The BBC – Behind the Scenes at Badminton

So we promised you a behind-the-scenes blog that you couldn’t get anywhere else, and here it is! For the past few years I have been lucky enough to spend XC day with the Outside Broadcast Team working on the programmes which go out on the TV. My job is as a ‘logger’ which means I have to record the exact time each combination reaches each fence, and note down any interesting/influential/noteworthy things which happen along the way. The editor then uses my log to be able to skip to the exact point on the VT they want, in order to pull things out to go in the highlights show which is broadcast before the top 20 in the showjumping goes out live.

The highly covetable car pass.

The highly covetable car pass.

Two Months Ago
I’ve been in touch with my contact in the team, confirmed that I’m available and that they want me, and then the pre-Badminton excitement really begins when the car pass arrives! It’s at this point that I suddenly become very popular as the pass gets the car and all the occupants in for the entire weekend, and we get to park directly behind the tradestands in the media car park. Great for dropping shopping off!

At Huntsman's Close

At Huntsman’s Close

Dressage Days
I always try and go for both dressage days so that I can get horses and riders straight in my mind, and so that I can walk the XC course and learn which jumps are where. It’s a full-on day with no let up, and there is very little time to refer to course plans and horse and rider lists during the action, so it helps if I have done a bit of homework. I watch some of the dressage tests, and then head out round the course. It’s always more pleasant when it’s sunny, and as a bonus, you often see the great and the good out walking too – this year we spotted Chris Bartle giving his riders plenty of advice.

The tools of the trade!

The tools of the trade!

XC Day
6.30 am The alarm goes off. I only live about 30 minutes from Badminton, except on XC day when I live about 3 hours away, and I cannot afford to be late, so I get up at the crack of dawn and head in early to avoid the traffic. I have breakfast at the event, and use the spare time to wander round the tradestands whilst they are quiet – bliss! Before I leave home, my phone beeps to remind me to pack pens and pencils. I have to write for 6 hours so need a comfortable pen, and always take pencils as back up because they don’t run out!

The screens in the edit suite

The screens in the edit suite

11.00 am I have to be in place an hour before the start of the XC, so I make my way to the TV compound, negotiate security and say my hellos to the team. I find out which edit suite they want me in, leave my bag and coat in order to make sure people know the chair is wanted (I had a nasty moment one year where they’d nabbed my chair for someone else and I had visions of having to kneel for 6 hours!), and make the most of the private toilets – no queues! I also head to the catering tent to grab a packed lunch and plenty of bottles of water. It gets exceptionally hot in the edit suites, and I’m unlikely to get a break during the day.

11.30 am I have a chat with the team about the course, what I think might be influential, and the riders they’ve made a tentative plan to feature. The editor hasn’t done any eventing before, though he was at the Grand National, so as soon as he discovers I’m a fan, he grills me on how the event works. They have categorised riders according to whether or not they think they will need to feature them in the highlights show, and I suggest that they might want to promote Vittoria Pannizon from her current ‘maybe’ position to ‘definitely feature’ as I think she’s likely to finish well up the order tomorrow, Borough Pennyz is my tip for a future 4* winner. I try not to make any cast iron predictions though, this is Badminton after all!

Making sure I'm all set - logging sheets and headphones ready

Making sure I’m all set – logging sheets and headphones ready

11.50 am I make my final checks before Scotty (Ian Stark) and Mike Tucker’s dulcet tones start to come through the headphones – water, lunch, log sheets, running order, headpones working so I can hear to commentary, and live feed on a screen. I’m all set. As the commentary starts and they show aerial shots of the park and crowds, I log them for atmosphere shots, but this is just easing me in.

12.00 5-4-3-2-1, and Oli Townend and Armada are away through the start as the trailblazers. For the next six hours, I watch every horse and rider they show in glorious HD on a small screen.

13.10-ish Ben Hobday and Gun A Be Good have a nasty fall at the second element of fence 13, an open corner and the course is held. I hate it when horses and riders fall, but a hold is the only chance I get for a break, so I grab the opportunity and wolf down a packet of crisps and half a sandwich. Ben is taken off, the fence is repaired and we’re up and running again, so the other half gets abandoned for later.

My home for the day - The Outside Broadcast Unit

My home for the day – The Outside Broadcast Unit

18.00 Pippa Funnell and Redesigned have come through the finish, I’ve logged the obligatory shots of children and dogs in the lake, and finally, I can take a break. After a loo stop and a much needed stretch, I head back in to chat through the events of the day. The editor is fascinated that anyone would voluntarily sit through six hours of XC, and asks for my opinions from a fan’s point of view. I say that yes, Tom McEwan is likely to finish well, and will doubtless be there or thereabouts when it comes to the myriad of prizes Badminton likes to bestow on the younger riders, especially local ones under 25 who haven’t done Badminton before or worn a senior team flag, or danced the conga with Usain Bolt whilst climbing Everest, so he’d be a good person to use to link two of the better known riders on the highlights show. I am pleased to see my predictions about both Tom and Vittoria are borne out the following day – remember where you heard it first when Borough Pennyz wins that 4*!

18.30 I say my goodbyes and head to The Outside Chance bar to meet friends and fill them in on anything they missed. It’s also a good chance to see how many sponsored heros we can spot whilst we let the traffic die down before heading home. I feel for the team – they have been known to work a 25 hour day to make sure the highlights show is ready to go, but luckily I don’t have to stay for that long!

Of course, tomorrow we’re heading back for the final day, this has been one of the most exciting three day events for a long time!

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  • I’m very envious that you got to see all the coverage, since even in the Media Centre, although we had 3 screens, most of the time they only showed one combination, sometimes 2, and at one point when 3 horses were on course (and running) we had the aerial computerised course walk on 1 screen and 2 blank screens!
    Sounds like a seriously full-on job but a labour of love for an eventing nutter. 🙂

  • Really enjoyed reading this – sounds like hard work but great fun and thanks for the insight!

  • Loved the guest commentaries when I was watching online on Sunday, Zara was a particular highlight. Rather disappointed that she and the others guests had been edited out when the highlights were shown yesterday.

    Overall a great production by the tv people and many thanks for this insight!

  • Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed this Badminton report and look forward to (hopefully!) reading more from you about this weekend.

  • Loved the coverage by e-Venting and by the BBC such as it was, but would have loved more. Surely when the BBC is losing out to BSkyB in so many areas, they could build some regular coverage of eventing.

  • is there anywhere the BBC coverage is available to rewatch? there’s only highlights on iplayer 🙁 not enough and no dressage 🙁