the Games. But, in addition to record-breaking performances from athletes, the TV coverage is showing partially full stadiums, a sight the already beleaguered organisers would doubtless have wanted to remain unseen.

Part of the technology requirements was that all equipment had to be under three years old. In addition to that supplied by Zoom Communications, gear has been brought in from the UK, with SIS LIVE contributing approximately 80 cameras, from Europe, and from the U.S. Bright says SIS LIVE was not able to use much of its own stock because of TV commitments at home.

Approximately 140 EVS machines are in operation, supplied directly by the Belgian manufacturer and in use at each of the 12 main venues. Most of the sports are being covered using 29 flyaway OB kits, which have been installed in Portacabins at the stadia. An outside-broadcast truck supplied by Alfacam is working on the marathon, the long-distance walking race, and the road-cycling event.

A crane camera was brought in for the opening ceremony, with 35 other cameras used to capture the pomp and spectacle. SIS LIVE is using five X-Motion high-motion units for slo-mo replays, and a variety of remote heads and other systems designed by its special-camera department focus on a number of sports.

Remote-controlled devices are being used during the shooting “for obvious reasons,” says Bright. Water sports have inspired several innovations in camera technology, including the plunge-cam on the diving and the halibut-cam underwater tracking system for swimming, which also features cameras to catch the dramatic turns in races.

Specialist company Camera Corps is working with SIS LIVE, supplying two pool-side tracking systems and eight of its Q Ball pan-and-tilt heads. Graphics and specialised time-checking equipment is provided by Swiss Timing.

Forty-six video feeds, including “beauty cameras” for location shots around Delhi, are sent back to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) over links provided by Indian telecom operator MTNL.

The IBC was built by Australian OB and studios company Global Television, which is also running the facilities. Among the broadcasters with a major presence at the centre in north-central Delhi are the BBC, Foxtel and Channel 10 from Australia, Television New Zealand, Malaysian Broadcasting, and Canada’s CBC.

The IBC is used for postproduction work, including summaries of each day and highlights of the medal ceremonies.

SIS LIVE’s activities are concentrated at the venues. It has built three studios at the main stadium that can be booked by rightsholders, although Bright says a great many broadcasters have chosen to host their presentation back home.

Video feeds are in HD with stereo audio. This is embedded into the full-bandwidth video signal for distribution, with SD redundancy circuits for backup. Global Television hands over material to rightsholders, which transmit programmes from a satellite-dish farm on-site.

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