Live from The Open: CTV OB refines workflows as production nears 200 cameras

The Open Championship continues to grow in both scale and scope for all involved. This year the number of cameras jumped from 175 to 198, the number of EVS replay servers climbed to 37, and it has even made some history with the first appearance of UHD and HDR golf coverage at an Open. “Last year when we were at 175 I thought we would reduce it, but we never seem to,” says Hamish Greig, CTV OB, CEO. CTV OB provides the vast majority of technical support for the Open Championship.

(l-to-r) Hamish Greig, Barry Johnstone, and Paul Francis of CTV OB at the Open Championship.

Paul Francis, CTV OB’s CTO, says the continual expansion is simply a result of clients discovering new technologies and innovations at trade shows or through media reports and then deciding to try out those innovations at the Open.

“And a new technology usually doesn’t knock out another innovation,” he adds.

CTV OB finds itself with more clients as well as more technology. R&A productions provided by IMG is added to a mix that includes European Tour Productions, Sky UK, NBC Sports, BBC, and TV Asahi.

“It’s a machine, and we work to fine tune it every year,” says Greig. Elements like Virtual Eye and Toptracer, for example, have dedicated production areas this year.

“One of the major areas which has changed and which I am most proud of, is what we have achieved on the RF side, both on the video side but more importantly on the audio side,” says Greig.

For example, Ian Smith, CTV OB, head of sound, says that with four microphone receive sites and the duplex talk-back systems transmitting from two locations on this course, the power can be turned down. That helps improve the harmonics and makes it easier to work with. And with the 72 base stations split out over six systems that have 12 base stations each, the rights holders could be set up as they rolled in rather than having to all be set up at once.

Adds Greig: “With RF over fibre systems and the facilities two or three low power sites if there is a problem we can still provide a service whereas before we would lose everything.”

A receive site at the practice range provides another level of redundancy in case the cranes which play such a crucial role in signal transmission need to come down due to high winds.

The camera complement includes everything from an iMovix X10, three Inertia Unlimited Xmos, 73 Sony HDC1500 cameras, 43 HDC-2500 cameras, 21 HDC-4300 cameras (three in high speed with the other 18 dedicated operating in UHD/HDR mode), 16 Sony P1 cameras, one Sony F5 camera, and 4 Sony PTZ cameras. ACS is providing nine Bunkercams, a Wirecam, a Railcam with a Sony P43, and then Jib cameras. Twenty-three of the ZX450 cameras are for ENG use or part of the 25 RF cameras relying on RF transmission while the remainder are hard wired.

EVS replay servers include 1 x XT4 UHD EVS , 34 XT3 eight-channel units, two 12-channel EVS XT3 units, 10 EVS XFile units, and six EVS XHub3 units. There are also 10 x Sony XDCAM deck with 3 of the compliment for playback to the Golf Channel’s facility in Orlando, FL.

At the core of the production facilities is a broadcast centre that is home to both the world feed production and NBC’s production. The world feed is produced out of the main production gallery, a main submix, and a super-iso/replay room. The NBC Sports area includes a main production gallery, iso/replay gallery, and main show audio-mix area, and a gallery to house the TGC remote production facility.

The six two-man teams in the super-iso room is one of the most important areas in the compound, ensuring that the main production gallery never misses a shot on any of the 18 greens. The super-iso team also keeps an eye on the majority of the players on the course so that the main production gallery can zero in on those at the top of the leaderboard.

Next door to the super-iso/replay area is the main replay-submix area with two directors and four more EVS operators creating features and additional replay packages via four EVS XT3 replay servers. The teams in both iso-relay areas work hard to ensure that all the storylines on the course are covered properly.

The third component in the broadcast centre is the main production gallery, featuring a Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher with five mix effects and 10 DPMs.

The CTV OB units on site include OB3 which is home to the three-hole coverage and racking of world feed cameras; OB2 for UHD coverage of holes 1 and 18 and racking of 19 cameras; OB10 for Marquee group coverage with two RF cameras; world feed scoring and spotting; the main audio mix for the world feed; and racking of 28 cameras.

Telegenic’s T23 unit is racking 24 cameras and the EVS area is used by ACS for robotic cameras and railcams. The production area of that truck is home to augmented reality elements like Virtual Eye and ChryonHego for world feeds. The audio area is home to the communications hub as it is able to get on site the Saturday prior to the tournament for set up. BBC highlights are housed in OB14 and MVT3 and the production area of TSV6. TV Asahi, meanwhile, calls a unit from TVM home.

Many of NBC’s needs are met in OB9, a truck that is working its first event following an upgrade to UHD and Dolby Atmos in the audio area.

“It’s quite a big job for it to be birthed on,” says Greig. “It is also the main coms hub for NBC, the NBC effects submix, and the second production areas is used for three robotic cameras by the Golf Channel. We also use it for the media management side of IP Director for the Golf Channel and XDCAM playback to Orlando.”

There are also portacabins in use for overflow of RF and video shading and CTV’s RAT (Remote Antenna Towers) mobile unit is also onsite with two production areas for commentary.

MST Systems is on hand in a cabin for scoring graphics for Sky Sports and the world feed where teams make use of both ChyronHego and Vizrt graphics systems.

There are also a number of studios on site. NBC and the Golf Channel each have a studio along the 18th fairway (with the Golf Channel downstairs and NBC upstairs), a third NBC set for host Mike Tirico, a Sky UK studio along the 17th fairway (offering a shot of the famous Barry Burn in the background), a second Sky UK stage  The Open Zone ( at the practice range), a BBC set near the putting green and mix zone, and then a number of other commentary positions .

“Significantly the logistics have improved as well as you cannot underestimate what it takes to get all this kit, people, and facilities down a single-track road,” adds Francis. “We rearranged the way trucks are parked for loading and unloading and involved the operations team more. By taking things off the truck in an order where we aren’t moving flight cases around unnecessarily.

An Outside Source Central Apparatus Room (known as OSCAR) includes much of the technical equipment that supports the production area. This year graphics support was moved into the OSCAR area, a move that Francis says saves a lot of cable.

“We are always looking to reduce the amount of cable in the compound and one way is to also aggregate the data between the trucks,” says Francis. “We now have managed switches to fan out data to the outer lying trucks and we manage what is going on rather than dealing with hundreds of Cat 5 cables running to other locations. And we have also increased the amount of 10 Gbps connectivity to more places around the compound so that others are benefitting from the high-speed connectivity as much as possible.”

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