NBC’s production of the Open Championship has always crossed the Atlantic, as the Golf Channel home team has always been heavily involved. But this year, all production is crossing the Atlantic more than ever with most of the production team in Stamford. “The Open Championship is back and we are delighted to broadcast this major tournament,” said Ken Goss, Executive Vice President, Studio / Remote Operations Planning, NBC Sports. “Once again, safety continues to be our number one priority and the production of the Open from Stamford was our best alternative this year. “
NBC golf producer Tommy Roy says the pandemic is still creating problems, resulting in a significant reduction in the on-site team.
“We take pictures around the world and split our team of advertisers in half,” he says. “The guys who normally work on the on-site announcement tours are here in a studio here in Stamford and our traveling announcers, the interviewers, will be from Royal St. George (to learn more about Global Stream Production, click here ).
Allison McAllister, NBC Sports VP, golf operations, says there are approximately 55 people at Royal St. George, including the “Live From” team and those working on the tournament. Lisa McLeod, NBC Sports, Director, Operations and Production, plays a big role abroad with Alice Cutler, NBC Sports, Production Manager.
“We couldn’t do it without it and then we have the technical geniuses and Craig [Bernstein, NBC Sports VP, Remote Technical Operations and Engineering] team that was absolutely amazing, so we were more than lucky, ”she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about keeping everyone safe and doing their best.”
McAllister says 125 people work at Stamford, with Bridget Cugle, NBC Sports, Senior Production Manager Kristen Moorby, NBC Sports, Production Manager working hand in hand with the rest of the team to create a seamless production. The main production team works in Mobile TV Group’s Flex 39 which is parked outside the NBC Sports broadcast center in Stamford. The truck was still intended to be used for the golf production of the Olympics. The decision was therefore taken to have him arrive a week earlier so that he could be at the center of the production of the Open.
“We use the control room for the main production, the audio room is our main audio, and then the video is also played from there,” explains Keith Kice, NBC Sports, Senior Director, Technical Operations. “It worked really well because we did a lot of the interfacing putting graphics in an outdoor trailer. When we go out after the Open, it will be halfway [setup] for the Olympic Games.
A NEWBERT flypack at Royal St. George as it is the forward engine to send signals back to the team at Stamford (these signals are all PAL with the conversion done at Stamford). Marc Caputo, NBC Sports, director, technical operations indicates that the 16 IP paths that have historically been used for “Live From” coverage are used this year to return multi-viewer signals (two with 16 sources and one with nine which are each placed in the wall of Flex 39 monitors, one-sided camera signals (from three handhelds, three minis, and three fixed cameras), as well as access to Hawk-Eye servers. NBC’s Hawk-Eye operator is in Oklahoma and has access to Hawk-Eye servers at UK and can have the replays sent directly to Stamford.
“If we ever had to go back and take a photo, we have access to it,” says Bernstein. “So we are relying on sources and are in good shape not to be there.”
The “Live From” sources have been reduced to eight (plus a Live U signal) and those cross NEWBERT to Stamford where the technical managers take control of the paths. Caputo says CTV’s OB9 truck is in Royal St. George and complements NEWBERT with video shading for the “Live From” cameras and the six dedicated NBC cameras. “
Since the start of the pandemic, the NBC Sports team have had a lot of experience working remotely and Bernstein says they’ve gotten used to it.
“Technically it’s gotten to the point where it’s pretty transparent for the guys in the production gallery,” he says. “And the energy of the show comes from the fans returning to the course. But we have become proficient enough that we can move operators to different parts of the world and still feel like consistent production. “
Tom Popple, NBC Sports, Vice-President, Studios and Facilities Operation, adds that commentators are also getting used to working remotely and the aim is to give them the best possible environment to do their jobs.
“Dan Hicks was there to do Roland-Garros also with Marie carillo and we are also doing it that way for the Tour de France, ”he said. “Everyone is happy with their setup and it’s as good as it gets. “
Roy says that while he’s obviously not ideal, the global feed, produced with over 140 cameras, is top notch.
“The world food is excellent and is led by Jim Floor, one of my great friends in this business, ”says Roy. “The global stream is going to be great, but it’s different from the custom broadcast I would normally produce for our American audience. They are the main source of food for the whole of the UK, and they also have their international customers from all over the world that they cater to.
He says interacting with foreign advertisers won’t be much different from being in the production booth at the Open and pressing the button on their headphones so they can respond to him.
“I think the challenge for the guys here is not being able to experience the conditions that the players face there as they make their way through the course,” he adds. “There they can look out the window of their tower and see what’s going on. [This year] they experience this several thousand kilometers away.
The Royal St. George is a links golf course and requires a different style of play that will focus on players landing the ball just before the green and bouncing it.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into our layout technology and what we call bounce and roll to show American viewers how so much different golf is,” he explains. “In addition, you face the weather conditions, the wind. We put a lot more effort into documenting the wind. What is the wind speed on one side of the golf course compared to that on the other side? Because it usually blows much harder near water.
Keeping track of not only the conditions live, but also how they compare to the morning or how they will change later in the day is an important part of storytelling, as Roy says it can make the course much more difficult. or easier.
NBC will have a few one-sided cameras as Roy says there will be three RF minis accompanying the leaders and star groups on Thursday and Friday. The NBC team will also have additional cameras on the 18e hole.
The biggest challenge in building on the global flow is that gameplay on the course doesn’t stop at commercials.
“When I control the broadcast, I can make sure I record the most important shots and play them out, then go to an interesting little travelogue,” he says after a commercial break. “But here we do it in reverse order: go out, play the travelogue, then try to make up for what we missed. From this point of view, it is much more complicated.
The good news is Roy says the global flow has tons of technology to ensure those who depend on it don’t miss a thing.
“It has interesting plotters and graphics, animations, super slow motion, etc. He said. “It will still be great.”
All the efforts are an example of the relationship the NBC team has forged with CTV, European Tour Productions and R&A.
“We couldn’t do that with Hamish Greig [CTV OB CEO] and the CTV team, ”says McAllister. “They are great partners to work with and it’s been wonderful. Many thanks also to Toptracer, Hawk-Eye, ACS and Mobile TV Group.