Fox Sports Set To Innovate for U.S. Open With 5G for 4K Backhaul, Enhanced Graphics
Shot tracking, 4K HDR, and a 5G-wireless trial are some of the tech on tap
The Fox Sports production team is already onsite at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, NY, for the U.S. Open Golf Championship, which tees off Thursday morning. Once again, Fox Sports will continue what has become a tradition of introducing new technologies to give fans a better understanding of the shot-making and putting skills of the world’s greatest golfers.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to innovate with our coverage of the U.S. Open to present this championship in the best way possible,” says Zac Fields, SVP, graphic tech and innovation, Fox Sports. “We are confident the technology complement we are taking to Shinnecock Hills will create an amazing experience for our viewers.”
Among the innovations that Fields and the rest of the Fox team will deliver are Fox FlightTrack for fairway shots, Green Reader, DirecTV Featured Group in 4K HDR, and a trial with Ericsson, Intel, and AT&T on the use of 5G wireless as a means of delivering camera signals from the course to the compound. And these are just some of the innovations on tap.
In terms of numbers, Fox Sports will have 474 technicians onsite, making use of 38 miles of 706-strand fiber-optic cable to produce the event captured by 106 cameras (including 21 wireless 1080p, 21 4K HDR units, five 4K HDR wireless, three Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras shooting at 4,000 fps, a Sony HDC-4800 at 960 fps, and a Sony HDC-4300 at 360 fps) and 218 microphones. Tons of data will be passed around: 3 Gbps of internet data will be managed, along with 83 Gbps of broadcast data, 144 TB of real-time storage, and 512 TB of nearline storage.
The most eagerly anticipated innovation is the use of 5G wireless technology to transmit 4K HDR video from two Fox Sports cameras positioned on the seventh hole. 5G wireless technology, which enables multi-gigabit speeds with ultra-low latency, could possibly be used to deliver real-time virtual-reality views from the course to viewers, but, for now, it will be used in a critical backhaul role in an era when the RF spectrum available for broadcast production continues to shrink.
“It’s part of our Fox Sports DNA to aggressively explore evolving technologies as part of our live sports production,” says Michael Davies, SVP, field and technical operations, Fox Sports. “This is exactly the kind of effort we consistently put into the leading edge of today’s technology, in preparation for what will become the industry standards of the future.”
Also new for Fox Sports is a Featured Tees channel, a twist on Featured Groups making its Fox Sports debut. This new channel moves between tee boxes, emphasizing data and statistics surrounding the player’s shots. Viewers get real-time data for each tee shot, along with leaderboards for the tournament and individual advanced metrics.
In terms of production elements, Fox Sports’ commitment to ball-tracing on all 18 holes continues in 2018, the network equipping each tee box with Trackman radar technology. Eight holes are equipped to show viewers a standard ball trace over live video, with enhanced club and ball data. The remaining 10 holes will display Emmy-nominated Fox FlightTrack, a live trace over a graphic representation of the golf hole, offering more perspective to the viewer.
Beyond tee-shot tracing, three roaming wireless RF cameras are equipped with Toptracer technology, providing trace on approach shots. New this year, Fox Sports debuts FlightTrack for fairway shots on two holes, Nos. 5 and 16.
Also new will be Green Reader, giving viewers the ability to show a predicted putt path. This technology considers multiple variables to indicate how much and in what direction a putt will break on its path to the hole.
And, of course, with the possibility of wind a factor at Shinnecock Hills, Fox Sports is deploying weather instruments strategically around the course, capturing wind direction and wind speed in an effort to display any impact on play.