Wireless HD makes PGA debut for NBC Sports

By Ken Kerschbaumer

NBC Sports officially jumped into wireless HD coverage of its PGA events this past weekend with Total RF providing six wireless HD systems during The Honda Classic held at the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

“Total RF did a spectacular job switching us over to HD RF on all our golf coverage,” says Ken Goss, NBC Sports vice president, operations. Expect future NBC Sports events like horse racing to also take advantage of the technology.

Two of the systems were used on handheld Sony HDC 1500 multi-purpose cameras while four others were used on fixed cameras.

“We knew from what we did last year in SD that we could go HD with reasonably good results this year,” says Stephen Gansky, president of Total RF. The newest RF Central/Gigawave HD RF camera links provided the backbone for the system’s success along with the new cameras. Gansky says the Sony cameras ensured the images passing into the RF camera links were of the highest quality.

“The 1500 is a significantly newer camera and you can tell the difference vs. the Sony 950,” he explains.

The transmission bit rate was 18 Mbps. New technology helped drive signal gain high enough to ensure the small 3dB hit for going wireless didn’t impact signal quality. And Gansky says further improvements in the antenna and fiber infrastructure will further improve the noise floor and gain situation.

MPEG4 is another technology that could improve wireless HD. “It’s maybe two years away for wireless RF but it will provide significantly higher bit rates in less bandwidth,” says Gansky. “The much bigger pipe means we can experiment with making the signal even more robust.”

Expect more wireless HD to pop up as NBC’s PGA coverage progresses. The Players Championship will feature 13 cameras while the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup should build up to 18 RF cameras.

“We waited for wireless HD to be spot on before deploying it,” says Goss.

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