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Legs and checkouts: behind the scenes at this weekend's Champions League Of Darts

Simon Wheeler

Director, PDC Champions League Of Darts

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Peter Wright will be one of the players at this year's PDC Champions League Of Darts

This Saturday the PDC Champions League of Darts takes place at the Brighton Centre and will be broadcast live on BBC One from 1.15pm. Director Simon Wheeler explains some of the challenges involved.

Darts looks rather straightforward to cover but it’s actually one of the hardest sports to televise, mostly because you have to shoot the event in close-up.

It would be very straightforward just to put in one camera and a dart board and leave it at that, but then there would be absolutely no drama or impact!

Close-up is important because when a player, particularly on the last three darts of a leg, is going for a double to finish, that double has to fill the screen so you do it in close-up. You have to know which doubles they’re going for, and you also have to have a camera operator who’s quick enough to get to them.

The filming definitely doesn’t follow a script. That’s illustrated by the fact that a player might get to a finish with a certain number, say 161, and they’ll have a certain way of going out in three darts.

We have a spotter who’s familiar with each player and how they check out, as you’ve only got half a second to know where they’re going to enable a cameraman to get a close-up of the right double – so it’s a lot faster than it appears.

Preparing for a previous event in Newcastle earlier this year

All of the crew work on sports, but some are specialists and work on darts a lot of the time. Using a split screen for BBC darts coverage was introduced by my boss at BBC Manchester, Nick Hunter.

Split screen meant that you didn’t have to cut from the throw to the board, which made things a lot easier for the director, and it’s a lot less strain on the eye for viewers as well.

These days more cameras are put onto a game, which enables you to get more close-ups to air, but essentially I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference in the coverage now than there was 30 years ago, except for things like lighting and the quality of the camera.

In future, ultra high definition, or 4K which is four times what you see in high definition currently, is the way darts, and sport broadcasting, is going.

The Champions League Of Darts is the top eight darts players in the world at the moment, all playing off against each other, so the quality of the players is absolutely top notch.

It’s the first time that this event has been to Brighton, so I’d also urge anyone there this weekend to come along and watch as it’s an extraordinary day out - it’s unlike any sporting event you will have ever attended!

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