Fox Sports Continues To Enhance Technology for U.S. Open Production

Golf-ball tracing, UHD, augmented reality, and drones will be deployed

SVG will report live from the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin beginning this Thursday, but the Fox Sports technical team, which will grow to more than 460 people by the weekend, is already hard at work getting the course and coverage plans into shape. And the third year will be the charm for golf fans who love golf-ball tracers or UHD: tracing will be on all 18 holes, and UHD coverage will be found on three.

“Over the last two years, we’ve had some great opportunities to enhance and develop new tools for our production team,” says Zac Fields, SVP, graphic tech and innovation, Fox Sports. “This year’s U.S. Open features the best complement of technology that we’ve ever had. We’re incredibly excited and look forward to offering golf fans a great viewing experience.”

Augmented reality will play a big role for Fox Sports at the U.S. Open coverage beginning on Thursday.

New graphics enhancements will be front and center. All 18 holes will have the ability to trace the flight of the ball off the tee boxes, whether via live video or a graphic representation. Nine tee boxes are equipped with Toptracer technology, providing live ball trace over video. The remaining nine tee boxes are equipped with Trackman radar, allowing a combination of ball tracing and enhanced data. Two of the Trackman tee boxes will show a traditional ball trace along with data captured from the radar, and seven of the Trackman-equipped tee boxes will be used to show FlightTrack, a live trace over a graphic representation of the hole, offering the viewer more perspective. There also will be a reverse tracer with the ability to show shots coming into the 15th green, as well as three roaming RF Toptracer units to provide even more flexibility in showing fairway shots on any hole.

Augmented-reality offerings will get a boost from a 75-ft. Strada camera crane, enabling graphic elements to be displayed on the course, and a studio jib, which will allow unique analysis of the golf course in a studio setting.

The production tools include 26 wireless cameras, 31 wired cameras (12 with 100X lenses, 19 with 95X lenses), three Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras, and a Sony HDC-4800 operating at 960 fps. Three RF Tracer cameras will also be in use. More than 500 strands and 36 miles of fiber have been laid out across the course, and 704 Ethernet ports will handle 76 distinct networks.

On the audio front, 12 consoles will handle mixing duties, pulling together sound from 216 microphones, including eight RF announcer mics, 22 RF walking mics, and cup microphones in all 18 holes to capture natural sound and conversations among players, caddies, and officials on the greens.

With any army of cameras and microphones deployed, the focus is squarely on delivering more of what worked well over the previous two championships, beginning with four days of drone flights capturing images from each of the 18 holes.

“Fox Sports is out to capture the beauty of Erin Hills and the challenges the course presents the world’s best golfers,” says Brad Cheney, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports. “This is our third year working to give viewers the true and unique perspective of being on the golf course that only drones can deliver.”

With the expectation that wind may be a factor at Erin Hills, Fox Sports is deploying five weather instruments strategically around the course, capturing wind direction and speed to display any impact on play.

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