NBC, ESPN Tee Up Final Year of U.S. Open Coverage

The 2014 U.S. Open, under way at Pinehurst #2 in North Carolina, marks the end of an era: next year, Fox Sports will take over coverage for all four days. But sentimentality is being laid aside as both ESPN and NBC focus on the job at hand.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” says NEP Technical Manager Ken Carpenter, who oversees NBC’s golf operations. “This is our third time here for an Open, and none of the cable runs are ridiculous.”

The sprawling production compound at Pinehurst

The sprawling production compound at Pinehurst

There are 60 cameras on the course, including five RF minis, two wireless X-Mos, a wireless Steadicam, and a wireless Flycam. There are also some POV cameras, including on a tree at the fifth hole and on the bronze statue of Payne Stewart behind the 18th green.

Each Open championship tends to provide unique challenges because the course and compound layout can vary wildly. The first challenge this year was getting cables across dirt roads, which required that the cables be buried. The other challenge was the heat during setup, when temps hit the mid to upper 90s; temperatures during the tourney are hovering in the mid 80s. And then there was the quick turnaround for NEP’s ND3, which worked the Belmont Stakes in New York last weekend.

“The hardest part was protecting everyone from heat exhaustion as there was also no breeze,” adds Carpenter. “If there was some, the pine trees would block it.”

NBC’s set is located alongside the 18th fairway, where the Flycam is also located, flying over the clubhouse between the first and 18th holes.

NEP Technical Manager Ken Carpenter says one of the toughest challenges at this year's Open is the sweltering heat.

NEP Technical Manager Ken Carpenter says one of the toughest challenges at this year’s Open is the sweltering heat.

NBC’s production home for the weekend includes NEP’s ND3, SS24 A and B, ESU, and ST41. CP Communications is also on hand in a big way for RF support.

This is the first time that the U.S. Open Women’s Championship will be played at the same location as the men’s tournament. It will be played next week, meaning that it many production people and resources will stick around all week.

“We have a crew around big enough to do a playoff,” says Carpenter. “If everything goes well, we can tear down what we don’t need on Monday, relax on Tuesday, and then start [striking] on Wednesday.

The fact that some of the trucks and resources are staying behind makes for a bit of challenge in itself. There will be a dance of trucks: the Game Creek trucks being used by ESPN, for example, will start rolling out on Monday at first daylight.

Terri Hermann, operations manager for the Open, ESPN, finds this last Open for the network bittersweet: “We’ve built a team that works well together and are like family.”

Terri Hermann, operations manager, heads up a massive ESPN ops team at Pinehurst

Terri Hermann, operations manager, heads up a massive ESPN ops team at Pinehurst.

The core of ESPN’s production focus has been yesterday’s and today’s coverage, which can be seen on ESPN’s cable network. The DIRECTV ITV service is also in the mix all weekend along with support for the USGA Webcast. Game Creek Larkspur is home to the studio-production team; the ITV feeds are produced in Game Creek FX A and B. Game Creek Northstar, meanwhile, is home to the USGA control room, and BSI is once again supplying four RF cameras for on-course reports. The Pinpoint ball-tracing technology is also back. Power this year is being supported by Illumination Dynamics.

“We are here with content all the way through Sunday,” says Hermann, adding that the studio location will be used for updates on SportsCenter and the ITV and USGA team will be in action.

The ESPN set is located at the clubhouse, and two robotic cameras provide shots of the practice green and driving range. Helping in the breakdown effort are color-coded cables so that the NBC cables needed for the women’s U.S. Open stay in place.

“The concern is leaving on Sunday night and Monday,” says Hermann, “but Ken [Carpenter] has figured out that will all work.

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