NEP Continues To Master Augusta National
Even for a company with more than 40 mobile-production units on the road on any given day, the Masters golf tournament is a massive undertaking. With a total of 27 trailers on-site at Augusta National in Georgia, the Masters is NEP Broadcasting’s largest and most complex event of the year, according to Mike Werteen, SVP of sales and client services, NEP.
“As a company that is proud of taking care of large shows and the coordination that goes along with that, the Masters goes beyond all of them in terms of size and scope,” he says. “It is a testament to the organization and to our clients that it all goes so smoothly each year.
“The preparation that we had [at our headquarters] in Pittsburgh,” he continues, “involved months of planning from a documentation standpoint and weeks of planning in terms of getting all the equipment and staff to Augusta in an orderly fashion.”
All Over Augusta
Although several mobile-production vendors are represented at Augusta, NEP boasts the largest presence by far. This week, NEP trucks are serving as the production hubs for the CBS domestic feed, cable coverage on ESPN (produced by CBS), the ESPN 3D feed (co-produced by CBS and ESPN in cooperation with Augusta National), Masters Live online streaming (on CBSSports.com and Masters.com), and specialty coverage for more than 200 countries.
CBS is deploying NEP Supershooter 10 (A, B, and C units) as its primary truck, as it does for most of its golf coverage throughout the year. It is from here that long-time Coordinating Producer Lance Barrow orchestrates the coverage for both the CBS Saturday-Sunday windows and ESPN weekday windows. SS10 also handles the back-nine holes, while SS24 serves as the home to the front nine and the Par 3 competition on Wednesday.
CBS has deployed dedicated production trucks for its Masters Live streaming coverage, which offers four dedicated feeds to online viewers throughout the tournament: two featured groups (SS23 and NCP 8), holes 15 and 16 (NCP 2), and Amen Corner (the legendary turn at holes 11, 12, and 13).
NEP has rolled out NCP 11, NCP 4, and its ESU truck to provide added support and handle distribution. Also on hand in Augusta are SS32 for the 3D production, SS16 for Golf Channel’s wraparound coverage, and three trucks for IMG, which is producing feeds for BBC (SS17), Sky Sports (NCP 11), and the world feed (NCP 4).
“The preparation [at NEP headquarters] in Pittsburgh involved months of planning from a documentation standpoint and weeks of planning in terms of getting all the equipment and staff to Augusta in an orderly fashion,” says Werteen. “It really is amazing when you think about it.”
New Layout Means Longer Runs
NEP has one more truck on-site than it had last year, but the big change has come as a result of some added parking areas that have changed the truck-compound layout at Augusta. The 3D production has moved to a new parking area, necessitating longer cable runs to tie the compounds to each other as well as to the on-site generators.
“The change in layout opens up the compound a bit, but I wouldn’t say it makes it easier,” says Werteen. “There have been some difficulties that have already been taken care of regarding power being so far away from some of the mobile units. However, the coordination with [CBS Senior Engineer] Nick Muro and CBS has been spectacular and alleviated a lot of those issues. When we get here, there cannot be any surprises, and there really never are, thanks to [Muro].”
Further complicating matters was the fact that additional early-week programming this year forced NEP to move up its setup schedule to allow CBS, ESPN, Golf Channel, and others to get on the air in time.
“That setup time in a large complicated compound like this is critical,” says Werteen. “With the condensed setup time, it definitely was all hands on deck to make sure that we could effectively get everything in place in time, but, once again, the coordination that we’ve done with Nick has allowed us to avoid any hiccups thus far.”
A Busy April
Each year, the Masters comes along at a busy time for mobile-production vendors during a confluence of major sports events in April, including the first pitch of the Major League Baseball season, the lead-up to the NBA and NHL playoffs, the tail-end NCAA basketball tournaments, and the off-and-running NASCAR season. Nonetheless, NEP must find a way to serve its long list of clients despite the complement of more than two dozen trailers in Augusta.
“Yes, the Masters is an enormous production, and we’re proud to service them, but there are a number of other clients that are equally as important outside of Augusta,” says Werteen. “It is a large undertaking, but I think we are living up to the expectations once again this year.”