Turner Sports Embraces 1080p HDR for The Match

The one-on-one PPV event offers unique opportunities for innovation

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren’t the only ones placing big bets on Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, their one-on-one PPV golf event that will take place at Las Vegas’s Shadow Creek Friday at 3 p.m. ET. The newly formed Warner Media Group — which comprises HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros. — is also all-in, working alongside Bleacher Report, CNN, and DirecTV to create an event that could change the nature of golf coverage given some of the innovations that will be deployed.

According to Turner Sports EVP/Chief Content Officer Craig Barry, HBO, Bleacher Report, Turner, CNN, and DirecTV have all embraced the event, and each brings a different set of strengths and expertise that can be leveraged.

“It’s been an incredible experience with everybody coming together and working together to create the best possible event,” he says. “That’s been a great addition to setting this up.”

Barry adds that Turner President David Levy championed the event and came to the table with a vision for an event that leverages synergy across Turner’s platforms and also takes advantage of technology and access to both Mickelson and Woods to create something unique.

A big part of the access will be the use of microphones on both golfers as well as their caddies. Viewers of various golf events have been able to pick up on the occasional conversation between golfer and caddie, but this will be the first time the golfers and caddies understand that the mics are there to help them tell the story of the event. The players and caddies will wear lavalier mics, and even the golf bags will be miked; parabolic mics will also be in use. (For more on the audio side of things, CLICK HERE).

“You have an opportunity to walk the course with Phil and Tiger, which is a really interesting dynamic,” says Barry.

The Turner production team will work out of NEP EN2 A and B units, with EN2A housing main production, audio, communications, EVS replay, and video control. EN2B will be home to the Ross XPression operations (three units will be in use, operating in 1080p HDR mode), lighting control for the two sets, editing, audio submix, and graphics. Meanwhile NEP, ND7C will house the fiber headend, ARL and Toptracer operations, and transmission encoding and monitoring. HDR-video control will also operate out of ND7C, a change enabling an operator to compare HDR and SDR images side-by-side.

“It gives us an additional point of reference along with the V1,” notes Chris Brown, senior director, technical operations, Turner Sports. “This will be done as a native 1080p HDR production that will be upconverted to 4K for distribution.” He adds that he is excited to work with so much native-1080p HDR gear: “We will also be providing the production in 1080p as well as 1080i.”

He points out that a traditional golf-coverage plan focuses on not missing any of the action taking place, with multiple events happening at the same time. But this event, with only two players on the course, obviates the need to have cameras and microphones spread across the entire course.

“The goal here is to capture as much of the interaction between the two players as possible and provide a more intimate experience for the viewer,” says Brown. “The objective is to cover each and every detail and facet of the play between these two players. In this event, we are looking at a coverage plan similar to how we covered the Grand Slam: we do not need cameras parked at each hole but have the ability to move cameras from hole to hole as the players move through the course.”

The event will require only 26 total cameras, but all will be RF and 1080p HDR, including four RF handhelds, four Steadicams, an RF jib, two RF Toptracers, an RF Sony F55, a drone, and an Inertia Unlimited Phantom high-speed camera.

Drones will also make an appearance at the event because the private gallery gets around some of the safety issues that have prevented drones from flying over large crowds at other events.

“There’s the potential to have a richer experience through the whole thing,” says Barry of combining traditional technologies like Toptracer and Shotlink with drones and player mics. “That’s the goal as we have this competitive one-on-one match with incredible access and narrative throughout.”

Another unique aspect of the production will be the use of predictive data from Shotlink. One data feed will be used to predict the winning percentages on each hole, and another will tap into odds based on a real-time betting feed from MGM.

“What’s cool about it is that it, even if someone is not into the gambling aspect, they can still engage at a new level,” says Barry. “They can play along and then see what the consensus is.”

One of the things to look for is whether the event will expand the relationship between sports broadcasting and the use of gambling odds. There are some interesting “prop bets” on things like whether an eagle will be made, total times Tiger will twirl his club, and whether a three putt is made.

For Barry and the team, though, the emphasis is squarely on the unique storytelling aspect of an event that will give viewers more insight than ever into how two of golf’s icons approach their craft.

“This is a huge opportunity,” says Barry, “not just in my career but in everyone’s who is working on it. There is so much passion around this project across the company that it’s been a pleasure to work on.”

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