Bringing squash to the small screen has always been a challenge for TV producers. As the Allam British Open gets underway, Will Jones runs his eye over the new technology offering fresh perspectives on the sport, and taking viewers to the heart of the action
For years, squash struggled to translate itself into a television spectacle. One of the world’s most exciting racket sports often looked slow or confusing to viewers watching at home: the confines of the court – a hollow hexahedron just 9.75m long and 6.4m wide – set limitations on TV producers that no amount of creative imagination could circumvent.
But now the game is being transformed by technology. As ticket-holding spectators and television viewers for the PSA World Series Finals in Dubai discovered last year, squash has never looked better.
Some of the recent improvements have been driven by the most fundamental part of the sport – the court. The ASB ShowGlassCourt used in Dubai is a tremendous piece of engineering that allows spectators in the arena to watch the action from three sides. Viewers at home also benefit: glass-court technology allows for many more camera angles, giving greater clarity and variety to the broadcast.
Television viewers once had to watch squash matches from a single angle, with one main camera set high above the back wall of the court. At Dubai’s PSA World Series Finals, however, broadcasts featured as many as six extra robotic cameras, all providing viewers with fresh perspectives on the action.
The cameras’ compact size means they can be installed in new and novel positions, most dramatically in the front wall. One such camera is the Antelope Pico, a super-slow-motion machine that can film at up to 350 frames per second – nearly 15 times slower than a standard TV camera.
Another big innovation seen in Dubai was the installation of a massive LED screen within the front wall. The screen has great potential – it could be used for everything from TMO (television match official) video replays to advertising and sponsors’ messages.
As players do battle this week to seal their spots at this year’s Finals at Dubai Opera, one thing is certain: the viewers will again be at the heart of the action.