Live At Five: How the biggest sports events reach your screen
- Ever wondered how those amazing streams come to your TV in real-time? Here's a complete breakdown of how a live environment works
It’s a cold day in Southampton, England. Cold for summer, that is. Barmy by English standards. The sky’s overcast, and yet the patches that peep through are blue. Ocean-blue. No dirty-grey manmade clouds to mar the view.
Eleven men in green are lining up against eleven in blue, or a billion, depending on how you choose to count. The eleven men in blue that are indubitably lining up in action are bearded, moustached, muscular, and focused. The cool breeze blowing in from the Southampton Water ruffles Jasprit Bumrah’s shirt-sleeve as he runs in to bowl to Hashim Amla.
In comes the sling-arm, out goes Amla’s bat, the ball goes to second slip, and out goes Amla. Not an Eid he’ll remember, but the unseen billion back in India celebrate.
They’re watching the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup LIVE on television, on their mobile phones, on tablet computers, at home, at work, in taxis, on the Metro, while ordering coffee, while putting together presentations, while minding the kids, while doing the dishes, while mopping the floor, while waiting for the Regional Manager to ink the deal.
And while the unseen billions silently exhort their team to work wonders, unseen dozens work to bring the live images to the fans all over the world.
That’s the magic of live TV — instant karma delivered to rapt sports fans…in an instant.
While Virat Kohli chews gum, a cameraman zooms in on his immaculate beard. MS Dhoni’s inscrutable eyes are hidden behind his reflective sunglasses, but an alert sound mixer picks up the advice to “aage daal.” An unseen director tells his crew to prep for the incoming batsman, Faf du Plessis. An eager producer reminds her commentary team that du Plessis scored a hundred against India the last time these two teams met, in February 2018. The instant replay team, known in the business as the EVS desk, quickly pull out footage of the innings being discussed, while simultaneously playing back images of Amla’s untimely dismissal earlier that day. Meanwhile the lighting director tells his team to adjust a chair in the studio for Graeme Smith, easily 6’3” tall, while the other one remains as it is for Sourav Ganguly, a few inches shorter.*
And so, while the professional sportsmen do battle in the middle, an unseen army works tirelessly behind the scenes to bring their feats to the screens of the billions around the world that hang on their every action.
Ask any sports TV professional why they do what they do, and they’ll reply, “Because it’s the next best thing to actually playing.”
- Live TV delivers sport to billions
- Live sports broadcasts are a niche area of TV
- Specialized training in this area has been lacking so far
- A new venture aims to change that
Sports broadcasting is a niche area of television production. Though one of the most active, lucrative, and in-demand subsets of the TV profession, formal training opportunities in sports broadcasting have been lacking.
With the launch of the new Sportzworkz Media Institute (SMI) in New Delhi, that’s set to change. Founded by Gaurav Bahal and Vishal Arora, SMI is an institute run by and managed by active sports TV professionals.
The institute offers eager young sports fans a six-month training program that will introduce them to television programming, easing into a specialization in sports broadcasting. Students can expect to be introduced to the basics of TV direction, production, editing, camerawork, presenting, and many other aspects of the live broadcast process.
“Our USP is that our bread-and-butter is the live production of sports events that we undertake in India and in the rest of the world,” says co-founder Bahal. “We recently produced the first season of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League in Kochi and Chennai, as well as the Indo International Premier Kabaddi League, or IIPKL.” Bahal’s co-founder Arora adds, “Students that come to our institute can expect to be trained by active TV professionals such as myself, not retired veterans or professors that only have bookish knowledge.”
At the end of the six-month programme, a mandatory three-month internship will see the students work on actual live broadcasts and get their feet wet, so to speak.
“No classroom experience can substitute for the learning you get from working on an actual live broadcast,” says Misha Kumar, Dean of the Institute. “The pre-event nerves, the ever-changing dynamic of the live environment, the show-flows that you prepare and tear up. There’s no better way to learn the sports TV business.”
The Institute’s inaugural programme begins in July 2019, and will be preceded by an in-person screening test to be held in Delhi. Aspirants can log on to www.sportzworkz.com/smi for more information.
And while not every young professional that emerges from the training programme may go on to work on a World Cup cricket match in the country that invented the game, they can certainly hope for a career filled with excitement, goosebumps, and action — and a life where no two days are the same.
*Fictionalized recreation of a TV production environment. Situations and events depicted are intended as illustrations, not actual reportage.
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