Live From The Ryder Cup: CTV, ETP Ready for Action
Today’s opening ceremony of The Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland, ends a long planning and setup period for the event for host broadcaster European Tour Productions (ETP) and its production-services provider, CTV Outside Broadcasts. It also begins a weekend of challenges as, for example, the location of the ceremony near the Gleneagles Hotel required cable infrastructure to be flown on bridges over roadways.
“The biggest challenge is cabling infrastructure and licensing of radio signals as we have 10 RF cameras and Sky has another four and NBC Sports another six,” explains Hamish Greig, technical director, CTV OB. The course is also located more than a mile from the compound and is divided into three distinct areas requiring separate fiber and RF support for each of those areas.
“The fiber route is 1.5 km to the first tee, and the sixth green is another 2.5 km,” says Greig. “And the furthest fiber at the third tee reaches out another 1.5 km from that.”
In terms of capacity, there are 576 single-mode fiber strands to the first tee box, 192 single-mode fiber strands to the sixth green, and 192 single-mode fiber strands to the 16th fairway.
“We’re running at about 90% capacity on the smaller hubs and 75% on the main hub, so we have spare for everyone,” adds Greig.
This marks the fifth time that ETP and CTV OB have been at the center of Ryder Cup host operations (the first was 1997 at the Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain). CTV OB is also providing fiber connectivity for Sky Sports, the OB1 unit for Golf Channel, the OB7 unit for Turner Sports/PGA.com, highlights facilities for the BBC, and on-course power kits and IFBs for BBC Radio and IMG Radio.
“Hosting is a lot easier because you control it a lot more and, therefore, are more part of the conversations to make sure you have the correct infrastructure,” Greig explains. “When we work unilaterally, we are piggybacking and need to make things work accordingly. But it is a lot less frantic piggybacking.”
The last time CTV OB and ETP played host was four years ago at Celtic Manor in Wales, a Ryder Cup remembered as much for its rain and mud as for the ability of the European team to hold off a furious comeback from the U.S. team.
“Things have changed a lot since Celtic Manor,” says Greig. “Our RF life was a lot simpler then as we only had two RF sites: one at the compound and another at the 15th hole. But here we have six main RF sites, including a 45-meter crane on the sixth green, two 70-meter cranes at the third tee and 16th fairway, and then a 56-meter crane in the compound.”
Those sites are at the middle of the biggest technological leap for the Ryder Cup host broadcaster: the use of a proprietary CTV OB RF-over-fiber system. It debuted at The Open in July and is making a difference at The Ryder Cup by allowing 39 duplex RF high-power mics and 310 wireless radios to be used with greater reliability.
“Our communications are sent over fiber to the cranes and then converted to RF and sent out over the course,” explains Greig. “In the past, we would need a large set of base stations.”
Although the core of the productions takes place in OB units in the compound (CTV OB for the host feed, Telegenic for Sky Sports, and NEP Visions for NBC Sports), it is the TOSSA (Technical Outside Source Signal Allocation) cabin that is at the center of everything, courtesy of a Pro-Bel Cygnus router and related kit from Evertz, Imagine Communications, and Miranda. It is there that camera and audio signals from ETP, NBC Sports, and Sky Sports are brought together before being sent out to the respective OB units.
“We are taking 40-odd signals from NBC, 20 from Sky; supplying about 160 signals between cameras, replay, and graphics; and then feeding it out,” explains Greig. The total camera complement in use by CTV OB for the world feed includes 45 cabled HD cameras, 10 RF cameras (including an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo super-slow-motion camera), and 39 RF on-course mics (combination of effects and on-course ).
The world feed created by CTV OB and ETP is produced in two OB units: OB9 and OB10. A separate cabin, known as the “Iso Palace” is on the frontline as well, with four EVS operators sitting with two separate directors, who will line up replays for director Jim Storey. Four audio mixers, sitting behind the EVS operators, will ensure that the proper audio follows the video.
Storey, producer Hoddy Wood, and the main production crew operate out of OB10; OB9 is home to additional EVS replay operations, handling super-iso shots with 18 channels of EVS, under the control of four operators, and the sound-effects mixing (18 stereo signals from each tee and green plus 12 mono RF mics). The Virtual Eye flyover-graphics operations also originate out of OB9.
One feature that viewers can expect to see more of at this edition of The Ryder Cup is the Protracer system, which tracks the flight of the ball off the tee. CTV OB will have six in use on holes 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, and 13. Golf Channel will have a Protracer camera with drops at tee boxes on holes 11, 14, 16, and 18.
There will also be super-slo-mo coverage from the first tee via I-Movix, and an NAC camera will be in use by Sky.
“I love this event because it can change at any time,” says Greig. “And I am continually surprised at the amount of people who have no interest in golf who are interested in the Ryder Cup.”
The interest of the world has officially begun with the Opening Ceremony.
The action begins tomorrow morning.