April 18, 2011

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Ever wished you could be in the TV control room at the stadium during a cricket match?
41

The six that ended the World Cup on the evening of April 2 is an image that will be talked about for generations to come. For the man responsible for getting that picture out to the world, all that mattered was what the next one would be.

In the crowded broadcast control room, where numerous cameras showed the crowds starting to explode in celebration, television broadcast director Deepak Gupta's immediate motive was to get a camera as close as he could to the pitch. "Get in, get in, get in," he ordered into his mouthpiece, talking to one of his camerapersons. Upstairs, in the commentary box, Ravi Shastri was going off. Gupta's earpiece connected him to the commentators as well, so he had Shastri full-tilt in his ear, but he continued to call unaffected: "Camera two, camera 11… 15," ordering different shots, different angles.

It was an evening to remember for millions of Indians, but for Gupta, tournament host broadcaster ESPN Star's man in charge for the World Cup final, it was another day at the office, and his job after the winning stroke was hit was to pack in as much as he could. He used shots from all 15 manned cameras at his disposal after the winning stroke: MS Dhoni's smile, Harbhajan Singh's tears, Yuvraj Singh embracing Sachin Tendulkar, the abject Sri Lankan dressing room, Muttiah Muralitharan's final minutes in an international match, the ecstatic crowds and the fireworks, Gary Kirsten being carried about on the shoulders of Suresh Raina, Aamir Khan turning to his wife in delight. For about 22 minutes Gupta cut shots from all the cameras at his disposal to bring the viewers a montage of pictures of the culmination of the Indian side's World Cup journey.

Upstairs in the commentary box, Gupta's producer, Ajesh Ramachandran, dispatched Sanjay Manjrekar and Nasser Hussain for flash interviews with the Indians. He instructed the floor manager to line up as many Indian players as possible, and then had Shastri go down to the ground for the main presentation.

Ramachandran put Sunil Gavaskar and Tom Moody on air immediately after the win, mainly because both had been World Cup winners and would know how to relate to the emotions on both sides. Moody, who also was the Sri Lanka coach at the 2007 World Cup, spoke with insight about what the Sri Lankan dressing room might have felt after losing a successive final. About his choice of Manjrekar and Hussain as interviewers, Ramachandran said: "They are natural and conversational. They're good on camera, and it is not everybody's cup of tea."

Wired for action
The control room is where the story of a cricket match is written for anyone who isn't at the ground. The director is the narrator, and along with the producer, who sits in the commentary box, he crafts the story that the world sees.

Some of it is played by ear, especially in unscripted situations, such as the one after the final, but Gupta's team is well prepared all the same. "When we get to crunch time, we know which camera will be on the batsman, which one on the crowds, another near the team dressing rooms, one on the celebrities," Gupta explains.

"It is very difficult to cut otherwise. You are trying to capture everything on the field, because remember, the viewer is only watching one camera. So you want him to feel 'Wow, that is all that is happening and I am missing nothing.'"

At first glimpse the broadcast control room is suffocating. The floor is a maze of cables that run all over before climbing into various machines, monitors and screens. The room itself is square and windowless. Personnel from various departments - engineering, Hawk-Eye, the camera-control wing, graphics, sound, communication, and the EVS (which relays the replays) - sit here for long hours. They chat in whispers. The director is omnipresent, in everybody's ears.

Flanking the director are his assistant, who gives ten-second countdowns to the global broadcasters before the end and start of an over, and for drinks- and innings breaks. The vision mixer, on the other side, is the man who pushes the buttons as the director calls out instructions. Inputs from the cameras, graphics, Hawk-Eye, EVS, are fed to the vision mixer's desk, where he assembles them according to the director's calls. He sits still but his hands move like an expert pianist's - in short, swift movements. The feed is routed from his desk to the satellite truck, parked in the stadium, and uplinked from there to a satellite for international broadcasters to downlink into their control rooms.

Gupta is the conductor of the orchestra. He sits facing two plasma screens on which feeds from about 28 cameras (manned and unmanned) are beamed live. The unmanned ones include two stump cameras, four for run-outs, two for lbws, and one "beauty" - the wide shot of the ground from on high that you see in the background when scorecards and other stats are imposed on the screen.

Setting up
For the production unit, the match starts four days before it is actually played. There are four core crews and five operations crews for the tournament. The core crew is the executive producer, director, producer, floor manager, director's assistant (DA), producer's assistant (PA), statistician, and reporter. The operations crew has the production manager, vision mixer, six EVS operators, three soundmen, five graphics operators, three Hawk-Eye operators, 11 engineering operators, 18 cameramen, five satellite operators and eight riggers.

The first job is to get the control room ready. The engineering team gets the generator set up, for power, and then puts the monitors in place. Next comes rigging up the cables, which is an elaborate process. All the camera positions and microphones across the stadium are hooked up to the control room.

The next day the facilities check happens under the vigilant eye of the director. The cameras are in place, the cameramen check the viewfinders, the picture inputs are checked, and the director gets the TV monitors placed so he is comfortable. The sound checks happen at the same time.

The engineers also link the producer, statistician and the commentators, who all sit upstairs in the commentators' box, to the control room. The commentators have a microphone, a view of the programme output (the last video image that has been transmitted, before the director has cut away to another), and a "fruit machine" - a gadget that displays essential data like the team total, batsmen's scores, bowlers' figures and such other stats.

Each crew member works for about 12 hours on match days, starting three hours before the match and finishing two to three hours after. Through the match the only time Gupta walks out of the room is at the halfway stage, save for quick dashes to the restroom.

Talking a good game
The all-important voices of the broadcast emanate from the commentary box. Here sit the commentators, the producer, the statistician, the scorer, and a field logger, who is responsible for the fielding graphics.

At 12.45pm on the Saturday of the final, the commentary team was warming up. Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly were having a laugh. Tom Moody, whose head almost hit the low ceiling, wondered if Sri Lanka were gambling playing Suraj Randiv, who had been rushed in at the 11th hour as cover. Nasser Hussain wanted to check if the wi-fi was working. Sanjay Manjrekar, who would go on first, sat still.

Ramachandran was in the back of the box, seated on an elevated platform. The biggest match he had produced so far had been the final of the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean last year, but like for Gupta, there were no nerves. Ramachandran had done the day's roster, the commentator's time table. For the semi-finals and final there were eight men, as against six for the previous games.

At any given time there was a designated lead commentator, who describes the delivery, along with two "colour" commentators who offer expert views. Shastri is usually the lead commentator when India are playing. "Ravi manages to talk up an event," Ramachandran said. "In the first half hour of the game you need that to set up the match."

****

The "most tense" moment of the day, according to Gupta, was the toss, usually a straightforward event. In the final the match referee had to toss the coin twice as he failed to hear Kumar Sangakkara's call the first time. Gupta desisted from airing a replay of the first toss. The global feed (when the international broadcasters start their telecast) commences ten minutes after the actual toss, so Gupta, his bosses and Ramachandran could afford a few minutes to decide whether to show the first toss on the global feed. "In the version that was shown across the world, only pictures of the first toss were shown, without sound, before moving on to the second toss," Ramachandran said.

Thankfully the rest of the day was without controversy. Gupta conducted the show with aplomb. All through, he and his team remained unaffected by the happenings around them. They were metres away from the field of play but sealed from it. Kaushik Basu, ESPN Star's vice-president of production, said he had been on the job for 16-odd years and never once had he stepped on to the field of play.

Standing there as they worked was fascinating. Gupta's primary aim was to show the cricket, but he also had his eye peeled for the sidelights. As Mahela Jayawardene closed in on his century, Gupta kept his focus on the batsman but one of his cameramen had Jayawardene's wife, Christine, in his sights. Not quite up to watching as her husband came up to a hundred in a World Cup final, she masked her face with a scarf. When Jayawardene stepped out to loft Zaheer Khan for a boundary and raised his arms, Gupta initially captured the player's celebrations, before briefly moving on to Christine jumping in the stands.

The closest Gupta came to reacting was when 12 deliveries were left and India needed five runs to win. A smile lit up his face. He asked Philip Betts, one of the ESPN executive producers, to go out and feel the atmosphere. "The World Cup happens every four years and we were so fortunate that it was in India and India won it. It was a moment not to be missed," Gupta said later.

I asked Gupta if holding back his emotions is one of the most difficult part of his job. "We [directors] don't really watch the games. I am thinking of what I would like to see if I were sitting at home."

Gupta and his team, of course, are not at home. It is close to three hours after India have won the World Cup. The Indian players have started to let their hair down in their hotel. Outside the Wankhede, thousands are partying along Marine Drive. In the ground, though, Gupta's runners are busy winding up the cables. The "derig" - dismantling everything and packing it all up - will take another three hours. Eventually all the equipment will be loaded onto trucks, ready to go into storage, till the next tournament, when the show hits the road again.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ashish2727 on April 21, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    Lovely article, this - kudos!

  • CricEshwar on April 20, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Superb article. Superb perspective. As always Cricinfo is everything about cricket. Do bring in more informative articles like the ones written by Akash Chopra on the technicalities of playing Cricket, and other's of this article's kind, the operational details. Looking forward for stuff like How the pitch is made and people involved in deciding its nature? Customized bats and technicalities of different balls How IPL franchises work, modes of their revenue, their involvement and limitations in decision making of the league etc.

    If you guys don't mind, let us know how you guys function. Brief Info on interfaces that you input commentary, maintain stats etc. How you gather news,

  • satyam.sharma on April 20, 2011, 0:25 GMT

    @sshereef13: Thanks!!! Awesome moment ... really gotta love Dhoni's attitude and the look in his eyes and face immediately after hitting that six :-) BTW, really great work by the ESPNStar team (one of the best produced cricket series or tournament I have ever seen) and a thoroughly awesome article by Nagraj Gollapudi :-)

  • on April 19, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    Nice article.Keep up the good work.

  • sshereef13 on April 19, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    @ satyam.sharma - really, after 100's and 1000's of replays you still haven't seen it? It's on youtube man. "Dhoni's Winning Six in style - World Cup 2011 Final India vs Sri Lanka ", paste that in and you won't miss it.

  • satyam.sharma on April 19, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    Tell Gupta and Ramachandran and co. they missed a vital moment and image of the match when Dhoni twirled his bat just after hitting the last ball for a six while striking the pose for the photographers. I have watched 100s of replays and 1000s of recaps of the winning moments, but still haven't seen this highly-discussed-about twirl-of-the-bat by Dhoni (commentators mentioned it on air, Harsha Bhogle even mentioned it in an article on Cricinfo).

  • on April 19, 2011, 8:40 GMT

    @Arvind Pal: Actually the online world cup broadcast by espnstar.com had that feature. I listened to it with earphones. The right one only had commentary and the left one had all other ground and crowd noises. So I would remove the right earphone whenever commentary became annoying.

  • on April 18, 2011, 22:06 GMT

    Great piece of information. We (the viewers sitting in teh cosy comfort of their homes) perhaps do not even think of the effort that goes in beaming these events to the world.

  • victorUS on April 18, 2011, 19:22 GMT

    A Pulitzer Prize piece. Gripping and thoroughly captivating reading! First time some inquisitive soul has lifted up the curtains (or broken through the walls) to let's have a peep into the scenario behind the scenes. But it's only an appetizer - MORE PLEASE!

  • VivaVizag on April 18, 2011, 15:53 GMT

    OK. Still need more info. Can I have the name of the guy who inserts ads in the middle of overs? :-)

  • ashish2727 on April 21, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    Lovely article, this - kudos!

  • CricEshwar on April 20, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Superb article. Superb perspective. As always Cricinfo is everything about cricket. Do bring in more informative articles like the ones written by Akash Chopra on the technicalities of playing Cricket, and other's of this article's kind, the operational details. Looking forward for stuff like How the pitch is made and people involved in deciding its nature? Customized bats and technicalities of different balls How IPL franchises work, modes of their revenue, their involvement and limitations in decision making of the league etc.

    If you guys don't mind, let us know how you guys function. Brief Info on interfaces that you input commentary, maintain stats etc. How you gather news,

  • satyam.sharma on April 20, 2011, 0:25 GMT

    @sshereef13: Thanks!!! Awesome moment ... really gotta love Dhoni's attitude and the look in his eyes and face immediately after hitting that six :-) BTW, really great work by the ESPNStar team (one of the best produced cricket series or tournament I have ever seen) and a thoroughly awesome article by Nagraj Gollapudi :-)

  • on April 19, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    Nice article.Keep up the good work.

  • sshereef13 on April 19, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    @ satyam.sharma - really, after 100's and 1000's of replays you still haven't seen it? It's on youtube man. "Dhoni's Winning Six in style - World Cup 2011 Final India vs Sri Lanka ", paste that in and you won't miss it.

  • satyam.sharma on April 19, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    Tell Gupta and Ramachandran and co. they missed a vital moment and image of the match when Dhoni twirled his bat just after hitting the last ball for a six while striking the pose for the photographers. I have watched 100s of replays and 1000s of recaps of the winning moments, but still haven't seen this highly-discussed-about twirl-of-the-bat by Dhoni (commentators mentioned it on air, Harsha Bhogle even mentioned it in an article on Cricinfo).

  • on April 19, 2011, 8:40 GMT

    @Arvind Pal: Actually the online world cup broadcast by espnstar.com had that feature. I listened to it with earphones. The right one only had commentary and the left one had all other ground and crowd noises. So I would remove the right earphone whenever commentary became annoying.

  • on April 18, 2011, 22:06 GMT

    Great piece of information. We (the viewers sitting in teh cosy comfort of their homes) perhaps do not even think of the effort that goes in beaming these events to the world.

  • victorUS on April 18, 2011, 19:22 GMT

    A Pulitzer Prize piece. Gripping and thoroughly captivating reading! First time some inquisitive soul has lifted up the curtains (or broken through the walls) to let's have a peep into the scenario behind the scenes. But it's only an appetizer - MORE PLEASE!

  • VivaVizag on April 18, 2011, 15:53 GMT

    OK. Still need more info. Can I have the name of the guy who inserts ads in the middle of overs? :-)

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on April 18, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    Brilliant article. I am not sure how it is in other sports but given the sheer length of a cricketing event - 4 hours to 8 hours a day, this has to be one huge physical effort. Congratulations to Cricinfo for bringing us such a wonderful view of the action behind the camera.

  • on April 18, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    Great article. I wish they implement the technology to shut off the boring commentators without shutting off the crowd noise. Pressing mute button stops everything. It would have been an even more enjoyable moment if we could have muted out Mr. cliche's unnecessary yelling.

  • wambling_future on April 18, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    Article like this deserve a reading !!!!!!

  • Matricfail on April 18, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    Cricinfo guys, I hate you very very much. You lucky nuts have best jobs in the world. Do not publish these articles they will only make me hate you all more ;) ..

  • ShashankVerma on April 18, 2011, 13:21 GMT

    Great work by both the Broadcasting team & the Cricinfo team....

  • humbaikar on April 18, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    What an awesome job these guys must be having !!!

  • Changi on April 18, 2011, 12:35 GMT

    amazing to have a behind-the-scenes snapshot... i had a question though.. how is it that the pictures shown on the screen in the stadium are sometimes different from those shown on tv??

  • fanfromcanada on April 18, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    Excellent article! I always wondered how the whole thing worked, and Nagraj captured the whole production setup beautifully. My mind goes back in time to the 1980s when, while growing up, we first saw the pictures broadcast live from the matches in Australia by Kerry Packer's Channel 9. Hats off to him and his production crew to be so much ahead of the times and being a visionary. What they did has made our cricket viewing more enjoyable.

  • on April 18, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    nice article.good insight of behind the scenes. but frankly I really did not like the coverage in capturing the winning moments of ind vs sl wc final match. I wanted to witness superb stuff of joy and celebration of indian team. telecasting just one camera angle may not be good idea. i feel they could telecast multiple camera angles to viewers in boxes.

  • on April 18, 2011, 9:58 GMT

    thnx for sharing guys....

  • on April 18, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    very good info - we all have seen the atmosphere beyond control room in the grounds - but while reading this I can imagine how it is like being surrounded by multiple video streams and cables and yet try to be innovative enough to pack it all up for the viewers - superb job!

  • on April 18, 2011, 9:25 GMT

    Brilliant article, this. Good job Cricinfo.

  • suresk79 on April 18, 2011, 9:01 GMT

    A wonderful article. This shows how much efforts have been put up in watching the game of cricket in our TV sets. :)

  • Its_Santanu on April 18, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    Wonderful...I was always curious to know this. But still a few question comes up to my mind - 1. You say 24 cameras per match and it the process starts 3 days prior to the match day. So around (24 x No of venues) are usually used for a tournament? Lets say 20 cameras required for IPL matches, so for 10 venues the broadcaster had to use 200 cameras? 2. You say 10 comemntators for final match. Who leads them? The executive producer or one of the commentators? Then again who directs the show from the studio where Harsha sits? Nags, another article would be highly apreciated yaar.

  • pushkaraj_h on April 18, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Nicely put up...good 1..got a an insight view of the control room

  • on April 18, 2011, 6:23 GMT

    Superb Article!! i always wondered how these ppl work behind the screen..but got a glimpse of it!! Thnks Nagaraj!!

  • on April 18, 2011, 6:22 GMT

    I've always wondered about the monitoring stuff behind the scenes! Its a great pleasure to be able to read this article which clarifies a lot of things regarding to cricket broadcast. Thanks to whoever came up with the idea to share the info. and also to Nagraj Gollapudi, the editor. This article was totally worth reading each sentence and I really wish if there was a way to know more insight after each game. Perhaps a blog?!

  • freakygs on April 18, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    what an amazing job, when India gets a nimb in the matches like this and Ind-Pak, this crew is nerveless, and doing their job efficiently. ESPN-STAR have the best TV telecast and coverage among other peers; and we recognize it. Kudos to this 'behind the camera' team, and thanks for bringing those wonderful visuals.

  • kimmisethi on April 18, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    I always wondered how it is decided that the view from which camera is displayed live on TV at a particular moment. I have some idea now. Very nice article about the behind the scenes broadcasting.

  • Najja on April 18, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    This is my DREAM PLACE OF WORK !!!

  • enigma77543 on April 18, 2011, 4:54 GMT

    Good article, very informative for most of us who wouldn't be very familiar with what goes on behind the scenes.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    nice article.. it really gives in-sight on activities behind the screen and hard work put in by so many people. thank you

  • ambsmams on April 18, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    Thanks Nagaraj for the wonderful and insightful article of the behind the scenes affair. My first "international level" cricket match on TV was the 1985 World Series Cricket in Australia. I remember the commentators there spending some time talking about the production of the event, the number of cameras, and the director's role in such an event. I am reading an article about this world cup from you - the next time. Great. Such reportings are rare and Gupte-Ramachandran and their team need to be congratulated for covering this World cup so well.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:30 GMT

    Very informative article, well presented by Nagraj. Though I dream of working in such places sheerly out of passion for the game, this one I was visualizing myself there amidst all those paraphernalia of television broadcast. Congrats for such a wonderful article Sir.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    I'm interested to know how many work forces are involved in the whole operation? thanks.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:19 GMT

    Wonderful article,Is there any way i could be part of the team??

  • mlavamurthy on April 18, 2011, 4:15 GMT

    Super duper article. Power of words!

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    Thanks, I was curious to know about TV controll room.Good article.

  • Dhitik on April 18, 2011, 3:54 GMT

    frankly speaking....never ever spared a thought about these guys...who bring us the visuals although i do think about camera angle sometimes......once again a well written interesting article.....kudos Nagaraj

  • on April 18, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Wonderful article.. Very interesting insight about the TV Control Room.. Emotions must have been tremendously high during the World Cup Final in that room! Kudos to those people!

  • pappadu on April 18, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    Great to know all of this behind the scene stuff! I can't imagine how alert and reactive the director should be. I used to get amazed how those camera men follow the ball while zoomed in so much already... I guess one more thing to add is that the director should also repsond to commentators request for replays etc.

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  • pappadu on April 18, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    Great to know all of this behind the scene stuff! I can't imagine how alert and reactive the director should be. I used to get amazed how those camera men follow the ball while zoomed in so much already... I guess one more thing to add is that the director should also repsond to commentators request for replays etc.

  • on April 18, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Wonderful article.. Very interesting insight about the TV Control Room.. Emotions must have been tremendously high during the World Cup Final in that room! Kudos to those people!

  • Dhitik on April 18, 2011, 3:54 GMT

    frankly speaking....never ever spared a thought about these guys...who bring us the visuals although i do think about camera angle sometimes......once again a well written interesting article.....kudos Nagaraj

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    Thanks, I was curious to know about TV controll room.Good article.

  • mlavamurthy on April 18, 2011, 4:15 GMT

    Super duper article. Power of words!

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:19 GMT

    Wonderful article,Is there any way i could be part of the team??

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    I'm interested to know how many work forces are involved in the whole operation? thanks.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:30 GMT

    Very informative article, well presented by Nagraj. Though I dream of working in such places sheerly out of passion for the game, this one I was visualizing myself there amidst all those paraphernalia of television broadcast. Congrats for such a wonderful article Sir.

  • ambsmams on April 18, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    Thanks Nagaraj for the wonderful and insightful article of the behind the scenes affair. My first "international level" cricket match on TV was the 1985 World Series Cricket in Australia. I remember the commentators there spending some time talking about the production of the event, the number of cameras, and the director's role in such an event. I am reading an article about this world cup from you - the next time. Great. Such reportings are rare and Gupte-Ramachandran and their team need to be congratulated for covering this World cup so well.

  • on April 18, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    nice article.. it really gives in-sight on activities behind the screen and hard work put in by so many people. thank you