Live from the US Open: Director Steve Beim provides a busy weekend of golf storytelling
Day 2 of the US Open is under way, and the front bench in Game Creek’s Encore production is set up to be a very, very busy place, especially given the weather delay on Day 1 which put extra pressure on the USGA to get through the tournament on time so that the fourth round can be played in two balls on Sunday as scheduled. Fox Sports USGA Director Steve Beim spent a few minutes chatting with Sports Video Group during a break in the action.
From your perspective, what are some of the new tools that will make a difference this year?
It’s more that we are using similar tools to last year and we learned what works and how we can use those tools better. A good example of that is the ProTracer, which we have on every tee. Last year, we also had ProTracer on three Towercams, the periscoping cameras that would roll out into the fairway. The camera angle sometimes would not be ideal, but, once [the cameras] were in that position, they would have to be locked in it until the group finished.
But, this year, we’re able to take that technology and put it on an RF handheld. We have three of them, and they can go to any fairway, any second shot and third shot; it’s not on a cable. So that advance and new flexibility is great.
Also, the Hawk-Eye technology just had green shading last year, and, this year it has motion and animated balls rolling in the direction of the slope. So, more than the new tools, it’s the improvements and enhancements to last year’s tools and pushing forward with them.
How is Oakmont different from Chambers Bay, site of last year’s US Open?
Without a doubt, it’s easier because there are people at home that know the course. They may not know it like they know Augusta or Pebble Beach, but they do know the course and certain holes. There’s the third hole with the church pews and the green that is on top of a hill with a crowned green front and back. Viewers also know the drivable par-four 17th hole and also the eighth, which is the longest par-three in the USGA rotation. So it helps us that the viewers have a little knowledge of the course.
But, in addition to that, this place is special because it can be US Open-ready in three weeks. The members here like the course hard; on other courses, the USGA starts planning two years in advance to tighten fairways. But there is so little they have to do with respect to getting this course ready for a US Open.
So the long answer to your question is, we are fortunate to be here, and the course is perfect. Even with the rain, it’s great to have the opportunity to do a US Open here.
But the pressure is still on us to deliver because this is a US Open course and we have to make sure the public can see that.
The course is in much better shape than Chambers Bay, which suffered from some extreme weather. Do you think that will help with viewer’s perceptions of the production?
Yes, but think about the year before last year, at Pinehurst, [where] they watered only the fairways and everything else was brown. Everyone said how ugly it was, but it played well. And I think Chambers Bay would have played well if it didn’t get caught with three weeks of 80-degree temperatures; it got caught in a tough situation.
So did the course conditions hurt us last year? Yes, but I don’t want to make excuses. We have to deliver, whether it’s at Chambers Bay, Oakmont, or Erin Hills in 2017 or Shinnecock in 2018.
There are obviously changes from last year technologically, but how has the production philosophy changed?
“[Fox Sports USGA Studio and Event Production Coordinating Producer] Mark Loomis and I went back and watched the entire Open, and we found things we liked and didn’t like.
For example, we really liked the ProTracer, and people at home love it as well. But, if you sit on that shot too long, you have to stay wide. When we were in the truck, it felt like we wanted to be on that shot long enough to give the viewer a feel for the hole and what the golfer is looking at. And that is one of our philosophies: don’t always look at the hole from the green; look at it from the golfer’s point of view. And that’s what that camera gives us.
But, when we went back and watched it, we felt like the shots weren’t dynamic enough and weren’t truly giving the viewer the experience of the golf course. So now we want to get to the ProTracer right before the golfer swings. First, show the hole, the emotion, the golfer talking to the caddy. But, instead of looking at it from behind, have a camera in front, get in their eyes. And then get to the ProTracer shot.
The other thing is, we don’t think we used the blimp enough. We used it to establish the beauty of the course and Puget Sound and the mountains and volcanoes, but we are going to be a little more aggressive with the blimp. We [had our hands tied] a little bit with the weather yesterday, but it’s up now, and we’re hoping it’s going to stay up for the rest of the weekend.
What was the ripple effect of the weather, and how does it play out for the rest of the weekend?
Well, you can’t control it, and I’ve been on productions where people get upset or get stressed out. But I don’t think there’s going to be a ripple effect. The fact is, we’re going to have a very long Friday and a very long Saturday, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they can catch up and they can be playing twosomes on Sunday. That’s the goal of the USGA and all of us: get on track for Sunday. Fortunately, we have enough relief cameramen and production personnel in the truck. We planned for long days.
It looks like you will have the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and a lot of other top golfers playing first thing tomorrow morning. For golf fans, it will be a full slate of great players all day long.
Absolutely. It’s funny to think our leader came out this morning and all he had was a 10-ft. putt to finish his first round, so all he came out with was a putter. He made the putt, walked into the press room. If he’s lucky, he will go back out today. If not, we’ll have the leader going out in the morning. So, from that standpoint, it will be great.
You mentioned how things like the weather can cause stress, but a golf production is a stressful event. How do you keep the team in the truck fresh, focused, and relaxed?
Fortunately, there are now 30,000 fans on the course and the best golfers in the world on the course, and they are all spread out. So that keeps people focused.
As far as keeping people relaxed, you just have to remind everyone that it’s a long day, stay calm, and enjoy the event. If you can, remind people that we are so privileged to do what we do and to be sitting behind 150 monitors looking at everything that is going on. We’re just so lucky to be here. So enjoy it and take it in. Don’t let it go by and then next week not be able to remember the event. Take it in, take a breath. Stop and see what everyone is doing because everyone has worked so hard within their power to get everything right. Mark and I try and stress that: we’re lucky to be here, and it’s a privilege to have this opportunity.