Live From the Ryder Cup: Creative Technology Delivers for Fans on Course
Four huge screens and 447 TV sets deployed around the site
The Ryder Cup is an unusual golf event in that fans onsite aren’t usually given a chance to watch hours of live golf. In fact, it is distinctly possible that a fan can spend an entire day onsite in the stands and see fewer than 30 shots live. And that’s one of the reasons the use of LED screens providing live video coverage from around the course is so important. And as usual, it is up to Creative Technology to make sure that experience is a great one.
“This is the most incredible natural amphitheater to watch golf. Typically, we would have more screens that were smaller,” says Dave Crump, CEO, Creative Technology Europe. “But here the challenge is finding locations where they don’t significantly obstruct the view. So, instead, we have bigger screens around the bowls, which pushed up the overall area of the screens.”
Creative Technology is providing four huge, 144-sq.-meter screens (for a combined 1,464 sq. meters of LED) and 447 TV sets deployed around the site, ranging from 15 to 85 in. in size.
Two of the screens are also beyond HD, according to Crump. At 2,500 pixels, they far exceed what is needed for that format.
“In terms of the volume of LED equipment,” he says, “this is one of the largest events for us. It is almost on par with Olympics in terms of the volume of LED being used. European Tour Productions and the golf people are a fantastic bunch of people to work with.”
The LED screens are manufactured by ROE and InfiLED, and, Crump says, their high-contrast capabilities and 5.9-pixel pitch are huge steps up from previous Ryder Cups.
“We don’t need that [pixel density] in this environment, but it is the norm with most events,” he adds. “The real important thing is contrast and having the punch to get through daylight.”
Because of the decision to go with bigger screens rather than more numerous screens, ETP decided against providing graphics, such as a leaderboard or social-media feeds, on the screen.
“The viewing distance is so long, there was a need to go full frame with the video,” Crump explains.
Creative Technology decided to use RF for distribution of signals to the TV sets around the course, a change from the usual ETP event. The reason? With more than 450 sets, the cost of IP set-top boxes made it more cost-effective to give up some of the flexibility of IP.
“Also, the cost of DVB encoding is much less than it used to be,” he points out, “and it is reliable and easier to use in large volumes.“
The video-control room for the scoreboards is located in a CTV OB unit in the compound; Creative Technology has presence at all of the European Tour events that make use of CTV technical facilities. The control room in the CTV OB unit has two Blackmagic Atem units, generally needing to mix only two or three feeds. Here at the Ryder Cup, a third mix effect was needed, so the team is tapping into one of the other production switchers in the truck.
“We are part of NEP,” Crump says, “but we have a fantastic relationship with CTV on the golf tournaments, and we work hand in hand all the time.”
Creative Technology also has a presence in the Media Centre, where a new design for the LED screen increases the size of the two main leaderboards to 48 sq. meters of ROE CB3.
A control room in the Media Centre handles 16 channels of custom graphics, providing dedicated feeds to each on-course LED screen and able to send individual messages. A pushbutton system provides local control to each LED screen, changing it to a static scoreboard when the players are putting. Five Riedel MediorNet Micron frames at the Media Centre provide all routing and multiviewing, with a return from each LED screen to monitor the status.
“The MediorNet nodes offer a highly flexible way to feed video and audio around the site and route anything we want anywhere,” says Crump.
Creative Technology also controls a huge LED display in the Media Centre. Upwards of 5,000 pixels wide, it comprises four live feeds: the ETP host feed, Sky UK feed, NBC Sports feed, and Canal+ feed.
“It also has a main leaderboard and a whole bunch of data that is controlled by the Barco E2 presentation system, which is a powerful high-resolution compositing system,” says Crump.
And it’s not all about video. A DiGiCo S31 console connected to the MediorNet system via MADI collects feeds from the TV and radio broadcasters. Those are then sent to an infrared multichannel audio system that allows 425 journalists at the Media Centre to access the most relevant audio.
And, while many in the industry are looking to a future of UHD and HDR, Crump and his team still exert maximum energy on dealing with nature.
“The biggest challenge is contrast and sunlight,” he explains. “We have the best technology available but can still struggle when the screen is facing west and the sun is setting. I think it will be a long time before UHD and HDR will be on a golf course.”