NBC Sports U.S. Open Coverage Features Actioncam, 55 Cameras

When the 2011 U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD, tees off tomorrow, NBC Sports will be taking advantage of 55 cameras; the NBC golf debut of an Actioncam, flying between the 10th and 18th holes; a blimp that got a rare reprieve from flight restrictions over Washington, DC; and much more.

“This is the second most difficult sport to produce next to the Olympics,” says NBC Sports producer Tommy Roy. “There are up to 70 balls in play at any one time, and that creates the need to make decisions on what we think the stories are. The biggest thing is how we react to those stories.”

The Congressional course is set up to offer a mix of easy holes, which offer scoring opportunities like birdies and eagles, and difficult holes, which challenge players to stay on par. And the broadcast team may not be playing the game, but, like the players, it is challenged by this year’s defining characteristic: a long course with long holes.

The 18th hole, a massive par four measuring 523 yards, typifies the challenge of a course that measures more than 7,500 yards.

“With our mantra of giving the viewers the best seat in the house, it’s caused us to add quite a bit of equipment to deal with the different holes that have been set up here,” says Roy. “We’ll have 55 cameras this week.”

Inertia Unlimited X-Mo super-slow-motion systems will also be on hand, along with Protracer and Pinpoint animation systems. The former shows the flight of tee shots while the latter gives 3D perspective to a 2D broadcast by showing the undulations of the putting surface.

“We also have our ‘go-cams,’ which are mini point-of-view cameras in a couple places where we think there is going to be huge crowd reactions,” adds Roy. “And, with water in play on 6, 10, and 18, we’ve added three of our cue-ball cameras, which are down in the water to capture balls that go in the water.”

As for Actioncam, the overhead cable-suspended aerial camera system makes its U.S. Open debut. Set up as a wireless two-point system, it will “fly” over the small lake that separates the 18th and 10th holes. Actioncam has developed advanced software and hardware that allows it to fly up to 50 miles per hour while remaining agile and stable. Setting it up typically takes two days.

Also on hand will be 128 microphones, more than 1 million ft. of fiber cable, and a flock of additional production teams from such companies as NEP and CP Communications.

“Golf Channel on NBC” will present 16 hours of live coverage this Thursday-Sunday, making the U.S. Open the only golf tournament with weekday network coverage. Golf Channel will provide nearly 50 hours of news coverage on-site from Congressional throughout the week, and Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic will be at the course providing robust coverage to its local viewers.

In terms of storytelling, the huge number of players complicates figuring out where the best stories are going to be.

“For example, if you’re going to do an Indianapolis Colts game, when they’re playing again, you know that Peyton Manning is going to be your story,” he explains. “When we come into the U.S. Open, we think there’s going to be a number of guys that are the story, like Graeme McDowell or Phil Mickelson, but you just don’t know.

“So it’s more reacting to what the storyline is and paying attention to this entire golf course and dealing with all of that. In particular for Congressional, … guys have a chance to make birdies or eagles, and there’s a lot of movement up and down the leaderboard because of that.”

Look for more coverage of the 2011 U.S. Open at www.sportsvideo.org as the SVG team heads down to cover the action.


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