After Tough Week of Prep, CBS Sports Is Back in Action at US Open
After a week of eventful preparation that included an earthquake, a hurricane, and a nagging cold, CBS Sports senior engineer Nick Muro is through battling the elements and ready to get down to business at the US Open.
CBS Sports is once again serving as the de facto host broadcaster at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, handling the bulk of the production responsibilities for ESPN, Tennis Channel, the USOptimum world feed for international broadcasters, its own coverage for the CBS network, and the 3D coverage over Labor Day and Finals weekends.
“It’s a constant juggling act, and the [hurricane] only complicated things,” says Muro. “We had an earthquake, hurricane, I think tornadoes, and we’re waiting for locusts to come any time now. But still, we got so lucky with the weather. It could have been a lot worse, and we were up and ready to go at 11 a.m. Monday.”
CBS Sports’ production operations are as massive as ever at the National Tennis Center, totaling seven production trucks, 200 crew members, and nearly 100 cameras (not including ENG) deployed throughout the venue.
Court 17 Makes Big Splash
The big news at America’s grandest display of tennis is the debut of a sixth televised court, Court 17. In order to cover the new mini-stadium court, CBS rolled out an additional production truck — NCP II — and ran 48 strands of fiber out to the four-camera court (which replaced two smaller non-TV courts in the southeast corner of the Tennis Center).
“Construction [on the court] was a little slow to begin with and then got delayed a bit, so all the permanent infrastructure was not in place,” says Muro. “But it looks great out there.”
NCP II is actually an SD unit tied to NCP XIV, sharing the HD unit’s switcher, EVS servers, and other resources.
“We basically just use NCP II as a shell for the control room, monitors, and such,” says Muro. “We take 2M/Es of the NCP XIV switcher for [Court 17], and the [Grandstand] gets 2M/Es. So, basically, all the HD facilities live in NCP XIV, and we use the other truck like it was just a shell.”
The Rest of the Compound
F&F Productions’ GTX-16 is serving as the primary truck for the second consecutive year, producing the broadcast feed for both the CBS and ESPN windows, as well as for all action from Arthur Ashe Stadium. NCP VII is on Louis Armstrong Stadium, NCP XIV handles Grandstand matches, NEP’s SS-16 covers Court 11, and Lyon Video’s Lyon-10 has Court 13.
Meanwhile, F&F’s GTX-15, which served as ESPN’s control room B last year and was the primary CBS/ESPN broadcast truck in the three preceding years, is the new home of ESPN International, as well as the truck for the Fountain Set, player arrivals, and various other sets and booths throughout the Tennis Center.
NEP’s SS31 will once again produce CBS Sports’ 3D coverage, which is being distributed to a quickly growing number of outlets.
As for camera complements at the three largest venues: Arthur Ashe has 21 (including the blimp cam), Armstrong nine, and the Grandstand eight. Courts 11, 13, and 17 are outfitted with four cameras apiece.
Lest We Forget 3D
The camera totals do not take into account the 14 CAMERON-PACE Group (CPG) 3D rigs deployed at Ashe and Armstrong this year. In its second year of 3D coverage, CBS Sports will deliver Armstrong in 3D for the first time, using four 3D rigs, and has doubled the number of 3D rigs at Ashe to 10.
Eleven of the 14 3D rigs will be used for 2D coverage as well — either by sharing the camera (the 2D show takes the left-eye feed from the 3D rig) or through CPG’s Shadow D rigs (which mount a 2D camera atop the 3D rig). The 2D production team will retain control over all 11 shared positions.
“We’re sharing a lot of resources. The shared cameras and [Shadow D rigs] are going to be controlled by the 2D world, GTX-16,” says Muro. “More and more, we are seeing a more unified and streamlined operation where we don’t have a lot of duplication of people and resources. But it’s still so labor-intensive. 3D is not plug-and-play. It’s a lot better today than it was, but it’s still challenging.”
A Head Start on Graphics
CBS is debuting a new look for its US Open graphics package this year. In an effort to get ahead of the game, technical director Scott Sickler was brought in last week — before ESPN arrived on-site — to help build out the new package.
“Scott got a couple days in the truck for the graphics before ESPN got here,” says Muro. “You have to remember, while ESPN is doing their show, we still need to build portions of ours, so Scott will either get in early in the morning or later at night as new elements come in.”
All Fiber All the Time — Almost
In terms of connectivity, the US Open is an almost entirely SMPTE-fiber operation. A few roaming cameras do run on triax in an effort to avoid complications.
“With very few exceptions, we are totally fiber,” says Muro. “The exceptions are several roaming cameras that do a lot of make-and-breaks. Rather than do make-and-breaks with fiber where we might have dirt issues, those cameras we do on triax. Any camera that doesn’t move we do on fiber.”