U.S. Open Tech Gives NBC Sports Lead Golf Producer Tommy Roy Storytelling Tools
Bunker Cams, FlyCam, Augmented-Reality Graphics Provide All the Angles for Fans
The 2022 U.S. Open begins today at The Country Club in Brookline, MA, and, for NBC Sports Lead Golf Producer Tommy Roy, the efforts by the production and technical teams are a big part of helping him meet his goal of making viewers feel as if they were right there on the tees, the fairways, and the greens.
“[It’s about] experiencing the pressure of this cauldron and the ultimate reward for one player at the end,” he says. “We do it through a robust technical-facility setup while never losing sight of the fact that this golf event, more than any other, requires storytelling. It is an Open with many unknown qualifiers in the field, each having their own special story, and I still believe that every player who has earned the right to play in this field deserves the right to be shown on TV. So we’ll do our very best to get all 156 players in the field on the air.”
The NBC Sports domestic team and the world-feed production team will have about 85 camera sources connected to the compound via RF and more than 200,000 ft. of cable. Six feeds will be produced over the weekend, including the main NBC domestic feed, a “LIVE From” feed, two Featured Group feeds, a Featured Hole, and the world feed, which will be delivered to more than 190 countries. Peacock kicks things off at 6:45 a.m. ET today ahead of the first group’s hitting the course, beginning 45 hours of live coverage through the end of the tournament (counting Featured Groups and Featured Hole, that number jumps to more than 100 hours).
Roy says viewers will see shot tracing on all shots except for Holes 1 and 11, which will have high-speed shots.
“We have speed shots for that opening tee shot,” he says. “Particularly for the 11th, a short par-3 that falls off on all sides, it’s a much better way to cover that.”
Roy says bunker cameras will be deployed at Holes 5 and 16 (a total of three bunker cams across the two holes) and a FlyCam on a 130-ft. elevated cable running behind the 18th green will provide an aerial look, which will be complemented by live drone and airplane shots. “We also have a Scorpion crane that can see Holes 15, 16, 17, and 18.”
The 11th isn’t the only green featuring a significant slope. The front of the 8th green slopes way off, Roy notes, so balls are going to be spinning back.
“We have a robo on a tree to see that,” he notes. “We also have our hole graphic models and our virtual graphics and will have the Ross virtual graphics that we used in the Super Bowl and the Olympics.”
Other enhancements include Pinpoint wind technology and Pinpoint greens technology to calculate the breaks, and the 4D replay system will be deployed at the 12th tee with 88 cameras to capture tee shots from all angles. NBC will also use eight RF HD cameras, and Featured Groups and Featured Hole will be captured with nine RF HD 1080p cameras, along with five effects mics and three talent mics. Panasonic HE130 robos will be on three tee boxes, and Sony P50 robotics will be used for Featured Hole coverage. A super-slo-mo and an X-mo will also be put to use.
“It’s lots of technology,” he adds, “but the key thing we need to pay attention to is the storytelling, which happens to be right in our wheelhouse.”
Roy and the NBC Sports production team will call NEP ND7 and ND1 home for the weekend; NEP Supershooter 9 and ST9 will house the alternate-feed productions. NEP Supershooter 8 and ST8 are on hand to support the USGA world-feed efforts, and NEP ESU will handle signal distribution for the USGA. Also onsite will be NEP Fiber 1 and Fiber 2, Cable Truck 1, XL1, and BSI’s Golf 4 trailer.
The technical efforts are not lost on the on-air talent. “Having landed here at NBC,” says NBC Sports Lead Golf Analyst Paul Azinger, “I’m amazed at what goes on behind the scenes. When Tommy Roy says he’s going to get all the players on TV and can do that, it’s a feat that probably only he can pull off. Honestly, it’s pretty chaotic for us on Thursday and Friday. The effort that goes into scouting a course like Brookline to create 100 hours [of golf content] on the air blows my mind. When you have all the internet feeds and what have you, it’s such a sophisticated and complicated thing. It’s a miracle to me it ever comes to pass. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.”
Covering all the golfers begins with the most basic of processes: having a list.
“We do check off the names,” says Roy. “That starts with Brandt Packer, who’s producing the mornings each day and is keeping track of it. We try to get as many of them in as possible. Some of them slip through the cracks when we’re trying to find them and get them on the air in some sort of meaningful way. Just showing a shot you can do, but I want it to be a good shot, some sort of meaningful shot so that the guy gets a little bit of love on the air.”
LIV Golf will no doubt be a storyline this weekend, but Roy and NBC Sports Lead Golf Play-by-Play Announcer Dan Hicks say it is all part of being journalistically sound.
“If a guy’s in contention, you cover him,” says Hicks. “You mention that he’s part of the LIV Tour. You cover that because that has been obviously a gigantic talking point, and then you see where the championship takes you from there.”
But Roy is clear on where the focus will be: the U.S. Open.
“Bottom line is, no matter what player we end up showing, if they’re coming off a significant finish in an event the week before, we’re going to mention it,” he says. “That’s being journalistically sound, and we’re not going to shy away from something like that. But, in terms of getting into fracturing the game of golf and all that, we’re not doing that. This is U.S. Open Week now.”