Live From the Ryder Cup: NBC Sports Production Team Spans Globe via Fiber
A massive number of various feeds are shooting across the Atlantic
NBC Sports may have a team of 250 on hand at the Ryder Cup, but, in Orlando, hundreds more are working hard on the Live From studio show, pre/postmatch coverage, and press conferences. The workflow is leveraging fiber connectivity, the NEWBERT flypack, and a new transmission kit — three operational changes since the Ryder Cup was previously held in Europe, in 2014 at Gleneagles, Scotland. The other big change? This is the first Ryder Cup for which NBC Sports has tapped CTV OB to provide its remote-production facilities.
“CTV is doing a great job,” says Ryan Soucy, VP, golf operations, NBC Sports. “It’s worked brilliantly again, and it feels like home. It’s unbelievable how well they’ve done.”
According to Keith Kice, technical manager, NBC Sports, the Ryder Cup production team has feeds from 80 cameras at its disposal: 41 unilateral cameras and 39 from European Tour Productions’ world feed. It also has access to 128 channels of replay with nine EVS servers under the control of NBC operators and seven others handled by ETP staffers. Key to the efforts of those operators, Soucy says, is the work done by the five RF-camera operators on the course: one is assigned to each of the four groups on the course; the fifth is roving.
“Sharing is important,” says Kice. “You don’t want the course swamped with too many RF and Steadicams so ETP covers the Europeans and we cover the Americans.”
As at The Open in July, the NEWBERT flypack is playing an important part in linking the TV compound at the course with Golf Channel’s production facility in Orlando.
“The Open showed the flexibility of NEWBERT,” says Marc Caputo, senior director, remote technical operations, Golf Channel, adding, “The transmission kit we also debuted at the Open uses fiber and IP delivery [between Orlando and here] so that the two sides can interact seamlessly.”
NEWBERT provides the Orlando team with integrated tally and router control, and the team has 14 traffic paths dedicated to Live From. There is also a primary and backup of the match coverage and then nine fiber paths return for closed circuit needs and also to ensure that the two reporters on site at the Ryder Cup are as in sync as possible with the team in Orlando.
“We also have our social-media team in Orlando instead of traveling someone here,” notes Caputo. “That is working out very well.”
Eric Gardner, VP, operations and technology, Golf Channel, who is in Orlando overseeing the operations, says that the use of fiber makes latency almost nonexistent and fewer than two frames make the roundtrip.
“We want to prove out the ROI over the next few years, and we don’t want to leave the transmission kit waiting for another Open or Ryder Cup,” he says. “We want as much utilization as possible.”
Each event allows the team to figure out new ways to connect and also to get familiar with new levels of signal access.
“We have visibility from Orlando into the Magnum routing-control system, so we can see into the router [in the compound] and can route signals based on their source names,” he explains. “And we have six routable paths so that we don’t have to call anyone at the compound. We can just route it.”
The tally connection is an important one in terms of communication, and, according to Gardner, the RTS RVON intercom over IP has been very solid. An investment in RVON cards has paid off with better clarity.
Gardner says Golf Channel will be looking to do more roadshows and more “Live From” shows using NEWBERT and the transmission kit. Redundancy is a big part of the equation as well with redundant IPX routing cards, dual and diverse circuits, and dual streams for every path.
“We also worked with Evertz on hitless merging so that if the primary stream has bandwidth issues, we don’t have to do a manual cut over,” says Gardner. “It’s very innovative and redundant beyond typical fiber transmissions.”
He adds that Golf Channel will be looking to do more roadshows and more Live From shows using NEWBERT and the transmission kit. Redundancy is a big part of the equation as well, with two IPX routing cards, dual and diverse circuits, and dual streams for every path.
“We also worked with Evertz on hitless merging so that, if the primary stream has bandwidth issues, we don’t have to do a manual cutover,” says Gardner. “It’s very cool.”
Another improvement to NEWBERT since The Open in July is that it now has Sony HDC-1700 cameras.
Ken Goss, SVP, remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports, credits the cohesiveness of the NBC team for the production success. “I am extremely proud of our team, who continue to build on past experience and relationships, which we see as the key to our success.”