PGA TOUR Team Powers Players Championship Digital Effort
A new wrinkle this year is on-demand VR coverage from TPC Sawgrass
PGA TOUR Entertainment will once again give golf fans plenty of coverage of the Players Championship, which tees off Thursday morning from TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, FL. A team of more than 100 will create more than 100 hours of video content that will be delivered to a variety of digital platforms, including the PGA TOUR app and website, and gathered for future TV and promotional needs.
“Our mission is to get more content out to the fans as quickly as possible,” says David Dukes, senior director, technical operations, PGA TOUR Entertainment. “Beyond the highlights, it is how quickly we can turn around interviews with players after their practice rounds, feed out to multiple digital platforms, get clips out via Twitter and social media, and mine the feeds for bits and pieces that may be of interest to fans.”
New this year is VR coverage, courtesy of VR-production company Striver. The coverage won’t be live, however. That, says Dukes, will be phase two of the VR efforts.
“This year, we want to figure out a product that is compelling and doesn’t just park the fan somewhere,” he explains. “So we want to figure out whether we ultimately want to give the viewer the perspective of being a fan in the stands or the player’s perspective from the tee box. We are still very much in the development stage and are anxious to see what kind of traction we can get with VOD VR.”
The tournament is known not only for having the strongest field of golfers but also for arguably the game’s most iconic hole: the par-3 17th and its famed “island green.” Golfers take aim at a green surrounded by water, providing the perfect backdrop for a test of nerves, skill, and ability to focus: the area surrounding the hole is packed with thousands of noisy and rambunctious spectators. For the team at PGA TOUR Entertainment, all those elements create an opportunity to deliver dedicated coverage of every shot via a live video stream of that hole.
“We have the featured hole at 17 and will also have coverage of the 12th and 16th holes,” says Dukes. “We have a couple of trucks from LMG [Live Media Group] to produce the coverage from those holes onsite.”
The coverage of those three holes is complemented by coverage of two featured groups for each of the tournament’s four rounds.
“The featured-group coverage is a modified at-home production. We have four RF cameras for each group that are subswitched at an LMG truck at the course to create two signals that are then sent to our facility in St. Augustine, [FL],” Dukes explains. “That is where our talent is, the graphics are then laid in, and we also have EVS for replays.”
The reason for not passing all eight camera signals to the PGA TOUR production facility is that there simply is not a huge cost saving because the onsite operations are already fairly lean. “The bulk of the staff that is out there are the camera guys and the audio guys,” notes Dukes, “and they all have to be onsite.”
Also onsite is a production team at the Media Center that will handle quick-turnaround highlights, live coverage of press conferences, and interviews with players outside the scoring tent.
“We are there for the immediate reactions of players,” says Dukes. “The team onsite will do quick edits using [Apple] Final Cut Pro and [Avid] Media Composer on laptops and then put that out to the Website. The press conferences can either be streamed live or edited for delivery on demand.”
The production teams focusing on the live coverage will have company on the course. Eight ENG crews are gathering content using 4K RED, Arri Alexa, and Sony FS7 cameras as well as HD camcorders from Sony and Panasonic.
“They are gathering content for a number of things, including the official film, the TV show Inside the PGA Tour, and future specials and commercial spots,” says Dukes. “It’s literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of material.”