Bunker Cams, Fly Cam, EyeVision 2.0 Are Top PGA Championship Production Enhancements
Innovation Decisions is a collective effort for CBS Sports team
The 2022 PGA Championship is under way at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK, and, for the second time in five weeks, the CBS Sports production team is tackling a golf major, following The Masters April 7-10. And with the help of production enhancements like live drones, three Atlas cams, enhanced AR graphics, and two Fly Cam systems, the ops and engineering team is giving the the production team the tools to tell a better story and give viewers a deeper and richer experience.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how do we enhance the storytelling and the viewer experience,” says Patty Power, EVP, operations and engineering, CBS Sports. “The collaboration between production, graphics, and, obviously, ops and engineering figures out what makes the most sense to add technology, as we don’t add technology for the sake of adding technology. And our partnership with the PGA of America, ESPN, and everyone else makes that possible. Also, with the enhancements available to essentially all the platforms, we get a lot more utilization out of things.”
Key to those efforts, adds Jason Cohen, VP, remote technical operations, CBS Sports, is that trusted partners on the PGA TOUR events — NEP Group, BSI, CES —are also onsite in support of the PGA Championship.
“They know how to do golf on a weekly basis,” he explains. “The collaboration becomes much easier and more seamless because we have the same group together [and] can continue to find efficiencies and improve the overall show.
At the core of the production are trucks from NEP, Game Creek Video, and F&F Productions. NEP Supershooter SSCBS A, B, C and D will handle back-nine production while Game Creek Encore A, B, C, and D handles the front-nine coverage. F&F GTX20 is onsite for broadcast operations, a second graphics unit, audio QC, and video, and GTX19 will handle CBS Sports Network needs and also houses ARL, Hawkeye, RF, Canon, and Sony. Game Creek Celtic A and B will be the center of Featured Groups 1 and 4 production needs; Game Creek Edit 3 will handle Toptracer. A BSI trailer will handle RF course audio and video; a Bexel flypack will be used for transmission and Thumbwar needs.
Taking What the Course Gives You
The course dictates what is possible in production, and the layout at Southern Hills Country Club provides some unique opportunities, such as placement of robotic cameras in the bunkers at the par-4 17th hole.
Explains Mike Francis, VP, remote engineering and planning, CBS Sports, “On Sunday, the tee box is going to be up, which will make that hole drivable. And, the bunkers protecting the green, the local PGA pro says, will likely get a lot of play as the players go for the green.”
Multiple heavy-lift drones from Kaze Aerial Productions will be involved in live coverage. Cohen says it’s always a balancing act between getting as close to the action as possible while being mindful of not disturbing the golf play.
“We’ve worked closely with the PGA of America to improve the drone-launch locations in conjunction with our director, Steve Milton, who weighed in with what made sense for him,” Cohen explains. “It’s more than just a flying beauty cam: it’s a part of our coverage plan and will definitely capture part of the play.”
Two Fly Cam systems are also providing aerial coverage of the practice green as well as the 18th green and surrounding holes.
“The one on the 18th is really cool because, the way the course is set up, there are a lot of condensed areas,” says Francis. “There’s the 1st tee, the 10th tee, the 9th green, and the 18th green, and all of that is going to be within that Fly Cam run. And there’s also a big grandstand area that will have some cool fan shots.”
Cohen notes that three Atlas cameras will be on the course because the production team likes the look and what they bring to the show.
“We have a Sony HDC-F5500 on a mini with RF and Sony PXW-FX9 on a traditional Steadicam,” he says. “And we’ll have the Sony Alpha One on a gimbal. They’re all wireless so they can be anywhere at any time and wherever the production team feels like they can best be utilized.”
Those specialty cameras are all part of a camera plan that exceeds 100 cameras, including 20 that will be part of a new EyeVision 2.0 system on the tee box at the 16th hole. The first version of EyeVision captured still images for a matrix-like effect, but the new system offers full–slo-mo video, which will enhance swing analysis.
“We’ve touted swing analysis for quite some time at this event, and this is our next iteration of it,” explains Cohen. “We’re tying together 20 Vision Research Phantom v642 cameras [for 270 degrees of coverage around the tee box] and running them through a mini-switcher with a macro that can do a soft dissolve from all 20 cameras and then sync them.”
More enhanced graphics are also part of the offering: wind analysis and Toptracer RF on three RF mini cameras, as well as Toptracer on all 18 holes and on the range during the PGA Championship on the Range show. In addition, putting grids and topography shading will show undulation of the greens and the break points.
“We’ve also worked the last month on creating a mini-map of sorts to help tell the story of where a golfer’s shots were on the hole so that the viewer can see how they got up to the green,” says Cohen. “It sort of extends what we did with Romo Vision [for NFL coverage] in the fall with a side slab that shows how the team got from point A to point B. We extended that to golf, and it’s gonna be interesting.”
The use of ARL augmented-reality graphics will also expand, with CBS Sports reporter Amanda Renner conducting interviews from a virtual set equipped with an interactive monitor that showcases graphics and offers more dynamic hole graphics as players breakdown their round.
“It’s more modern and high-tech,” says Cohen. “We’ve created a virtual world for her. With ARL and Tag Board and social media, we can bring in a virtual version of the leaderboard, social-media posts, or polls and bring them to life virtually.”