NBC Sports Takes Traditional Approach To Wimbledon Coverage
The Wimbledon tennis tournament is known as much for its tradition as it is for its tennis. But this week the tradition, in the form of a visit from Queen Elizabeth, and the tennis, in the form of the longest tennis match ever, came together in a way that will build attention for NBC Sports and its coverage, which begins this weekend. And in many ways, Wimbledon stands alone as a unique event.
“We all love tennis and have been doing it here for about 20 years, all the way back to the days when we were production assistants,” says NBC Sports Senior Producer John McGuinness. “It’s different in that we don’t have as many technical facilities to cover the crown jewel of tennis…but I am proud that we get as much as we can out of this facility.”
Getting the content out depends heavily on Visions HD2, a production trailer that McGuinness and the NBC Sport production team will call home for the next two weeks.
Part of the reason for the smaller scale production is that by the time NBC Sports takes the air on June 26, most of the action is centered around two courts: Centre court and Court one.
That means that the team is juggling a mix of 12 camera feeds that are produced by the BBC (which handles the host feed) as well as four cameras of its own on Centre Court and two cameras on Court One.
“Centre Court is very intimate and we can get some great end zone shots,” says McGuinness. “And the announce booth is barely 20 feet from the court so you can bring the excitement and feel into the home.”
Andy Rosenburg, NBC Sports, Wimbledon director, says that the size does pose some challenges. The main coverage camera, for example, is literally located in the stands and fans can block it when they stand up or walk by. There is also no way to put that camera in a position so it is shooting up the middle of the court because supports for a tent that can be hoisted in case of rain are in the way. So, the cameras behind the baseline are aligned with the outer lines of the court.
“But that is one of the charms of the tournament,” adds Rosenberg. “It rests on tradition.”
When it comes to producing and directing Wimbledon, the NBC Sports philosophy is to focus more on the storytelling and to dive into the emotion rather than simply the play.
“We try to be more intimate and look to get inside of the players,” says Rosenberg. “A good production is a dance [between ourselves and the announcers] where we will see stuff that is compelling and they will see things and know when to lead us.”
One type of shot that is not found to be compelling is crowd shots. “The viewer can hear the applause but if you go to the shot of the applause then you might miss a shot of real emotion,” says Rosenberg. “The shot that TV does best is the closeup because the eyes are the windows to the soul.”