Live From The Open Championship: NBC Sports, Golf Channel Collaborate on Remote Studio Production, Rely on 2110 IP Transport
NEWBERT flypacks allow studio production team to cut shows from Orlando
It’s year three for NBC Sports and Golf Channel at The Open Championship, and the production teams continue to refine the production as well as its relationships. Topping the list of refinements this year is reliance on NBC’s own NEWBERT remote flypack to allow the Golf Channel studio production team to cut the shows remotely from its home facility in Orlando.
“NEWBERT has been great,” says Ryan Soucy, VP, golf operations, NBC Sports. “It has reduced costs and the number of people onsite. It is a big test for us, but it is going well. And we have a lot of support from the team back in Orlando. They have a hard job because they are working overnight, but production here is talking to the producers back and forth like they are in the building, and communications have been good.”
NEWBERT has been used this year for such tournaments as the Hawaii Tournament of Champions, the Travelers, and the Senior PGA Championship, but, this weekend, it made its debut at a major.
“This is the biggest show NEWBERT has done,” notes Marc Caputo, senior director, remote technical operations, Golf Channel.
According to Craig Bernstein, senior director, technical operations and engineering, NBC Sports, what’s new compared with the other tournaments it has been used on is that it is tied to an IP-based transmission system and actually contains more equipment than a typical NEWBERT flypack. It’s the result of a joint venture between Golf Channel and NBC Sports, with both providing the hardware.
“It’s a state-of-the-art workflow that uses 2110 [IP transport for multicasts] between Scotland and Orlando,” says Bernstein. Previously, when Golf Channel used NEWBERT, signals were transmitted as ASI via either satellite or fiber. The move to 2110 removes the need to send signals via an ASI multiplex: three Evertz IP encoders are onsite at The Open, and 10 Evertz IP decoders are in Orlando.
Dominic Torchia, manager, remote technical operations and engineering, NBC Sports, says that Orlando has integrated tally and router control, a move that removes the need for an additional onsite operator. The team at home — the typical front-bench production team, ChyronHego and Vizrt graphics operators, A1 audio mixer, EVS operators — has access to 16 feeds.
“They have a multiview of the sources and can decide what goes down the paths,” he says. “This is the maiden voyage for the IP transmission kit, and we are hoping to transfer more routing and control functionality to the transmission side so the NEWBERT kit can do the production.”
Two muxes are in place for redundancy, and the studio shows are relying on five cameras provided by NBC and 11 additional cameras rented from CTV OB. A Lawo audio frame is also part of the package, helping create a local mix, and DNF Controls provides GPI transport between The Open and Orlando. In addition, the system allows frame conversion of 50-fps signals to 59.94-fps to take place in Orlando, with less equipment needing to be rented for the coverage.
“The ‘Live From’ show has 16 cameras and up to 20 sources,” says Caputo. “We have 14 transmission paths [over a 1-Gbps circuit] and a remote Evertz panel in Orlando, where the TOC can route the transmission paths from Orlando. It’s worked out really well.”
Two producers are on hand at The Open to work with talent during breaks, and camera operators are also onsite, along with camera shaders and an A2 audio mixer.
“There are three operators with NEWBERT, two engineers, and an engineer with transmission,” adds Bernstein. The complete system comprises 26 rack units of equipment.
The system is expected to be used again at the Ryder Cup, which will be held outside Paris at the end of September. It is expected that the system will take another step forward and no longer need to use a CTV production unit as a distribution point between the stage and Orlando.
“The transmission kit is brand-new,” says Caputo, “and everyone in the NEWBERT team, NBC transmission, and the Golf Channel engineering team did a great job of testing and getting it to work.”
Adds Bernstein, “If we can take five or 10 people off the road for the international events, it means considerable savings, and the technology allows it to happen.”
The system will continue to evolve. Torchia says lessons from NASCAR have already resulted in a system that is lighter and easier to move around, thanks to 2110 and the move to fiber.
“There is no coax at all,” he says, “and we have been sending 150 and 200 signals via fiber.”
Soucy says the third year of NBC’s involvement at The Open once again sees the relationship between the core entities involved — NBC, Sky Sports, European Tour Productions, and CTV OB — getting better and better. ETP handles the creation of a world feed, which is used by both NBC Sports and Sky Sports as the backbone of the golf coverage.
“[World-feed director] Jim Storey and his people have done an unbelievable job,” says Soucy. “The quality of the world feed is tremendous.”
All involved worked hard to lessen the number of production folks on the course, and Virtual Eye technology, provided by ARL Sports Graphics, continues to play a big role in the coverage. Part of that is because of a suggestion by NBC Sports/Golf Channel producer Tommy Roy that shot-tracking follow balls as they bounce and roll across the fairway and green.
“ARL is really stepping up for the world feed,” says Soucy, “and Pinpoint is also a bigger part of the world feed, along with green mapping and wind measurement throughout the course. It’s the same kind of stuff as last year, but we have more control over it.”
The next time NBC Sports heads across the pond for golf will be the Ryder Cup, which will mark a first for the NBC Sports and CTV OB relationship, with CTV providing technical facilities for NBC Sports.
“We always had a good relationship,” Soucy adds. “We would work together on the Ryder Cup, and we have started using CTV OB, and they are unbelievable providers as everything here is intertwined.”