20.08.08

Strawberries and Screens

AUTHOR: Inavate

Last year, the introduction of match officiating tool, Hawk-Eye, at Wimbledon prompted the need for screens on court. Now, one year on, the initial installation has blossomed into an overhaul of scoreboards and screens to provide audiences with a richer visual experience.

Wimbledon introduced Hawk-Eye on Centre Court and Court One for its 2007 championships. Rules stated that each player was allowed to challenge three line calls per set, with an additional challenge offered in the case of a tie-break.

Evidently, it was vital that players and officials were able to view the results on court. Creative Technologies, technology partner for Wimbledon, provided courtside screens and this year, has bolstered the installation, replacing existing dot matrix scoreboards with full colour OLite video screens, from Barco.

Jeff Lucas, IT director for Wimbledon, said the screens illustrated The Championship’s commitment to cutting edge technology.

“We’re often seen as quite a staid organisation but are actually very innovative with what we do. From an outdoor screen point of view we’re one of the pioneers.”

Dave Crump, managing director of Creative Technologies, was involved from the project’s conception.

He told InAVate: “At the start of 2007 Wimbledon and graphics provider, IDS, started testing equipment with a view to finding a screen with sufficient resolution, brightness and contrast to handle a demanding set of graphics. The full-colour displays would be required to act as a scoreboard, reveal Hawk-Eye results and show pre-match entertainment, consisting of interviews and highlights.”

Due to the necessary 16:9 aspect ratio, the 15ft wide displays were a little higher than the original scoreboards. This resulted in a major engineering challenge. Wimbledon states that every seat must have an unobstructed view of the court and Creative Technologies had to adhere to this regulation when fitting the screens.

Crump also explained how a servicing problem, created by the screen sitting flat against the wall, was obviated with the help of Sheetfabs. The Nottingham based company provided a trolley-mechanism that allowed the screen to track forward about a metre, allowing access from the rear.

Graphics were pixel matched to the format of the display, which had to be based on smd technology to allow clear close-up viewing. Twenty tiles, in a five by four arrangement, of Barco’s 12mm OLite 612, were selected.

With the high-tech scoreboards in place, Crump said IBM, sponsors of the ball speed indicators, decided it would like an advanced display to match.

“OLite 612 panels, in the opposite corner of each court were installed. Consisting of 2 tiles, the 130cmx60cm screens provided details of serves, including speed, average and first and second serve success rates.”

Moving outside the two main courts Creative Technologies has also been at work in communal areas of the complex. At the corner of Centre Court, in the area known as the Tea Lawn, two more OLite screens show, in a grid format, the scores from 16 matches.

Henman Hill, fast becoming Murray Mount, houses the main control room. A Kayak vision mixer and Topaz matrix, from Quartz, handle incoming BBC feeds from every court and allow the selection of monitors to play matches, or show statistics.

From this control room, via the fibre network, technicians can route any incoming feeds, VT replay or recorded content to any on-court screen.

A local control room on each court handles incoming feeds from Henman Hill, BBC, Hawkeye and IDS. The main signal for the scoreboards is generated, in DVI format, in the control rooms on the courts and sent over fibre.

The Hawkeye signal is generated as HD SDI and scaled down to SD for the scoreboard. The BBC feed is generated as standard SD and sent as a DVI signal down fibre optic cable.

With the world’s eyes on Wimbledon a high level of redundancy was required for the screens. Two fibre cables run to each screen and, in addition, another one links the two screens. Furthermore, the screen processors use an uninterruptible power supply.

Looking forward to next year, Lucas has high hopes for the screens, including a greater use of live material. When Centre Court has a roof, if rain stops play on Court One the 11,000 strong crowd can watch proceedings from the covered Centre Court.

But for this year, Lucas concluded: “We knew we needed a scoreboard, we knew we needed profiles of players before they start and we knew we needed informative messages for the spectators.”

“The screens have successfully and effectively met this remit.”