Live from the U.S. Open: NBC Sports Coverage Goes Crane Free
The second round of the U.S. Open at Merion, about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, found a broadcast production team for all parties involved able to do something they haven’t done in more than a week: begin to dry out. Torrential downpours that dumped about 10 inches of rain on the course over the past seven days made for a challenging set up that had crew members digging drainage ditches, created plenty of muddy and wet shoes, and continued a golf season for NBC Sports that has seen it all.
“We’ve had snow in Arizona, and microbursts in Orlando,” says Ken Carpenter, NBC Sports, technical manager for golf. “It’s been a brutal weather year for golf.”
When the wet conditions hit late last week cabling priorities were shifted as officials did not want any cabling taking place on the course during the more-than-damp conditions.
“Friday was still a mess so most of it got done over the weekend,” adds Carpenter.
But the sun, it appears, may be here to stay for the weekend and the NBC Sports crew, which is once again calling NEP Supershooters ND3 and 4 home (the Golf Channel is operating out of NEP Supershooter 10 and 16), is on hand with a production that features 53 cameras, including three Inertia Unlimited X-Mo systems (the Golf Channel is also using one).
The course at Merion is fairly straightforward and doesn’t offer dramatic water features like the TPC Sawgrass or Congressional Country Club, which hosted the Open two years ago. So there won’t be any cameras flying on cables over the course and, in a first, there also won’t be any camera cranes.
“We’re starting to look at frequency allocation a little differently and when you are up in the air you can get interfered with,” says Carpenter. “But now our highest antenna is 30 feet in the air and, so far, it’s been more stable and we have had better results than we would have had with a crane. Plus we don’t have to ask the course superintendent where we can park a 60,000-pound crane on his golf course. I’ve gotten some strange looks over the years asking that.”
And while there are some cost savings, the need for additional RF receive sites, fiber cabling, and generators doesn’t make the cost savings as substantial as one might think. But they are there.
“Some events like the Amateur Championship will still be all RF,” adds Carpenter.