Robotic Camera Heads at the Darts World Championships
Providing World Class Broadcast Support
By Garry Cairns – Broadcast Technician
Over the last 6 years, MRMC has worked with Sky Sports at a number of different darts tournaments across the UK & Europe including the World Darts Championship. The event takes place at Alexandra Palace, with this year’s festivities taking place between the 15th Dec – 3rd Jan. In total we provide 15 days and nights of support to the Sky Sports broadcast, with our main objective at the event to provide robotic camera heads in keys positions on the production to capture some innovative angles of the players and the dartboard for the TX. This year was different in many ways due to the restrictions around COVID, as we also helped to place cameras in positions that would maintain social distancing between camera operators.
Cameras 2&3 These are situated at the front of the players stage and capture the very close up shots of the dartboard. Professional darts is a very fast game so each pre-set shot has to be totally repeatable, pin sharp and presented very quickly. The robotics for these cameras consists of several IP controlled Pan, tilt, zoom, focus remote heads with a touchscreen operator interface. The heads carry Sony 4K box cameras (P50) with broadcast lenses. Each head is capable of 90 degrees per second movement which means it can keep up with the flight of the darts. Each camera shots is a stored pre-set within the MHC software so an operator can easily and quickly select the desired shot. Manual control is available to the operator at any time during the broadcast to take control of any camera position and adjust the zoom, focus etc if required.
One of the main challenges during broadcast is the stability of cameras 2&3. We mount 45X zoom lenses, so the heads must move very quickly and smoothly and have no shake or wobble at the tight end of the lens. This is achieved by mounting the camera and lens on a custom chassis, on the tilt axis and the heads are mounted rigidly on a small scaffold tower with 1500Kg in the base.
Camera 8 is situated behind the players stage, looking through the set wall, directly at the players. This robot compliments camera 1. In pre-Covid times, this would have been a manned position but this year was controlled remotely using a pan bar head. This broadcast head carries a Sony HDC 4300 and a broadcast lens.
Camera 13 is situated in the lighting truss looking towards the stage and can either be a wide shot or tight onto the dartboard. This camera is also used for player walk on so is a crucial shot for the opening of play. This application uses the Ultihead, which is our biggest broadcast PTZ platform, designed for huge payloads and can support up to 30kg. This head is also Panbar controlled. The Ultihead is capable of 60 degrees per second of motion in this configuration. This head carries a Sony HDC 4300 and broadcast lenses.
“As is always the case with any live broadcast, the job was both challenging and demanding, but ultimately rewarding with the broadcast deemed a huge success. The kit has proved across the 6 years to be not only cutting edge but reliable and consistent, and more than capable of providing excellence in the live environment.”
– Garry Cairns, Broadcast Technician