As The Championships heads to its finals weekend, the host broadcast team reflects on providing expanded behind the scenes access, incorporating new drone footage and onboarding its first internet giant.

From a broadcast point of view, SW19 is dormant outside of the annual Wimbledon fortnight, but Wimbledon Broadcast Services (WBS) - the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) in-house host broadcast team - spends the full year on development.

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: AELTC

“For the last five years we’ve been in a very good place covering all the tennis across the main draw and last year we began to focus on delivering more in-depth coverage and additional layers of editorial output,” says Paul Davies, Assistant Director, Broadcast, Production & Media Rights, AELTC Wimbledon. “We have had an unprecedented amount of downloads from our central content repository Mediabank.”

The number of beauty cameras has been upgraded to 22 and there are now 26 stand-up positions around the media pavilion which itself has now been completed to offer three levels of glass balcony for broadcaster presentation to overlook the fields of play.

The headline new camera is a drone provided by Aerios Solutions operating from the adjacent golf course. “To get permission we had to be sensitive to players and spectators so that we never impact on their experience,” says Davies. “We did a lot of testing to identify how close we could come to the periphery of the ground and established a red zone where we can and cannot fly. The ability to fly 1500ft for views into Centre and No.1 court is something we couldn’t do before and it gives us sweeping imagery over the lake and a number of other areas over the park.”

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It’s been known for a while that this was likely to be Andy Murray’s last hurrah for which a special filmed and on-court tribute was planned at the start of the year.

WBS commissioned Whisper to compose a video featuring highlights of his two decades on tour which necessitated clearing all the footage to ensure all international broadcasters could show it. Clips of greats like Roger Federer and Serena Williams were filmed and it was edited to a radio-friendly version of Radiohead’s Creep.

The main challenge was orchestrating when this would be played since it needed to be played out on Centre Court, and on the live feed for all broadcasters, simultaneously.

SP Global estimates that media rights for the Championship account for more than half of AELTC’s total revenue which in 2022 was £350m. One of its newest recruits is Amazon Prime Video which netted four years of rights to the tournament (2024-27) in Germany and Austria, beating out Sky.

“It’s the first one of the internet giants to work with us,” says Davies, who talks of onboarding a major new broadcaster to the Wimbledon experience. “They have a rooftop studio consisting of six 4x4m parasols providing a weatherproof presentation position. They had to acquire all the Wimbledon assets, consult with us about the look and feel and branding of their programming and it’s been really professional and creative to work with them.”

However, neither Amazon Prime nor the largest US broadcaster ESPN is airing the Championship in UHD HDR, which is why just Centre Court and No.1 Court are filmed in the format. Instead, they are taking 1080P HDR.

“We’re not hearing a clamouring for more UHD HDR including from North America,” says Davies. “The bandwidth and overheads involved in moving UHD around are so much greater versus the trade-off in the increase in picture quality.”

More important from a rights holder point of view, and therefore for WBS’ focus, is the shoulder programming. Davies calls it “critical” and tasked Whisper, Wimbledon’s production partner, to expand it this year.

Whisper expanded access

As with last year, Whisper is producing the World Feed, international highlights, an official film of the Championships, as well as Access All England – “the focus of this year’s expansion,” explains Executive Producer, Harry Allen.

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: Whisper

“The feedback from broadcasters was that Access All England offered them a valuable resource to cover more behind the scenes (BTS) action then they would be able to alone. The difference this time is that it is a curated feed offering another layer of editorial value.”

Access All England is a daily stream of BTS cameras plus additional ones at practice courts, arrivals, the player restaurant and dressing rooms.

Whisper invited rights holders to suggest which players they would like covering on which day. This works both ways since it means Whisper are able to react to stories around players that are perhaps less well-known and outside the top seeds.

Allen says: “We would like to be in a situation where a broadcaster comes to us and says ‘We have one of our big hopes playing tomorrow’ and we can give them wall-to-wall coverage from the moment the player arrives, to their warm-ups and pre-match interview.”

The latter is particularly new and something Whisper is doing on the Aorangi Terrace, commonly known as ‘Henman Hill.’

“Rights holders are allowed to capture interviews at designated points but we can go everywhere and provide extra depth,” says Allen.

Other changes include offering an additional shallow depth of field cine-cam (a Sony Venice) capturing players as they arrive at SW19. Later each day this is offered as a live camera on court, for instance, when players change ends and for crowd reactions.

Four BTS cameras have had their audio disabled “because they are in discrete areas - where players don’t expect to be heard,” says Davies.

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Continuing from last year, certain players are mic-ed up during their practice sessions on Centre or No.1 court. Joe Bennett, Whisper’s Creative Director Digital, explains, “We will give them Apple AirPods and enhance this with directional parabolic mics. It’s a low-friction method of gaining insight into gameplay without hindering the player’s movement. You could also eavesdrop into a three way conversation between, say, a journalist with Andy Murray and his coach by giving Andy and his coach an AirPod each.”

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: Whisper

Plucking an innovation from the ATP Tour, nine-year-old Priya Rose Brookwell is interviewing players including Frances Tiafoe, Alex de Minaur and Aryna Sabalenka “in a cheeky style” which is intended to “bring out a player’s personality,” says Bennett.

Introduced this year is footage of the current champions returning the Wimbledon trophy. Carlos Alcaraz and Markéta Vondroušová were filmed in separate courtesy cars, cuddling their trophies on the way into Wimbledon while reflecting on what lies ahead.

Returning is Wimbledon Threads, a strand fronted by fashion influencer Morgan Riddle and also Purple Carpet, a series of interviews with celebrities and those in the Royal Box.

Bennett says: “We work on all the biggest properties in sport from Formula One and The Euros to Test Cricket and Paralympics and the one ticket everyone wants is a ground pass for Wimbledon.

“We want to try and sell the society and the occasion element of being at Wimbledon. In the closed season, we’ve created a larger red carpet arrival area so that when celebrities arrive they get a sense of occasion and hopefully it will become a focal point for interviews where they want to be seen and have their photo taken.

“Some host broadcaster content can be very bland so we’re trying to bridge the gap between delivering vanilla content and creating content that broadcasters will run again and again.”

This is the second and final year of Whisper’s contract. Its aim is to keep rights holders happy so that they rebook with the AELTC and so, in turn, the club rebooks with Whisper.

Although Netflix tennis doc Break Point was not recommissioned this year, several other doc filmmakers are being accommodated by Wimbledon including Morena Films’ Alcaraz, the docuseries for Netflix another featuring legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Social media content

While millions of people watch the linear output, many are also keeping up to date on their phones so there’s a bespoke and expanded coverage to fulfil a diverse range of audience says Georgina Green, Senior Broadcast & Production Manager, Wimbledon.

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: AELTC

“We’re producing all that in broadcast quality putting it up on Mediabank and making it available in all formats - 16x9, 9x16, 1:1. It’s a normalised workflow this year.”

Green speaks of a “level of reactivity” in seeing what works on what platforms in which territory. It works with agencies to help tailor content for territories like China.

Official social media teams have priority access court-side. Players with a social following of 2 million or more are offered the chance to bring their own social media person behind the scenes to film content for their own channels, and which WBS has access to as well.

“We’ve got real energy and buy-in from players,” says Green. “The more they do with us the more reaction they get on social.”

Video filmed from the POV of a player in their hotel, putting on their kit, in the car en route to Wimbledon, in the Aorangi, and the stretch area had great traction on social, she says.

“It proves there’s a thirst for that type of content.”

James Muir, Broadcast Technical Manager, says speed is important to make everything available, particularly on the first few days when more nations have more players in the draw.

“Even a 10-second clip of a player practising is important for rights holder coverage so they can play that before they go on court.

“We don’t use AI but do use lots of automated media management workflows. A press conference for example doesn’t need a human to mark in and out or to make a decision to publish. That workflow can be automated.”

NEP and UHD HDR coverage

NEP is the main facilities provider. Sam Broadfoot, Technical Project Manager at NEP UK explains: “This year we have significantly more feeds delivered to rights holders in HDR compared to 2023, but continue to offer HD SDR feeds as we have previously. This change has caused a big increase in bandwidth requirements through our IP delivery system, but we have managed to reduce the number of overall conversions to SDR, using over 150 channels of conversion. For the 2024 Championships, every court is available in HDR, as is the new Access All England feed.”

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: NEP Group

Mediabank, the media asset management solution, is used for remote access to match highlights, press conferences and other content to be ingested, managed and distributed for rights holders. This is being facilitated remotely from IMG to Oslo, Norway via 10G link provided by NEP Connect.

Onsite NEP division Edit & Ingest is providing more than 130 EVS products for the Championships and 1PB of central storage. This includes media asset management for over 10 onsite and remote Rights Holding Broadcasters. Additional broadcast services from NEP include 50 EVS VIA machines, 93 Sony cameras, 150 talkback panels and over 90km of cable installed each year. More than 500 NEP broadcast engineers, technicians and crew members are onsite supporting the host broadcast and other rights holders.

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Seven courts are equipped with the automatic camera system, TR-ACE, from NEP division Fletcher. TR-ACE cameras use image recognition and LIDAR to automatically track players on the court, meaning just one singular operator can control and manage the system for all seven courts.

Specialist camera and RF

EMG division Aerial Camera Systems (ACS) is supplying 46 robotic camera systems and a Fancam Cine (in partnership with EMG Connectivity) to WBS. The robotics are predominantly Sony HDC-P50s fitted to SMARThead remotes and supplied with custom-made 12G SMPTE fibre transmission systems. Centre Court features five robotic cameras including a 10m baseline track sitting behind the players and tracking their horizontal movement.

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Behind the Scenes: Wimbledon 2024

Source: AELTC

New for 2024 is an ACS high 20m rail camera inside Centre Court capturing the expanse of the court and the spectators within it.

Centre Court also has two robotic compact cameras, one for each player, fitted discretely to the Umpire’s chair, and a remote at camera position 11 and in the northeast corner of the stadia.

No.1 Court is the same minus the NE corner remote. No.2 has two positions and most of the other courts have at least one robotic camera taking a wide master on a high pole or on the side of a building all with bespoke mounts. There is also another track system on the southern court approximately 25m in length.

Various robotic SMARThead’s capture beauty shots from the trophy balcony and clubhouse (which sports a 100:1 box lens), player’s balcony, crowd cam and even a ‘flower cam’ – the latter among those in UHD HDR. The press conference area also has three discretely mounted robotic cameras for interview coverage.

The practice area is also covered with robotic systems enabling rights holders to provide live coverage of players warming up.

EMG Connectivity is providing RF links across Wimbledon for WBS including for two handheld cameras, a Steadicam, the Wirecam and the drone all in UHD HDR. It is also providing four roving handheld RF links all in 1080p50 HDR two of them for the Cine style cameras.

It has 48 antennas around the grounds of Wimbledon to cover every nook and cranny all extended on fibre back to the RF cabin and switched with an RF router.

All the cameras have GPS positioning systems on them so EMG can locate and track them for efficient use of the RF router.

Thirty-six broadcasters have an on-site presence with ESPN sending over hundreds of staff working out of a refurbished ‘Disney wing’ of the broadcast centre. This is a double storey area featuring a 12m high window “which effectively is the window on Wimbledon for the American market,” says Davies.

“They’ve created a new studio set, which is absolutely stunning, very modern looking with all production suites edit suites, green rooms. Certainly, other broadcasters are looking on rather jealously.”

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