October 14, 2008

Seeing the stones move

Perhaps it is a consequence of getting older, but occasionally these days something that I hear, or see, triggers a whole host of long suppressed memories! A follower of this blog brought my attention to some fabulous online footage of junior curling in Poland, in the venue for the European Youth Olympic Festival next February, see our recent post here. The curling rink will be constructed within the gymnasium of the Bielsko Mechanic School, in the town of Bielsko-Biala, near Krakow. The sports hall floor will be covered with special refrigerated mats, on which the ice for the curling will be laid.

It was seeing the wallbars surrounding the rink which triggered memories of hanging upside down during school gym lessons all these years ago! I'm sure our gym master had the best of intentions, but I don't really have fond memories of gym periods all these years ago! I was almost completely put off all sporting activities... but then the school started up a curling club, and the rest is history!

Looking at the footage above just confirms in my mind that webcasting of curling events will play a big part in our sport's future. Things are a bit confused at the moment. There's the excellent CurlTV of course, with the archive of games to watch and learn from if you have a subscription. I personally haven't had much success with the live Curlingkanalen webcasts, such as those from the Oslo Cup, reflecting I presume the bandwidth considerations that are key in this area. The archive footage (see here) is watchable though. Have a look too at what is happening in the area of internet TV of curling in Switzerland (here) in association with the WCT-e.

In Scotland there is a lot of interest in webcasting, to judge from the posts on the Scottish Curling Forum last season. Big ideas from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club seem to have come to naught. I recently asked Colin Grahamslaw, the Royal Club CEO, what progress had been made. His reply was, "We had been working with a company who had a potential backer on board who would have picked up the costs but the current market state has put an end to that option." Could something be done in-house for the main RCCC competitions? Colin notes, "The main issue with the Scottish (Championship) is pushing BBC to take an early decision as to what they are doing and then releasing the web rights back to us." Watch this space, but why am I thinking, don't hold your breath!

The World Curling Federation sees the future though, and we can expect developments here. President Les Harrison was interviewed on The Curling Show during the summer, and was predicting that the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Cortina next year was a candidate as an event to be webcast. With the huge investment that the WCF has made with its own television production company WCTV, webcasting would seem a natural next step.

Others are moving ahead at home. Alex and Andrew Mitchell pioneered webcasting of the Ramada Perth Masters some years ago, and will be doing so again in January. (Note that the draw for the Perth WCT-e event is now online, see here). Alex is the technical brains behind these endeavours and his expertise has been recruited to provide webcasts for the inaugural WCT-e Edinburgh International next month. The Dunvegan Junior events are at Murrayfield this coming weekend. The Edinburgh International Organising Committee has asked permission to film some of the Dunvegan games as a trial run for their own event in November. During the close season, static cameras were placed directly over both ends of three of Murrayfield’s seven sheets in preparation for filming. In addition, moving hand-held cameras will be deployed at both ice and bar level.

Cameras will be operated by junior volunteers and the whole operation will be coordinated by Alex Mitchell who is currently working on the perennial problem of picture quality when a webcast is highly subscribed. The trial filming of the Dunvegan Trophy games will give him valuable data in his quest for the answer to the problem.

Catherine Dodds, the organiser of this season’s Dunvegan Trophy for Under 21 curlers, reports that the competition entry lists for both the Ladies and Gents competitions are full - eight junior teams will compete in both competitions.

Both competitions will be run in the same way. The eight teams will be split into two sections of four with each team being guaranteed three games on the Saturday. The winners and runners-up from each section will progress to the Sunday knock-out stages. Semifinals will be played on Sunday morning with the finals of both competitions taking place on Sunday afternoon. The total prize fund for the competitions is £1000.


Bartosz said...

there is another footage about junior nationals in Bielsko-Biała which can be found here:
starting from 3min 08sec
enjoy! :)

Michael said...

Hi Bob
Would just like to bring to your attention, the link you put in your blog entry about webcasts concerning Swiss WCT-E Events redirects back to curltv.com (like the first link you posted). Is that supposed to be that way or did a false link creep into your post?

Bob Cowan said...

Sorry about that. The link is now fixed. Thanks for pointing out the problem!