BBC brings Hawk-Eye tech to snooker coverage

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe correspondent

Television coverage of the Saga Insurance Masters snooker tournament, currently underway at Wembley Arena in north London, is benefiting from the use of the Hawk-Eye sports analysis and tracking graphics, which has been adapted to suit the green baize game.

Hawk-Eye is based on missile-tracking technology and is able to show in detail the path of a ball. The system was first used in cricket for leg-before-wicket situations to extrapolate the trajectory of a ball to show if it would have knocked the bails from the wicket, dismissing the batsman.

Since then use of Hawk-Eye has expanded into tennis, where it is used to analyse line calls. The Masters is the first time the technology has been used for snooker, which requires analysis of more than one ball at a time, and follows trials on smaller tournaments.

Coverage of The Masters on BBC2 is produced by TWI, with facilities provided by BBC Outside Broadcasts. Standard cameras are being used, not the specialised Hawk-Eye devices used for cricket and tennis. The system’s inventor, Paul Hawkins, explained that while this “compromised accuracy slightly” the decision had been taken for cost reasons and the “right engineering compromise” had been reached.

Hawkins added that the nature of snooker, in being 2D with constant lighting, made that possible. Hawk-Eye is being used to show the angle of shots and when players get a “kick” on the cue ball, which throws a shot off course. “There are different challenges between the different sports,” said Hawkins, “but the basis of Hawk-Eye is still showing generic objects in a virtual world.”

The final of the Masters snooker takes place this Sunday and as the commentators are now comfortable with the technology no doubt Hawk-Eye will make a few appearances on some of the frames.

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