Live From the U.S. Open: Fox Sports Highlights Include Drone, More Toptracer, and 50+ 1080p HDR Cameras
Third major of the season tees off on Thursday at Pebble Beach Golf Links
Fox Sports coverage of the 2019 U.S. Open Championship, being held at Pebble Beach Golf Links today through Sunday, offers some new technology and will continue to roll out new things as the weekend progresses.
The broadcaster is planning its most comprehensive and technologically advanced coverage yet, according to Zac Fields, SVP, graphic technology and innovation, Fox Sports.
“We’re constantly improving the viewing experience of this great event,” he says, “and the Fox Sports team is excited to offer viewers more dynamic experiences from the golf course than ever before.”
SVG will be onsite through the weekend, interviewing Fox production executives and others about some of the developments, but here is a quick overview.
As always, the U.S. Open is a massive effort, with more than 450 technicians and 72 support staff logging more than 66,000 worker-hours over slightly more than two weeks of setup and actual coverage. Getting the course ready for action required 51 miles of multistrand fiber-optic cable to be laid down (912 strands are available across the course), and an IP network is also in place, with 1,056 1-Gbps Ethernet ports across 28 managed network locations with 94 distinct networks.
More Cameras, More Coverage
The production itself will rely on 121 total cameras, 15 more than last year. Pebble Beach is no stranger to big-time TV productions, but it will see a first this weekend: a a live drone camera. The original production plan called for the drone to be tethered to a boat located just off the coastline but one thing got in the way of that plan: kelp that would snag the line. As a result the drone has been freed of the tether and will be able to capture more dynamic shots.
The team is also upping its use of 1080p capture, with 18 wireless 1080p cameras (six with HDR) and 52 1080p HDR cameras. Also set to be deployed is a large contingent of long lenses to be used as 12 100X lenses and 19 95X lenses.
Super-slo-mo needs will be met by five Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras shooting at more than 4,000 fps as well as two Sony cameras shooting at 480 fps. Four cinema-style cameras will be used to capture action with a cinematic look, and two mini portable robotic cameras and a 75-ft. Strada camera crane will also be deployed. Every camera across the course will be captured simultaneously with 178 record channels and 54 playout channels.
The video side will be complemented by an audio production that will require 232 microphones, including eight RF announcer mics, 18 hole mics, and 20 RF walking microphones. Those audio signals will be mixed on 12 audio consoles in the compound.
Eye on the Ball
Fox Sports will once again fully embrace shot-tracking technologies. First, the tee box on all 18 holes will be outfitted with Trackman radar technology, and nine holes are equipped to show viewers a standard ball-trace over live video, with enhanced club and ball data. The remaining nine holes will display Fox FlightTrack, a live trace over a graphic representation of the hole, offering more perspective to the viewer. All 18 holes will have the ability to insert a real-time live carry distance.
In addition, three roaming wireless RF tracers will provide ball tracing on approach shots, and FlightTrack will be used for fairways shots on two holes, Nos. 6 and 14.
New this year? A mobile tower camera equipped with Toptracer technology, also positioned on Hole 14, enabling more dynamics within the shot. Unlike most tracer shots, for which the camera must remain still, this camera can be panned, tilted, and zoomed to capture the ball as it comes toward the camera.
A new penalty-area camera system will be put to use on Holes 4 and 5. Each system has three cameras providing more than 210 degrees of capture alongside the out-of-bound markers.
Toptracer technology will also be used at the driving range. A new USGA Practice Tee channel will debut with a focus on the driving range, and Toptracer will offer additional insights into what kind of shots players are practicing. Fans at Pebble Beach will see players’ shots traced on LED boards at the range, and the broadcast and all streaming channels will be able to provide greater detail on swing technique, ball flight, and more. Streaming feeds are available on FoxSports.com, the Fox Sports App, DirecTV, and USGA.org.
In addition to the USGA Practice Tee channel, the Featured Holes channel gets an upgrade for 2019. Data from Trackman units on these holes will be displayed on the streaming feeds in real time. Viewers will see data for live shots along with more advanced statistics throughout the championship.