When Nik Wallenda attempts to traverse the Grand Canyon some 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River on Sunday, those watching on television will benefit from the technical expertise of a Maryland-based company that will outfit the 34-year-old self-described "King of the Wire" for his latest midair adventure.
Peter Larsson co-founded Broadcast Sports Inc. four years after Wallenda was born and moved from his native Australia, where he and partner John Porter worked for a television station, to Connecticut. He and Porter took the fledgling company to Maryland in 1986 because of the proximity to the defense industry, which uses much of the same technology.
Starting with the 1983 Daytona 500, Larsson's company has provided cameras and the more modern high-tech equipment for everything from the X Games and Olympics to the Triple Crown races. The company also has placed its cameras on the parade route for a number of presidential inaugurations. BSI's most consistent clients have been NASCAR and the PGA Tour.
"It's all places where you want to put a TV camera but there's no way to get a cable to it," Larsson said last week. "I think the key to everything now is the digital microwave transmission of the video."
For Wallenda's walk — which will be shown live at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel — there are cameras on either side of the mesa where Wallenda will be doing his stunt, a helicopter shooting video from above as well as two POV (Point of View) cameras on Wallenda himself.
Larsson recently went down to Wallenda's training facility outside Sarasota, Fla., to "specifically tailor the vest he will wear with the camera equipment" so the seventh-generation daredevil could practice with the added weight.
"Both of the cameras are mounted on his chest, and one will be pointed down at an angle so you'll actually see his feet moving along the rope and the other will be looking ahead so you see his hands on the balance pole and see how far he has to go," Larsson said.
Larsson's company has grown to some 200 employees in the United States — including 90 in Maryland — and in London. Starting out a few years after ESPN opened its offices in Bristol, Conn., Wallenda moved to Crofton in 1986 and eventually found space in Hanover.
"A lot of the technology we use is similar to the defense industry and there's a lot of defense contractors in this area. … We can leverage some of their knowledge to build the equipment that we need," Larsson said. "There's a lot of crossover technology."
Larsson won't be attending Wallenda's latest adventure.
"Unfortunately I'm going to San Jose to show the camera very similar to the one we're putting on Nik to put on football referees and we're doing an indoor football league game," Larsson said.
Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda
Sunday, 8 p.m.
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