Ground-breaking high-definition look at Leopard Creek

So you settle back and channel hop your way to one of the high-definition channels on that great new decoder you bought, and the extraordinary crystal-clear sights of golf set in the Southern African bushveld pop out at you.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek has become the first Sunshine Tour event and the first event co-sanctioned by the European Tour to be shown in high-definition 1080i.

“It’s not only a treat for the golfing public, but it will have the kind of footage which could be shown on the National Geographic channel,” says the producer, Ross Clarke of European Tour Productions.

He’s talking about some of the extraordinary wildlife shots which intersperse the golf coverage on one of the most scenic tournaments Clarke gets to work on.

“The public often think the cutaway shots to wildlife are staged, or pre-recorded, or even the product of some editor’s imagination, but 80 per cent of the animal shots are live,” he said.

“Of course, we do record some, and include those in highlights packages, or build-ups and closing credits, but you’re seeing what we’re seeing when we show you the animals,” he said.

It takes quite a bit of hardware to bring the pictures onto high-definition screens: Those incredible shots into the neighbouring Kruger National Park need a great deal of elevation.

There are three cranes used, the first of which is a 50-ton, 50-metre high monster based in the television compound. Then there are two camera lifts, or cherry pickers, one 20 metres high, and the other 26 metres. The higher of the two is placed on the highest point on the course, so it towers 250 metres into the air and gives spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding bushveld. The camera on there has a huge lens – 86-1, and that’s how viewers at home are able to see so far into the distance and in such sharp relief.

There’s more: There are 32 kilometres of video triax camera cable, and 14 kilometres of audio cable. There is a technical crew of 72 people – riggers, cameramen, graphics people, and with commentators, there are nearly 100 people bringing the pictures into homes all over the world.

There are 40 effects microphones, two roving and two interview microphones and five for the commentators. There is a 96 channel audio router and 56 radios with five frequencies. And added to all that, high-definition takes more satellite bandwidth than normal television, so it’s more expensive – but the difference is it’s four times better than a standard picture.

With such clarity of images available to the television audience, it’s almost tempting to say it’s better to watch golf from home. It is great, but it’s also great to be there!

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