Live From the Ryder Cup: NBC Sports Team Effort Leads for Onsite Production
The final day of the Ryder Cup is underway and for NBC Sports the skies are clear, production plans have come together nicely, and team USA is putting on a performance that should energize golf fans across the country. And for Allison McAllister NBC Sports VP, Golf Operations, it is adding up to a great effort across the board with the PGA of America’s partnership and more cooperation than ever between NBC Sports, Sky Sports, and European Tour Productions.
“Things are going well,” says McAllister. “It’s awesome to be here as there’s nothing like a Ryder Cup. The excitement is electric and it’s a very special event and it’s a fun thing to experience.”
McAllister says that with more than 500 people on site safety is the number one priority one as and everyone in the compound and on the course has embraced the PGA of America and NBC EHS guidelines.
While the Ryder Cup matches didn’t tee off until the morning of Sept. 24 the Golf Channel was on hand all week, beginning with coverage of the Ryder Cup Captain’s press conference on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 20. Live primetime shows also began that evening. “Live From” has offered up 50 hours of programming during the week and Marc Caputo, NBC Sports, Director, Remote Technical Operations, says innovations include a FlyCam on the first tee that is shared with everyone in the compound. With all the excitement at the first tee it is capturing great shots of fans (sometimes sitting in the dark waiting for the first tee shot at 7 am) and the unique energy and excitement that defines the Ryder Cup.
“We have 16 total cameras for ‘Live From’ including four Telemetrics cameras on the set, a Televator Dolly that gives a jib look, that are controlled from a production control room in Stamford,” says Caputo. “We also have three Robovision robotic cameras in the practice areas and because of the team play we have two rover cameras. And then we also have two LiveU units.”
The “Live From” show is cut from PCR8 back in Stamford where there are two EVS playback rooms, two graphics operators, and audio (TopTracer on the range is also controlled from Stamford). An NBC Newbert flypack is on hand for signal transmission to Stamford with 16 transmit and nine return feeds with Lumens providing 10 Gbs of fiber connectivity into the compound.
“The only people we have here for ‘Live From’ are a few technicians, a coordinating producer and field producers,” adds Caputo.
This is the first Ryder Cup where NBC Sports and Sky Sports are part of the same corporate family. The “Live From” is a hybrid show where Sky produces segments from its studio on the 18th green that air inside the U.S. “Live From” broadcast and vice versa.
“At night when the Sky set is not being used, we move the two ‘Live From’ rovers there and host our inside segments from that studio,” says Caputo.
NBC’s core production efforts are in ND7 while NEP Supershooter 8 and ND5 are on hand in a support role. BSI handles RF systems for NBC, Sky, and the world feed and Fletcher is providing robotics. There is plenty of opportunity for resource sharing with NBC Sports, SKY Sports and European Tour Productions. For example, course coverage is handled by 63 cameras, including three Inertia Xmo super slo-mos. The camera resources are passed into NEP ESU and made available to each of the entities on site.
In addition to the FlyCam there is also a camera in a plane, a live drone, and a SteadiCam. Four miles of fiber in the compound and 57 miles across the course keeps all facilities connected.
Over the years, TopTracer has become a big part of golf production, making it possible for viewers at home to keep track of ball flight. NBC has deployed it heavily for the Ryder Cup.
Hawkeye servers provide an extra level of redundancy to ensure that shots aren’t missed. Two operators are working remotely from Oklahoma while a third operator is on site at Whistling Straits.
“Two of them are working on the main show and one with the featured match,” he says.
Another technology being used is Whoop. Certain players are wearing the Whoop wristband that provides heart rate. NBC is dropping in a graphic on the first tee that displays the players heart rate in real time as they step to the tee which is, arguably, one of the most heart racing tee shots in golf.
“It’s amazing to have those metrics that Tommy Roy and his team are pushing and making that vision a reality,” says Ken Goss, NBC Sports, EVP, Studio and Remote Operations and Production Planning.
Pinpoint wind speed and direction display is also a big part of the show (handled out of the Sky Studios in the UK) as are augmented reality graphics (handled out of New Zealand) and an editor in Ireland is also working on the show.
The Ryder Cup caps off an exceptional year of major golf event productions as NBC tackled not only the Ryder Cup but also the Players Championship, the Open Championship, and the Olympics golf events.
“We’re running on adrenaline and the big events like this help with that,” says Kate Stefko, NBC Sports, Director, Golf Operations. “And this year there has always been another big event to look forward to as you finish the Olympics and then we go into the Solheim Cup and now onto the Ryder Cup. So, the excitement continues.”
Goss credits a team that has tackled a year in golf production unlike any other “Our remote operations teams led by McAllister and Craig Bernstein, NBC Sports VP, Remote Technical Operations and Engineering have done an incredible job and I am really proud of what we accomplished this year and with our partnership with the PGA of America.”
Goss says the NBC golf team has a terrific balance with McAllister creating a new team that includes Bridget Cugle, NBC Sports, Senior Manager, Remote Operations, and Kristen Moorby, NBC Sports, Production Manager.
“Bridget and Kristen are two of the best in handling all the logistics and then we have Marc who oversees all the technical aspects of all and as the new workflows change, he is at the forefront of that,” says Goss. “And Keith Blachly our Senior Technical Manager gets everything in line as NEP has done an exceptional job on this footprint. NEP Broadcast Services Global President Mike Werteen provided leadership perspective while Bryn Shamey, NEP Senior Account Manager, brings all the ideas and paperwork together for our facilities.”