CTV OB Brings HD (Sort of) To British Open For ABC Sports/ESPN and Turner Sports

The BBC may be using only standard definition cameras for this year’s British Open coverage but that doesn’t mean HD equipment junkies can’t get their fix in the compound. CTV OB is providing HD vehicles and cameras to ABC Sports/ESPN and Turner, including OB10, it’s newest HD vehicle. “It’s CTV OB through and through,” says Bill Lacy, IMG Media, SVP production. “We have just about everything they own.”

OB10 is based around Sony gear with a Sony MVS800 HD production switcher that has 80 HD inputs and four DVE channels and Sony HDC1500 cameras (although Thomson LDK 6200 two-speed Arri hi-motion HD cameras are also on board). Vutrix HD plasmas with quad-split multiviewers, EVS servers, ProBel routers, and a Calrec Sigma console are also in use.

“It’s a very golf-friendly OB unit,” says Lacy, who makes use of the vehicle during the European Tour. “The tape area and graphics area are combined and it’s a very self-contained unit with a huge audio room and a flexible monitor wall.”

Tom Sahara, Turner Sports, Senior Director, IT and Remote Operations, says OB10 will operate in SD mode as all the BBC camera feeds coming into the truck we’ll be SD. “We have a Snell & Wilcox Alchemist and an Asaka upconverter in Atlanta that will upconvert the SD to HD,” says Sahara. “Their motion compensation and upconvert quality is very good.”

Turner Sports and ABC Sports will share the CTV OB units. CTV OB4 will handle the main production, pulling in up to 40 BBC camera feeds and enhancing the coverage with approximately 15 cameras for ABC Sports. Downstream from OB4 is OB10 that will add in the Turner coverage.

Because Royal Birkdale is a links course Lacy says it can be difficult moving cameras from point A to point B because of the terrain and crowds. The biggest challenge, however, is being downstream from the BBC as there is a definite difference in the way the BBC produces a golf event vs. U.S. networks.

“It’s much more leisurely,” says Lacy. “They think our approach is frantic and we think theirs is slow. The BBC has no problem watching a player lineup for a putt for a few minutes while we’ll tend to show two more shots and then come back for the putt. It can sometimes be a challenge to get into and out of their coverage.”

New this year technology wise is the use of EVS IP Director, allowing four Avid editing suites to link directly into the EVS servers. Another first will be the use of a fixed-wing airplane, weather permitting.

Of course, the ultimate first will be the move to HD, a move that will have to wait for at least another year. The cost of going HD will need to be picked up by SIS Outside Broadcast, the company that now owns the BBC remote production facilities.

With HD distribution picking up steam in Europe and England odds are pretty strong that next year’s British Open will make the leap to HD, signaling the beginning of a new HD era and the final chapter in standard definition for global sporting events.

“We’re very anxious to cover the British Open in HD,” adds Lacy.

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