CBS Sports Continues To Innovate With PGA TOUR West Coast Swing
Full RF coverage this week, FlyCam for next week are latest enhancements
The West Coast swing of CBS Sports PGA TOUR coverage is under way, and with it come some innovations. Notable among them are a live interview with a miked Max Homa playing the 13th hole at Farmers Insurance Open last week, a FlyCam at the famed WM Phoenix Open 16th par 3, and RF coverage at Monterey Peninsula Country Club for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this weekend.
“We worked in collaboration with the PGA TOUR on adding RF coverage to Monterey Peninsula last year,” says Adam Stouter, senior director, remote technical operations, CBS Sports. “Because of that success, we’ve added Spyglass so we’re essentially covering three courses with RF, which is pretty cool. It has a feeling of a major with three courses, an upper and lower compound, and a BSI presence at the two outer courses.”
Super Bowl LVII will be in town the same time as the WM Phoenix Open, bringing added energy to an event that can draw 200,000 fans.
“The 16th has the huge bowl, and the coverage around Sam Ryder’s hole-in-one last year was a lot of fun,” says Stouter. “We’re going to add a FlyCam there this year.”
The miked-up feature last week had golf fans on social media buzzing as Max Homa, who eventually won the tournament, was able to talk with the CBS broadcast team while playing the par-5 13th hole. (To watch the clip, click here)
“I think you’re definitely going to see more of that throughout the season,” says Stouter. “It’s about giving golf fans what they want: the access and insights to the players during competition. It was huge and something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. And with Max winning, we couldn’t have scripted it better.”
The Riedel Bolero system and an Apple AirPod were at the center of the effort. “We deployed Bolero antennas to give us full coverage of the hole,” Stouter explains. “The thought was to make this as easy as possible for the players. The only thing Homa had to do was put in one AirPod so he could focus on the competition and not on wearing gear. We’ve been impressed with the Bolero systems out there on the course.”
(After the tournament, Homa said, “Hopefully, we can keep pushing that or tweak it — just anything to help golf gain some attraction to all the viewers, hopefully a little bit younger than our typical audience. I think that’s what the goal is.”)
According to Stouter, the operations team is going down two parallel paths when it comes to PGA coverage: “First, we want to ensure that we have robust core coverage of all the golf shots on the course. Second was just to identify enhancements we can strategically use throughout the season on designated tournaments to make them feel bigger and unique. We’re also excited to have the Fed Ex playoffs for the first time.”
That means up to 16 hard cameras and up to 11 RF handheld cameras, an RF jib, and an Inertia Unlimited xMo high-speed system every week. More shallow depth of field via Sony F5500, FX3, and FX6 cameras is planned, along with drone coverage supplied by Beverly Hills Aerials and Kaze Aerials. And Trackman will provide more ball tracing from tee boxes and fairways.
“And we have Virtual Eye back with us,” adds Stouter. “Their animations, tracing, and AR are an integral part of our broadcast graphics.”
As for production trucks, NEP Supershooter 4 will be used for the West Coast swing and for the Mexico Open; NEP Supershooter CBS will be deployed for the rest of the season.
“We’ve got an amazing technical crew out here and an amazing production team led by producer Sellers Shy and director Steve Milton,” adds Stouter. “It’s just great being back out here, and everybody’s excited. We’re in year two of our new deal with the PGA TOUR, and they have an amazing team as well. We just stay close with them on everything from laying out the compound or sharing resources. We’re starting to see more and more potential for efficiencies on the tech side.”