A whole life for sports directing

Nazareno Balani,director, a whole life for sports (August 2015)

How have shooting tehniques in sports, and directing and the language of images changed in over 40 years? We have picked up some reflections of Nazareno Balani, one of most renowned Italian ports broadcast directors. "Actually all formats have changed, the digital domain has abolished tapes and cassettes, miniaturized equipments, compressed images, revolutionized everything in this field. Once RAI live broadcast of Serie A match was shot with 3 cameras and minor matches with 2. Athletics was shot with only one control room and not with separate control rooms as it happens today. We could assume it was a very personalized direction since there were no guidelines as today, and every country could handle it in his own way. The main change today involves the use of several contemporary points of view with an increasing number of tv cameras on field. This has changed the way to conceive the direction in sports which earlier on was a rather neutral shot. Neverthless if we analize the images shot by the 14 cameras, we realise that 85% of cuts is due to 6 cameras while the others are redundant. And we generally end up with already seen cliches as in soccer shot almost completely beyond half field, or other sports where some shots were abused, as in the case of SpiderCam images. In the past many thought High Resolution could diminish the number of cameras involved, for its inner ability to shoot a great deal of details; but it happened exactly the opposite. Actually in the typical layout of a Serie A match of the 18 cameras requested, camera 1 and camera 2 –covering respectively close and large shots- plus central camera within benches, cover around 60% of total shooting. The rest are secondary cuts and spare images for recording. The audience is used to this multiplied points of view, even if one of the few ocasions in which this is not happening will be the Brasil Olympics wher the oveall number of cameras is decreasing instead of increasing. Today the use of fibre optics allows to transport tv signals to everywhere in the world, so the is no longer a need to have a complete control room on the spot. It is a matter of costs, which tend to become more competitive rather than producing a finished broadcast feed abroad, on the sports venue. Still are to be evaluated the costs and number of the signals. Sometimes we have counted the replays in a single match, up to 85, so multiplying by 3 each foul, and considering up to 30/35 fouls per game, you get to an incredibile number of replays, spoiling the live broadcast. Another recent major change involves graphics which is getting more and more attention with 3D titles and animation. SKY has imposed the typical American style. Today it is very important to master each sports technique, something which in the past was less important in favour of the way the “story” was told. An example is Japan which coded in a precise way all sports shootings; for instance in synchronized swimming they use up to 20 TV cameras which is exactly a double figure in respect the Italian. Another recent change of attitudine involves the fact that today several countries have developed very good operative capabilities which in the past were confined to only few, 3/4, countries. The growing number of tech equipments available on the market, more and more quality oriented and modern, does not cancel the director's creativity who can express himself far beyond the compulsory tech layout. Sports broadcasts still remain the leading area where new av languages and techniques, like raidocameras, dollies, drones and alike are tested before passing on to other TV genres." ...