Live From the Ryder Cup: NBC Golf Caps Off a Successful Summer in Style
A crew of more than 500 on hand at Hazletine for NBC Sports, Golf Channel
The 41st Ryder Cup began in earnest this morning at Hazeltine Golf Course in Chaska, MN, and, for the NBC Golf production, engineering, and technical team involved with golf coverage, it marks the end of a busy few months that saw the team at the core of three major golf events: the Open Championship, the sport’s return to the Olympics, and now the Ryder Cup.
“It’s been a wonderful summer for our production, operations, and engineering teams, along with vendors like CP Communications and NEP,” says Ryan Soucy, senior director, golf operations, NBC Sports. “To cap it off here with everyone coming together makes me really proud of them.”
More than 500 people are on hand from NBC Sports and the Golf Channel, which together are providing a one-two punch of coverage of one of golf’s premier events: the three-day Ryder Cup tournament, where 12 players from the U.S. and Europe tee off against each other in a variety of match-play events: foursome, fourball, and singles.
Ken Goss, SVP, remote operations, NBC Sports, notes that the golf-packed summer also highlighted the collaboration between the NBC Sports and Golf Channel teams, working as one under the NBC Golf umbrella.
“It’s obviously a very effective collaboration effort from engineering, operations, and production that is a result of great execution and great teamwork,” he adds. “And that has been the focus and will continue to be the focus: to be better unified.”
The event also alternates between locales in Europe (or the UK) and the U.S. every two years, with NBC Golf serving as host when it is played in the U.S. (European Tour Productions handles production of the world feed).
At the core of NBC Golf coverage is NEP ND4 A, B, and C units, as well as SS25 for support and EVS replay overflow. NEP ND5 is home to Golf Channel’s Live From coverage, and NEP’s ESU unit is also on hand for signal distribution to the various entities that need access to audio and video signals.
The format of the Ryder Cup requires a unique production philosophy because it is possible that golf might never be played at hole 17 or 18. For example, RF camera systems are of paramount importance, giving the production team maximum flexibility to deploy cameras where they are needed most.
In addition, for the first two days of the tournament, there are only four matches on the course at any one time. That allows camera personnel to be redeployed to other holes as play ends on the early holes.
“We have up to 60 cameras here, including some specialty cameras like the SupraCam system that is on the practice area and then will move over to the 15th hole,” says Soucy. That is the same system that is used for coverage at the island green on the 17th hole of the Players Championship.”
There are also more than 150 microphones on the course.
“Audio is very important at the Ryder Cup,” says Soucy, “and we increased what we’ve done in the past.”
Every two years, the Ryder Cup serves as a bit of a reunion for the main entities involved: NBC Golf, Sky Sports, European Tour Productions, and Turner Sports. During play, it is primarily on the shoulders of NBC Sports to tell the story of the American team and Sky Sports to tell the story of the European team. Both of those production teams capture all the emotional reactions and individual shots and provide a wealth of camera angles and signals for the production teams to choose from.
“The best example of sharing resources,” says Soucy, “is the Steadicam operators on the first tee: they can focus on the European team while we focus on the American.”
One new feature for golf coverage will be Playing Through, whereby viewers will see a two-box during commercial breaks, with the commercial side-by-side with live coverage. NBC has used the concept for motorsports and tested it out during a European Tour Production event earlier this year.
Preparations for the Ryder Cup began two years ago with a site visit in November.
“When we came back in the spring, we saw the [immensity] of this place,” says Soucy. “The people from the R&A couldn’t believe the amount of space that is out here, and it allows us to have parking onsite. The PGA really gave us great access.”