Turner Sports To Hit the Links With Cart Cam, Aerial Drone, Toptracer for The Match: Champions for Change
The course’s desert layout allows more coverage of participant interaction
After consuming copious amounts of food on Thanksgiving, golf fans will get an extra serving of content during Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change on TNT at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 27. In what has become an annual tradition, this year’s edition will include the highest-quality technology, including a unique viewing perspective through Cart Cam, live shots from an aerial drone, and Toptracer shot tracking.
“We want to create as much access to the players as possible,” says Craig Barry, EVP/chief content officer, Turner Sports. “This is going to be a fun and competitive event.”
Between Holes: Cart Cam Puts Fans in the Passenger Seat
Unlike traditional golf broadcasts, The Match offers leeway for technological innovation and experimentation. For the third iteration, the broadcaster has developed the Cart Cam, which allows fans to see what’s going on between the players — Charles Barkley, Phil Mickelson, Stephen Curry, and Peyton Manning — while they drive from hole to hole. As for NASCAR and other motorsports productions, two robotic cameras will be mounted on the front of both carts: one for Mickelson and Barkley, the other for Curry and Manning.
Unlike a typical golf course with holes running parallel to each other, the physical nature of Stone Canyon Golf Club in Oro Valley, AZ, positions the holes length-wise. With this expansive layout, the players will be in the carts for extended periods.
“The course [is located] in the middle of the desert, so they’re going to be spending significant time in the carts as they move from hole to hole,” says Barry. “The course is also very linear, which means the holes aren’t side by side. Ultimately, the carts will potentially play a bigger role.”
Cart Cam will make a big splash on the linear broadcast, but Turner’s digital offering through Bleacher Report will leverage this technology for an alternative viewing experience. Hosted by sports journalist Taylor Rooks and two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning, the production will allow consumers on the B/R app to observe the players’ every move on an exclusive feed of the POV cameras throughout the entire match.
“Bleacher Report will be using Cart Cam for an alternative feed,” Barry adds. “[The app] will carry only a feed between these two carts to stream that point of view. We feel like there will be enough content that it will be a viable option for the fan.”
Trash Talk: Player Mics, IFB Devices Enable Open Communication
In addition to Cart Cam, another access for immersion will be the open microphones that the quartet will be wearing. Having tinkered with the idea since 2018 and learning lessons from previous productions marked by inclement weather, players will be wearing lightweight devices to maximize their play on the course.
“We found a solution with a traditional earpiece that should give them more mobility and be less distracting, which [means they will be] less irritated with it,” says Barry. “We learned from the first match to the second match, and, hopefully — with better conditions, more-refined technology, and a better understanding on how each thing works — we’ll be able to take it to the next level for this third version.”
Cart Cam and these open microphones will be working together to provide companionship for the viewer. Not only will they see what’s happening in the cart but will also hear every word said. For an exhibition game in this relaxed setting, trash talk and ribbing will be at a fever pitch. Not only will there be conversations between the players, but the on-air team of play-by-play commentator Brian Anderson, analysts Trevor Immelman and Andre Iguodala, and on-course reporters Cheyenne Woods and Gary McCord will be able to speak to all four golfers through IFB communication.
“We decided that the fans will be able to not only listen to conversations between the players but also listen to our announcers interact with them,” Barry explains. “During downtime between holes, the talent can spend that time asking them questions and discuss their play and the competition.”
The onsite talent will interact with these players, but offsite contributors as well will be joining the live telecast via Cisco Webex.
“There is going to be between six and 10 people that are going to participate in the telecast,” says Chris Brown, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “We’ll be working with Cisco to feed their Webex units into our truck.”
Sprawling Scenes: Live Drone Coverage Adds Cinematic Shots of Match Play, Scenery
With empty galleries, broadcasters are putting more drones in the sky for impressive shots of the setting, including The Masters tournament in Augusta, GA. Since fans will be prohibited from being in attendance at Stone Canyon Golf Club, an aerial drone will capture the full breadth of shots. The up-down layout of the course will give the drone its own area to work in alongside the players.
“The thing about a drone is that it’s a little loud,” notes Barry. “It needs to be able to operate at a distance but still do what it does. This setting is going to be very conducive to drone coverage.”
Along with following the play on the course, the drone will use the beautiful scenery of the Sonoran Desert to set the scene for the at-home viewer. “It’ll be to the side of the players,” he adds, “and can come up and reveal the rocks and mountains in the background.”
Beast in the Compound: NEP’s ND7 Houses Onsite Crew, Handles 18 Camera Feeds
Away from the course, NEP’s ND7 production truck will be the heart of the television compound. All four units — A, B, C, and D — will be in use to allow social distancing within the production. One truck will house the graphics team, which will be pushing out real-time Toptracer shot-tracking data and information as the players tee off from each hole.
Cart Cam and the aerial drone are the headliners, but an RF super-slow-motion camera will be one of the 18 cameras fed to the compound. Since the event will take place on a course in the middle of the desert, the onsite team will also be dealing with logistical and bandwidth challenges.
“We’ve laid down over 17,000 ft. of fiber,” says Brown. “We have to be able to provide continuous wireless coverage as [the golfers] move from hole to hole, and we need to have the ability to not break that up.”
Before the pandemic, RF disruption was attributed to natural barriers, such as trees, or crowded grandstands that destabilized the signal, but, at Stone Canyon, the team will have to cover virtually two separate courses due to the course’s geography.
“The RF environment will be extremely challenging since a huge hill divides one half of the golf course from the other,” Brown explains. “We won’t be able to take advantage of a singular line of sight that covers the entire course, so it’ll make things a little tricky.”
Playing for a Bigger Purpose: The Match Promotes Social Justice, Other Important Topics
Thanksgiving is usually a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company, but, in many households, this holiday will be spent in a much different way. The Match will highlight the spirit of generosity, community, and working together for a better tomorrow through numerous initiatives, including Feeding America’s mission to provide food for the hungry and the country’s fight against COVID-19.
In addition, to shed light on the continued fight for racial justice, charitable donations will be made by WarnerMedia to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Morehouse College, Howard University, Alabama A&M, Hampton University, and Winston-Salem State University) and by the golfer who wins the competition (Mickelson to Jackson State University, Barkley to Tuskegee University, Curry to Howard, and Manning to Grambling State University, South University at New Orleans, and Lane College.)
“The Match will be a good opportunity for all of us to take a break and watch something that’s really fun and exciting but, at the same time, to continue conversations that oftentimes tend to fall out of the spotlight,” says Brown. “It will be a chance to remind ourselves that there are ways to help and give back.”
Coverage of The Match: Champions for Change on Friday, Nov. 27 begins with Bleacher Report’s House of Highlights Showdown at 1 p.m., continues with Capital One’s The Match Pre-Match Show Presented by Autotrader at 2 p.m. on TNT, and leads into the event at 3 p.m.