Ever wondered how or example the graphics actually get on TV? Rico Brylla of Swiss Timing gave us an introduction into the dazzling maze of cables, monitors, timings and measurements around a competition. Because when it comes to the technical side of a Nordic Combined competition, you do not get past Rico Brylla, Erik Heinze and their other colleagues from Swiss Timing. As masters of hundreds of metres of cable, countless monitors, computers, and other equipment used for their various tasks around a Nordic Combined competition, Rico Brylla and his colleagues at Swiss Timing are usually the first ones to arrive at a venue and the last ones to leave. During the FIS Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix, Fisnc.com was taking a closer look.
Rico, can you tell us what exactly your tasks around a Nordic Combined competition are?
Rico Brylla: Oh, that is a lot. We're responsible for everything that is technical in the hill: speed measurement, distance measurement, wind measurement. When it comes to the cross-country part, our job is to do all the timing with intermediate results and of course the final cross-country times in the finish. All of these facts and figures are worked into the result section: This means creating start lists, result list and overall rankings. After the competitions, we make sure all the results are immediately uploaded into the FIS database. During the competition, we make the happenings available on the internet via Live Timing. On top of that, we set up the systems for the commentators, giving them monitors to watch the current ranking as well as World Cup standings. If the TV is broadcasting a competition, we're also responsible for all the graphics you see on TV.
How many people do you need to make this impressive list of tasks work?
Rico: During the summer, we are four people but then, the amount of work is not so excessive as the TV isn't present and also not so many commentators. In winter, we are seven colleagues because there is a lot more assembling required. The TV is there, the commentators need their monitors and in the cross-country races there are more intermediate times which need to be set up with cable pulling and all. There are 5 wind measurement stations in the hill which need to be assembled in the hill. It really takes ages until everything is ready!
Speaking of the time it takes you to get everything ready, how many hours of work is it actually before and after the competitions?
Rico: Well of course we need a whole day before the competition day to assemble everything, pull the cables, set everything up and get the technology up and running. On a competition day, we usually get ready two hours before the start. If it's a very early competition it might be a little little bit less than that. (laughs) We usually finish up an hour after everything's over. First to arrive, last to leave, indeed!
What is the worst thing that ever went wrong on your job?
Rico: The worst thing, hmm, let me think. Usually it isn't so bad when it comes to the ski jumping part because it's one jumper after the other and if something isn't right you can stop and correct things. In the cross-country part, it's way worse. Once the guys are running, there's no stopping them. If something does not work during that part, it's absolutely horrible! Once, we did not have a single time from the transponders when everybody came into the finish. So we had to get the times from the cameras, athlete for athlete. That took a while but sometimes, these things happen. Of course, we always have several backup systems running.
Can you tell us a little bit more about these backup systems?
Rico: The transponders are the main timing instrument because you can immediately telecast everything on TV so the spectators are able to see the times. As backup systems, we have the Scan'O'Vision camera which films everything. It is usually used only in really tight finishes to decide who was that tiny little bit in front of the other. Additionally, there is an HD camera which also films every single athlete. The last backup system is the photo cells and hand trigger. So, actually we have four different systems to determine winners and rankings! There are really way more things going on than you can see on TV!
This winter, we have the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships coming up, next winter, it will be the Olympics. Do you feel even more pressure for everything to work at these title events?
Rico: Actually, a competition is a competition, whether it's a title event or a regular World Cup. Of course you try to concentrate that extra little bit harder and also the organizers are extra sensitive when it comes to technicals details like intermediate times but the work is the same. We try to provide the best service, as usual.