U.S. Open 2021: NBC Sports Expands Robust Coverage from Torrey Pines
More than 500 credentialed personnel are in California
After gaining the rights to the U.S. Open in 2020, NBC Sports put together an impressive production plan without much time to work with. With a full year of planning, NBC is showcasing 48 hours of live coverage in four days from Torrey Pines with nearly 100 cameras, including an aerial FPV drone, remote workflows from their headquarters in Stamford, CT and other locations, and a loaded onsite team that is operating within a COVID-friendly compound.
“It’s been an incredible team effort, and most importantly, our operations team have created a safe work environment for our production and crew,” says Ken Goss, EVP, studio/remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports. “Both technically and operationally, the entire group has done an exceptional job.”
On the Green: 88 Cameras, 4D Replay System Capture Each Swing from Above and Below
For one of the most important golf majors of the year, NBC Sports is covering all of the action with a bevy of broadcast technology. 83 wired cameras are anchoring the live presentation across NBC, GOLF Channel, and Peacock. Within this complement, the broadcast will be augmented by a new addition: a FPV drone that was also seen at the network’s efforts at the 147th Kentucky Derby in April, NHL Games at Lake Tahoe in February, and other events. Along with this drone, an airplane shooting in 1080p UHD will also highlight aerial views of the course and surrounding area.
Closer to the ground, live coverage will tap into a handful of wireless cameras as well. For example, 18 RFs will traverse the course, including RF Toptracer technology, a Steadicam, and an RF XMO. When the golfers aren’t actively participating on the course, NBC Sports is giving fans a glimpse at some of their warmup swings in the practice area near the first tee of Torrey Pines. These shots will be captured with three Robovision robotic cameras. Lastly, other robos and a Jib camera will provide beauty shots off the coast and the Pacific Ocean.
On DirecTV, NBC Sports will showcase 2 Feature Groups in the morning followed by 2 Feature Groups in the afternoon wave. This is added golf coverage from last year’s US Open at Winged Foot. Giving viewers 40 hours of feature group coverage during the championship. The featured holes that will be highlighted at Torrey Pines are 11, 12, and 13.
Over the course of the US Open at Torrey Pines Feature Holes will accumulate about 48 hours of coverage. Feature Holes is available in 4K.
As a bonus, fans will experience unique views of swings through NBC Sports’ partnership with 4DREPLAY. This technology will be showcased on the 6th Tee. The 4D Replay system has been constructed for intriguing replays on the main broadcast and an interactive experience on the U.S. Open mobile app.
A Thorough Production Plan: A Packed Compound Features NEP Mobile Units, Safety Protocols
Off of the course, the production and operations team will be on hand in the television compound. A large fleet of NEP mobile production units will house the team, including ND7 (A, B, C, and D units), ND1 (A,B,C, and D units) Supershooter 32, ST32, Super B, and ESU. Other trucks that will occupy this space are XL 1, Fiber 1, and Fiber 2. Along with the large number of cameras, these trucks will control other pieces of equipment, including 142 channels of EVS replay and nine graphics machines (six provided by Chyron). In terms of fiber, a total of 64 miles was used for the four-day event.
Despite the positive number of vaccinations and a decline in cases, the United States is still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in onsite productions means a lot more employees are working in the compound, and even though the industry is in a much better spot now than it was last year, NBC Sports is still encouraging masks inside all trucks and trailers unless the individual is outside and fully vaccinated.
“Safety is always our first priority, and going to California was a big task,” says Allison McAllister, VP, golf operations, NBC Sports. “[The state] has pulled back their COVID-19 restrictions, but we’re still following NBC Universal guidelines.”
On the transmission front, five GBs of connectivity is linking the Switch in between the onsite crew to resources based back in Stamford. This connection is pushing 11 J2K paths and 2.5 Gb of data transfer to and from each location. For redundancy, PSSI is onsite as a backup for the live tournament coverage. Across the pond in Europe, Sky Sports is tapping into these camera feeds via their own dedicated J2K paths.
Surrounding Coverage: Remote Staffers Handle Live From Production in Stamford
The technical team isn’t the only crew that’s working onsite. Over the course of the weekend, a cavalcade of on-air talent is hosting 44 hours of Golf Central Live From the U.S. Open in seven days. While the actual tournament is being produced onsite, this surrounding coverage is being conducted by VP, Studio Operations Tom Popple and his crew back in Stamford’s PCR 4. This studio show is leveraging 13 cameras, including four Telemetrics robos and 25 total paths (16 outbound and 9 returns). For guests that aren’t appearing onsite, Cisco Webex is facilitating virtual interviews. As a backup in transmission, a four-channel LiveU LU800 system will be in place.
In addition to these remote workflows, three individuals will be assisting in the live broadcast in other locations. On the NBC side, an editor will be working on content from his position in Ireland. For the implementation of Hawk-Eye, two staffers will be inserting this technology from their office in Tulsa, OK.
It’s an exciting time for all involved, including VP, Remote Technical Operations & Engineering Craig Bernstein; Senior Director Remote Tech Ops & Planning Keith Kice; Director, Remote Tech Ops Marc Caputo; Tech Managers Keith Blachly, Todd Parsons, Adam D’Arienzo, and Bryson Smith; Senior Production Managers Bridget Cugle and Tavi Wright; and Production Managers Kristen Moorby and Sarah Beth Stoll, with the network’s success in paving through planning and technological ingenuity.
“For any of these majors, it takes a tremendous amount of hard work to execute this plan,” concludes Goss. “This group is able to take productions vision and turn it into a reality.”