Golf Channel’s Morning Drive Heads to the Clubhouse With New Panoramic Studio
Golf Channel’s Morning Drive crew has a new hangout spot, and — fittingly — it has the look and feel of your clubhouse. This week, the Golf Channel morning talk show moved into an eye-catching new studio that uses dozens of Sharp LED monitors to create the illusion of a clubhouse with breathtaking views of the golf course through oversized picture windows.
“We started Morning Drive in the radio-booth man-cave–style set with all the props and everything,” says Golf Channel VP of Operations Dan Overleese. “We thought the next evolution should be to take the show right to the golf course. To do that, we wanted to create our own clubhouse, and what better way to take the viewer to the golf course than to create a clubhouse with big windows that look out onto golf-course vistas.”
Studio AP Up and Running
Dubbed “Studio AP” after golfing god and Golf Channel co-founder Arnold Palmer, the new studio is four times the size of Morning Drive’s previous home and features four dedicated sets: a main anchor desk, an interview area, a product-demonstration area, and a news-update desk.
“Remarkably, we produced a show in a studio with room for only one manned camera – everything else was robotic,” says Golf Channel Executive Producer Molly Solomon. “We feel emancipated. The new set has 4 distinct areas to present the news, discussion, interviews and golf lifestyle elements. We can swing clubs and invite more voices into a discussion. It’s going to be fun.”
The 1,980-square-ft. studio (designed by Jack Morton PDG with scenery fabrication by Mystic Scenic Studios and lighting by New York City Lights) features panoramic HD video backdrops aimed to create the illusion that there is a live golf course in the background of the main anchor desk and interview areas. These backdrops are made possible by an interlinked framework of 20 90-in. Sharp LED monitors, four 70-in. models, and 10 52-in. monitors.
“We also wanted to gain some additional functionality that we didn’t have in the previous space,” says Overleese. “We wanted to have multiple areas so that we could do a roundtable discussion or a more casual discussion in the same morning. If we were debating a particularly newsy or controversial topic, we could have a roundtable. But we also have a more casual environment to just sit with golfers and chat.”
4K Brings Golf Course Right to the Studio
To populate all those screens, Golf Channel sent out an ENG to team with a RED 4K camera to shoot ultra-high-res video of a live course during early-morning hours. ideo was shot on a RED camera. This 4K content was then imported via After Effects and cut into four 1080 quadrants for display in the studio.
“We shot 4K video during the morning so that, early in the show [which airs daily at 7-9 a.m. ET], we have a light fog as the sun comes up,” says Overleese. “Then, by the end of the two-hour show, skies are clear, and the sun is overhead. You’ll even see the sprinklers go off at times and the guy cutting the grass — typical things you’ll see at a golf course.”
The Morning Drive team uses an Abekas Mira eight-channel server to play back the 4K content. Four channels are used for each display wall (behind the anchor desk and the interview area), with each channel playing back a quarter of the image (or the equivalent of an HD image).
In addition, Golf Channel deploys FOR-A color correctors and a Vista URS multi-monitor system with four separate servers and 30 outputs to bring the 4K content to the various screens throughout the studio.
“The Vista multimonitor system feeds the wall,” says Overleese. “It cuts a slice of the shot to feed each monitor; then, it blows it up to fit the entire monitor. If you take 20 slices of the video for 20 monitors and then blow it up to fit each monitor, you’re going to get a lot of pixelization. That is why we had to originate the video in 4K.”
New Cameras, Same Control Room
Aside from the Mira server, PCR2 (one of three control rooms at Golf Channel’s Orlando facility), the control room used for Morning Drive, remains largely the same as it was in the previous incarnation of the show.
The in-studio camera complement, however, has undergone a total makeover. All four sets share the camera complement: three Sony HDC-1500 studio cameras, three Sony HDC-P1 robotics, a jib, and a Sony HDC-2400 Steadicam with built-in RF capability (thanks to Vislink’s Gigawave InCam transmitter).
“The Sony Steadicam is a prerelease demo that we have been very impressed with,” says Overleese. “We saw it at NAB last year and thought it would be the perfect camera for this show. Traditionally, RF can sometimes have a lag in cutting it with other cameras in the studio, but we are perfectly comfortable with it.”
Rear-Projection System Impresses
Golf Channel has also outfitted the news-update desk section of the studio with a new rear-projection system made up of a Panasonic PT-D12000U projector and 12- x 9-ft. DNP optical projection screen.
“The RP at Golf Central update desk is very cool,” says Overleese. “Instead of a canvas or cloth screen, the DNP screen is actually glass. If you look at the back of it, it is almost like a lens that has rings in it and everything. It produces a great effect for us.”
Morning Drive, which relaunched this week with a new, seven-days-a-week schedule, airs daily from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET on Golf Channel.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF GOLF CHANNEL.