Posts tagged: Television

What do the last three Six Nations Grand Slams have in common?

By , 17th March 2010 22:24

This post is slightly off the topic of sporting landmarks, but topical as Rugby’s 2010 Six Nations reaches its climax.

Chapter 1 of Ed Smith’s excellent book What Sport Tells Us About Life is entitled “Why there will never be another Bradman”.

The chapter explores why it is more difficult for innate natural talent to stand out from the crowd in modern sport.  Smith suggests contributing factors are the more scientific approach to coaching and training, the advent of professionalism that gives more people the opportunity to commit more time to training, better nutrition and the speed with which advances in sporting technique become mainstream and adopted globally.

Another difference that is particularly applicable to team sports is that through television coverage and the ready availability of video play-back facilities, teams can analyse their next opponents in such great depth that there is greater opportunity to neutralise the impact of opposition play-makers.   As the not-so-infrequent FA Cup upsets demonstrate, a focus on defensive coaching can close the gap between average and better teams.  As a result, coaching teams have expanded and “back-room” staff are an increasingly valuable commodity  in modern professional sport as illustrated by this feature on the Irish Rugby Union’s video analyst.

The last three Six Nations Grand Slams – Ireland in 2009 and Wales in 2008 and 2005 –  share something in common which I haven’t seen commented on elsewhere.  They were all won by teams in their first season with a new coach: Declan Kidney, Warren Gatland and Mike Ruddock respectively.  So does the arrival of a new coach give a team a period of grace when they are, by definition, unpredictable?

Of course if France secures a Grand Slam this year – and they are the last remaining candidate – this theory could be undermined.  Mark Liveremont has been coach since the French post-mortem after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  Having earned a reputation for continuous tinkering with selection, Lievremont’s teams have also exhibited sometimes bewildering inconsistency.  For example, an Autumn victory over world champions South Africa was followed by a drubbing by New Zealand.  So if gallic unpredictability is equal to the unpredictability of a newly appointed coach, perhaps France are simply the exception that proves the rule!  We’ll find out at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Update: France did achieve a grand slam!

Record breaking Usain Bolt in Manchester – in 3D!

By , 15th September 2009 14:17

UsainBoltI’m just wrapping up my annual visit to Amsterdam where I work with the organisers of IBC, the world’s leading international broadcast technology exhibition and conference – an event where the importance of sport to television is highlighted by the number of exhibitors showing sporting footage to demonstrate their wares.

One of the main themes throughout this year’s show has been 3D TV.  IBC has been covering the renaissance of 3D in cinema for several years.  The debate is rapidly moving on to when 3D television transmissions will become commonplace.  In the UK, Sky is planning to launch a 3D channel for special events in 2010 which will show one-off events on a pay-per-view basis initially.  Until compatible hardware becomes widely available at affordable prices, sports enthusiasts who want to experience live sport in 3D will have to make a trip down to their local digital cinema.  But if you get the opportunity, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

I managed to catch a fascinating session on the new challenges of producing live TV content in 3D.  One of the case studies presented was a project to capture Usain Bolt’s attempt on 150 metres world record in 3D.

The attempt on the rarely-raced distance took place on a specially laid track on Deansgate, one of the main streets through Manchester city centre, on 17 May 2009.  Bolt covered the distance in a new world best time of 14.45 seconds. The production company who captured the race on video described the race as the fastest race of all time – as Bolt’s split time for the last 100 metres was just 8.72 seconds, well inside Bolt’s own 100m world record.

Here’s the footage of the race – in 2D – which has been derived from the same camera set-up used for the 3D footage.

The Manchester Evening News – whose offices look down on Deansgate – reports on the outcome here.

Despite the challenge of setting up the shoot in typical Manchester weather, the 3D footage on a big cinema screen was spectacular.  It was much more dramatic than the 2D footage available on youTube.

So not only should Deansgate get a plaque for the setting of the new 150m record, it may well qualify for a plaque as the venue of the first athletics world record captured in 3D!

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