One of the most expensive and complex pieces of equipment ever used for live broadcast was tried out without a hitch for the first time in New Zealand.

Sky Television said the Austrian-developed spidercam - a high-definition overhead camera - had a successful trial run at Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park.

It will be used for 12 matches in Auckland and Wellington during the Rugby World Cup, beginning with the All Blacks against France on September 24.

The Auckland audience was intrigued by the gyro-balanced device, which swept soundlessly across the stadium at high speed and at times seemed to be centimetres above the heads of goalkickers Daniel Carter, James O'Connor and Quade Cooper.


Sky Sports head Kevin Cameron said the network had demonstrated the camera to Rugby World Cup and New Zealand rugby officials on Saturday afternoon to confirm it would not be a distraction for players.

"The team operated the camera for the Six Nations and they worked out that during play a level of about 20m high [was acceptable], and when play stops, such as for penalty goals, it could be placed nearly at grass level."

Sky had to build temporary structures at the edge of Eden Park's new South Stand and ASB Bank Stand to create the perpendicular cable lines required to operate the spidercam.

Attached to these structures were four 300kg winches, which loosen and tighten four kevlar cables to move the camera in every direction at a speed of up to 8m a second. Every millimetre of the 150m-long by 100m-high range could be reached nearly instantly.

The team of four controllers included a pilot, who guided the spidercam with a remote from the southwest corner of the pitch. A gyroscopic sensor kept the camera steady, and fibre-optic cables inside the wires fed the footage to an outside broadcast van, which controlled the lens and finer movement.

Mr Cameron said the only obstacle to the camera's use during the World Cup would be heavy thunderstorms.

Another spidercam will be imported in September for operation at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

Mr Cameron said that for lesser occasions the camera was prohibitively costly for Sky TV to set up.


He hoped a spidercam unit would soon be based in Australia, which would mean the network could access a unit more easily and at a lower cost for big matches. Australian rules ruling body AFL was negotiating to buy a device.

Mr Cameron said that even if AFL bought one, it could probably only be used in New Zealand if it was backed by a sponsor. A spidercam rate card from 2009 showed the daily operational costs were around $15,000-$20,000 a day.

The spidercam was used at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Paris and the Fifa World Cup in South Africa.