How many cameras will be used, at what places and how they use them to show the live match? And how can they show all these camera views simultaneously?
The production will be among the most sophisticated ever too, with 28 cameras, including seven ultra-motion cameras, Spidercam as well as graphics with key analytics, all of which will take the viewer right to the heart of the action.
The control room is where the story of a cricket match is written for anyone who isn’t at the ground. The director is the narrator, and along with the producer, who sits in the commentary box, he crafts the story that the world sees.
Some of it is played by ear, especially in unscripted situations, such as the one after the final, but control room team is well prepared all the same. “When we get to crunch time, we know which camera will be on the batsman, which one on the crowds, another near the team dressing rooms, one on the celebrities,” a prominent cameraman explains.
“It is very difficult to cut otherwise. You are trying to capture everything on the field, because remember, the viewer is only watching one camera. So you want him to feel ‘Wow, that is all that is happening and I am missing nothing.’”
At first glimpse the broadcast control room is suffocating. The floor is a maze of cables that run all over before climbing into various machines, monitors and screens. The room itself is square and windowless. Personnel from various departments - engineering, Hawk-Eye, the camera-control wing, graphics, sound, communication, and the EVS (which relays the replays) - sit here for long hours. They chat in whispers. The director is omnipresent, in everybody’s ears.
It’s a jumble out there © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Flanking the director are his assistant, who gives ten-second countdowns to the global broadcasters before the end and start of an over, and for drinks- and innings breaks. The vision mixer, on the other side, is the man who pushes the buttons as the director calls out instructions. Inputs from the cameras, graphics, Hawk-Eye, EVS, are fed to the vision mixer’s desk, where he assembles them according to the director’s calls. He sits still but his hands move like an expert pianist’s - in short, swift movements. The feed is routed from his desk to the satellite truck, parked in the stadium, and uplinked from there to a satellite for international broadcasters to downlink into their control rooms.
control room and cameraman is the conductor of the orchestra. He sits facing two plasma screens on which feeds from about 28 cameras (manned and unmanned) are beamed live. The unmanned ones include two stump cameras, four for run-outs, two for lbws, and one “beauty” - the wide shot of the ground from on high that you see in the background when scorecards and other stats are imposed on the screen.
For the production unit, the match starts four days before it is actually played. There are four core crews and five operations crews for the tournament. The core crew is the executive producer, director, producer, floor manager, director’s assistant (DA), producer’s assistant (PA), statistician, and reporter. The operations crew has the production manager, vision mixer, six EVS operators, three soundmen, five graphics operators, three Hawk-Eye operators, 11 engineering operators, 18 cameramen, five satellite operators and eight riggers.
The first job is to get the control room ready. The engineering team gets the generator set up, for power, and then puts the monitors in place. Next comes rigging up the cables, which is an elaborate process. All the camera positions and microphones across the stadium are hooked up to the control room.
The next day the facilities check happens under the vigilant eye of the director. The cameras are in place, the cameramen check the viewfinders, the picture inputs are checked, and the director gets the TV monitors placed so he is comfortable. The sound checks happen at the same time.
The engineers also link the producer, statistician and the commentators, who all sit upstairs in the commentators’ box, to the control room. The commentators have a microphone, a view of the programme output (the last video image that has been transmitted, before the director has cut away to another), and a “fruit machine” - a gadget that displays essential data like the team total, batsmen’s scores, bowlers’ figures and such other stats.
Each crew member works for about 12 hours on match days, starting three hours before the match and finishing two to three hours after. Through the match the only time director walks out of the room is at the halfway stage, save for quick dashes to the restroom.
Talking a good game
The all-important voices of the broadcast emanate from the commentary box. Here sit the commentators, the producer, the statistician, the scorer, and a field logger, who is responsible for the fielding graphics.
At 12.45pm on the Saturday of the final, the commentary team was warming up. Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly were having a laugh. Tom Moody, whose head almost hit the low ceiling, wondered if Sri Lanka were gambling playing Suraj Randiv, who had been rushed in at the 11th hour as cover. Nasser Hussain wanted to check if the wi-fi was working. Sanjay Manjrekar, who would go on first, sat still.
Ramachandran was in the back of the box, seated on an elevated platform. The biggest match he had produced so far had been the final of the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean last year, but like for director , there were no nerves. Ramachandran had done the day’s roster, the commentator’s time table. For the semi-finals and final there were eight men, as against six for the previous games.
The EVS, where the replays come out of © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
At any given time there was a designated lead commentator, who describes the delivery, along with two “colour” commentators who offer expert views. Shastri is usually the lead commentator when India are playing. “Ravi manages to talk up an event,” Ramachandran said. “In the first half hour of the game you need that to set up the match.”
The “most tense” moment of the day, according to director , was the toss, usually a straightforward event. In the final the match referee had to toss the coin twice as he failed to hear Kumar Sangakkara’s call the first time. director desisted from airing a replay of the first toss. The global feed (when the international broadcasters start their telecast) commences ten minutes after the actual toss, so Gupta, his bosses and Ramachandran could afford a few minutes to decide whether to show the first toss on the global feed. “In the version that was shown across the world, only pictures of the first toss were shown, without sound, before moving on to the second toss,” Ramachandran said.
Thankfully the rest of the day was without controversy. director conducted the show with aplomb. All through, he and his team remained unaffected by the happenings around them. They were metres away from the field of play but sealed from it. Kaushik Basu, ESPN Star’s vice-president of production, said he had been on the job for 16-odd years and never once had he stepped on to the field of play.
Standing there as they worked was fascinating. director’s primary aim was to show the cricket, but he also had his eye peeled for the sidelights. As Mahela Jayawardene closed in on his century, director kept his focus on the batsman but one of his cameramen had Jayawardene’s wife, Christine, in his sights. Not quite up to watching as her husband came up to a hundred in a World Cup final, she masked her face with a scarf. When Jayawardene stepped out to loft Zaheer Khan for a boundary and raised his arms, Gupta initially captured the player’s celebrations, before briefly moving on to Christine jumping in the stands.
The closest came to reacting was when 12 deliveries were left and India needed five runs to win. A smile lit up his face. He asked Philip Betts, one of the ESPN executive producers, to go out and feel the atmosphere. “The World Cup happens every four years and we were so fortunate that it was in India and India won it. It was a moment not to be missed,” director said later.
I asked Gupta if holding back his emotions is one of the most difficult part of his job. “We [directors] don’t really watch the games. I am thinking of what I would like to see if I were sitting at home.”
and his team, of course, are not at home. It is close to three hours after India have won the World Cup. The Indian players have started to let their hair down in their hotel. Outside the Wankhede, thousands are partying along Marine Drive. In the ground, though, director’s runners are busy winding up the cables. The “derig” - dismantling everything and packing it all up - will take another three hours. Eventually all the equipment will be loaded onto trucks, ready to go into storage, till the next tournament, when the show hits the road again.
Cameras, cameras and more cameras
Every match at the Cricket World Cup will be covered by at least 29 cameras. These include a wide variety of cameras - high-end cameras are placed beyond the boundary, with camera crews that are ready to zoom in and pick out the most exciting moments. There are also fixed cameras to watch the stumps, the pitch, and at some other locations in the stadium.
Some of the cameras trained at the cricketers are Ultramotion cameras. These are essentially high-speed cameras that allow you to shoot a slow-motion clip of objects moving very quickly without losing focus or clarity. If you’re a fan of sporting events, you’re no doubt familiar with the effect of watching these cameras, but in case you’re watching the cricket just to keep your friends and family happy, here’s a reference that you might understand. The Ultramotion camera is essentially the same type of camera that the Discovery Channel uses to show you the effect of hitting a tomato with a sniper rifle, and other similar high-speed photography.
Aside from this, 13 matches will also use the Spidercam. This is an extremely interesting piece of equipment that has essentially replaced the more familiar sky-cam. Like the sky-cam, a Spidercam is placed above the action, and can give you a birds-eye view of the proceedings on the pitch. The difference is that a Spidercam is mounted using a web of wires that crisscross over the playing area, allowing it to be moved in three dimensions with great speed and accuracy. This means that the camera can be at the right place at the right time, to catch the right frames.
The use of the Spidercam is not completely without controversy. There have been a couple of incidents, including one recently where Australia captain Steve Smith complained that the Spidercam used by Channel Nine caused him to drop a straightforward catch.
Another first will be the use of drone cameras in all the knockout matches. These free flying cameras will be used to capture a unique perspective of the game, including aerial perspective of the majestic Cricket World Cup 2015 stadiums. Cameras mounted on sunglasses and wickets will be used during practice sessions to showcase what the players see while batting and bowling.
Smarter stumps, listening to Snicko
Aside from that, there is some other interesting technology on the pitch as well. For one thing, there are the LED stumps, seen recently in other tournaments as well. These stumps light up when disturbed, making it easier to judge close run out and stumping decisions. Another new technology in use is called real-time Snicko - cricket fanatics would already know the details, but for the rest of us, Snicko is an audio-based technology that can be used to accurately detected if a batsman edged a ball. This can help the third umpire to make tough calls.
The way it works is pretty simple - it measures the sounds being made and it can detect the sound of the ball edged the bat. This is important, because the other edge detection technology that is used - called Hotspot - has its own flaws and real-time Snicko complements its capabilities.
Hotspot relies on friction to create an appreciable difference in heat, and is therefore very accurate in catching edges against spin bowlers. But for pacers, the value is limited, as the ball can graze off too quickly to make a difference.
Snicko technology was introduced earlier to pick up the audio cues but there was too much delay in syncing it with the visual information, and it wasn’t useful in making decisions. Real Time Snicko improves the system and solves the delay problem. It is a good fit with the hotspot system, because it is more effective for fast bowlers. With spinners, the wicket keeper stands closer to the stumps, and his movements can hamper the Real Time Snicko accuracy. Together, the two systems help deliver accurate results no matter who is bowling.
From stadium to home
According to the Star Sports representative, the scale of the broadcast in the Cricket World Cup 2015 will be unprecedented. To cover the action of the 49 different games taking place in 14 venues in Australia and New Zealand, four different production teams have been formed by the television channel, with seven different technology kits that will be used to control every aspect of the broadcast.
The actual broadcast itself is a simple matter. The production teams will have access to all the camera feeds along with the different graphics created using player analytics and data from 4,000 hours of match footage. The team will then select and combine the camera feeds and graphics that are most suitable for any juncture of the match.
This information is then uplinked to the satellite, and from there bounces back to your cable provider or DTH dish, and gets decoded by your set top box and plays on your TV. The last stage of the process is possibly the simplest in that there are no decisions to make or scenes to pick. It works just like any other television broadcast - but before it reaches that stage, each match involves a huge number of people and gadgets, over and above the men playing on the field