Live From the U.S. Open: ESPN’s Presence a Full-Week Affair

ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club extends well beyond its coverage of the first two rounds of the tournament as SportsCenter, as usual, had a large presence beginning with hits beginning on June 10 and ESPN was at the center of DirecTV’s ITV mosaic, producing coverage for all four days. And like everyone else at this year’s Open, the weather was a major factor in getting everything in place.

“Everybody on this golf team has had every kind of weather that there is and had to adapt to it during their career,” says Terri Hermann, ESPN operations manager.

That said, the rains in the past week led ESPN to rename an area of the compound “Lake Marion” for a few hours as a few inches of water settled in between some of the vehicles. Sump pumps, pick axes for digging trenches, and plywood played a key part in getting everything up and running.

Jay Gleeson, ESPN operations producer, says that one of the challenges for ESPN, The Golf Channel, NBC Sports, and BskyB was that some equipment that would usually be brought in via forklift needed to be brought in on golf carts. In addition, all set pieces and equipment for the studios that are located within the ropes near the 17th tee box had to be forklifted into place on one day.

ESPN is operating out of three Game Creek Video production units: Larkspur for the SportsCenter programming, Glory A and B for the ITV channels, and Pride for the USGA channel. In terms of unilateral cameras, hard cameras are located at holes 11 and 18 and four unilateral RF cameras are also on hand. In addition, the driving range — located a little more than a mile away — features a robotic camera and a handheld camera for standup shots while another robotic is at the player bridge. Steadicam drops are also available.

New for ESPN’s coverage at the U.S. Open is PinPoint, a real-time virtual graphics system that allows the operator to create graphics that show the location of the ball within a three-dimensional environment and distance to the green or from the tee.

This is also the second year that ESPN is using Broadcast Sports, Inc. for its wireless RF needs.

“It’s been rock solid and the production team has been very happy with it,” says Hermann. The ground-based system, which uses Game Creek Video’s Sony 2500 cameras, also removes the need for pointers to be on the course, saving on headcount.

“You learn something at every Open and we’ll take what we learned this year and carry it forward,” says Hermann.


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