Live From the US Open: NEP Provides Nerve Center for Broadcast Compound
Two weeks of play across 17 courts and three major networks is a daunting feat accomplished every year at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. Once again, NEP’s ESU serves as the brains of the operation, transmitting video and audio signals where they need to go.
After laying the cable in early August, NEP parks ESU approximately a week and a half prior to play. The distribution and transmission facility is there when every mobile unit covering the US Open arrives about a week later.
ESU takes in the majority of video and audio feeds, manages the robotic cameras, provides streaming services, and more. The feeds are then distributed to the mobile units parked outside Arthur Ashe Stadium, including NEP’s fleet and F&F Productions’ GTX-14 and GTX-16.
“It is a huge amount of shared resources,” explains NEP Tech Manager John “JT” Tomlinson. “[CBS Sports Senior Engineer] Nick Muro actually does up a camera sheet where we look at all of the facilities that all the different trucks are coming in and marry them up to meet the needs of those particular camera locations. So you may have a camera head from F&F, a tripod and a pan head from NCPVIII, and a lens from SS16. There’s a lot of sharing that goes on.”
In addition to ESU, NEP has six mobile units on-site serving CBS and ESPN: NCPVIII, covering ESPN ITV/DirecTV US Open Mix coverage; SS31, covering Court 3; SS16, covering CBS Sports Network’s qualifying round before transitioning to Court 13 for the tournament’s early rounds and back to CBS Sports Network when Court 13 shut down; SS11, Court 11; and ST27, Court 17. NEP’s SS17 is also on-site for Sky Sports (Eric Thomas serves as tech manager for SS17).
“This year, we’re going with more MADI than we’ve ever done, trying to cut back on the copper,” says Tomlinson. “We’re doing more HD monitoring in the stadium in the different locations; no huge changes, just progressive, things that need to be updated year after year after year.”
Currently working his 15th US Open, Tomlinson has approximately 15 staffers on the ground and praises his team for their enthusiasm and willingness to help out where needed, which is no small feat with six trucks plus ESU and multiple clients.
“Everybody’s just helping wherever they can to handle all the different feeds: there is CBS/ESPN prime output, there’s the ITV feeds, there’s the international court feeds that we have to do,” says Tomlinson. “We’re here to do whatever CBS/ESPN needs us to do.”