2018 was one of the most eventful years for sports production in recent memory, with the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup capturing the nation’s attention over the summer and annual events like the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Super Bowl, NFL Draft, and others breaking production records and test-driving new technologies and workflows. As if there weren’t enough going on stateside, this year’s Road Warriors features an expanded look at what went on across the Atlantic. Here’s is Part 2 of SVG’s look at some of the sports-production highlights from the past year (CLICK HERE for Part 1).
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, NY
August 27–September 9
For ESPN, it simply doesn’t get bigger than US Open tennis. In the network’s fourth year as host broadcaster and sole domestic-rights holder — part of an 11-year rights deal — the technical and operations teams continued to evolve production workflows and add elements. Highlights this year included the debut of a Fletcher Tr-ACE/SimplyLive ViBox automated production system covering the nine outer courts and several new camera systems.
This truly is the largest event that ESPN produces out of the thousands of events that we do all year,” said ESPN Director, Remote Operations, Dennis Cleary, “and it’s all done in a 3½-week span.”
For the first time, ESPN covered all 16 courts at the US Open, thanks to a new automated production system deployed on the nine outer courts. Having debuted at Wimbledon in June, the Fletcher Tr-ACE motion-detecting robotic camera system was deployed on each court (with four robos per court) and relied on SimplyLive’s ViBox for switching and replay and an SMT automated graphics system. With this workflow, one robotic-camera operator and one ViBox director/producer covered each of the nine courts.
New this year was a two-point aerial CineLine system (provided by Picture Factory) running between Louis Armstrong Stadium and Court 10, a run of roughly 1,000 ft. After a successful debut at Wimbledon in June and the Australian Open in January, Telstra Broadcast Services’ NetCam made its US Open debut. The Globecam HD 1080i/50 POV miniature robotic camera was deployed on each side of the net for singles matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Armstrong, and the Grandstand, providing viewers with a close-up look at the action on the court. In addition, both Intel’s Tru View 360-degree camera system and the SpiderCam four-point aerial system returned to Ashe.
The US Open production compound was almost unrecognizable from five years ago, prior to ESPN’s taking over as host broadcaster. What had been a caravan of production trucks became two permanent structures housing ESPN’s NTC broadcast center and production/operations offices, along with two ultra-organized stacks of temporary work pods housing the TOC, vendors, international broadcasters, and ESPN’s automated production operation for the outer courts. NEP’s NCP8 was on hand for ESPN’s ITV operation (serving AT&T/DirecTV’s US Open Mix Channel), and NEP’s Chromium and Nickel were home to the USTA’s world-feed production. — JD
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills, NY
The 2018 U.S. Open from Shinnecock Hills Golf Club gave the Fox Sports team challenges in production planning that led to innovations, the opportunity to refresh old workflows and core infrastructure, and a chance to chart some new directions for golf coverage.
Game Creek Video’s Encore production unit was at the center of the coverage for Fox and FS1, with Game Creek Pride handling RF-video control and submix and providing a backup emergency control room. Pride’s B unit handled production control for one of the featured groups, Edit 4 supported all iso audio mixes, and Edit 2 was home to five edit bays with equipment and support provided by Creative Mobile Solutions Inc. (CMSI). There was also the 4K HDR show, which was produced out of Game Creek Maverick.
“All the Sony HDC-4300 cameras on the 7th through 18th greens are 4K HDR-native with a secondary output at 720p SDR,” noted Brad Cheney, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports, during the tournament. There were also six Sony PXW- Z450’s for the featured holes and featured groups, the output of two of them delivered via 5G wireless.
In terms of numbers, Fox Sports had 474 technicians onsite, making use of 38 miles of 24-strand fiber-optic cable to produce the event captured by 106 cameras (including 21 wireless 1080p, 21 4K HDR units, six 4K HDR wireless units, three Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras shooting at 8,000 fps, a Sony HDC-4800 at 960 fps, and three Sony HDC-4300’s at 360 fps), and 218 microphones. Tons of data was passed around: 3 Gbps of internet data was managed, along with 83 Gbps of broadcast data, 144 TB of real-time storage, and 512 TB of nearline storage.
Each course provides its unique challenges. At Shinnecock Hills, they included the roads running through the course, not to mention the hilly terrain, which also had plenty of deep fescue. But, from a production standpoint, the biggest issue was the small space available for the compound.
One big step taken in preparation for the 2018 events was that the IP router in Encore was rebuilt from scratch. RF wireless coverage was provided by CP Communications. There were 26 wireless cameras on the course, along with 18 wireless parabolic mics and nine wireless mics for on-course talent. CP Communications also provided all the fiber on the course. — KK
MLB ALL-STAR GAME
Nationals Park, Washington, DC
With its biggest summer drawing to a close with the MLB All-Star Game, Fox certainly showed no sign of fatigue technologically. Not only did the network roll out a SkyCam system for actual game coverage for the first time in MLB history, but Fox also deployed its largest high-speed–camera complement (including all 12 primary game cameras), two C360 360-degree camera systems, and ActionStreamer POV-style HelmetCams on the bullpen catcher, first-base coach, and Minnesota Twins pitcher José Berríos.
People always used to say Fox owned the fall with NFL and MLB Postseason, but, this year, we owned May through July, too, with the U.S. Open, World Cup, and now All-Star,” said Brad Cheney, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports. “The capabilities of our [operations] team here are just unsurpassed. For big events, we used to throw everything we had at it, and it was all hands on deck. That’s still the case, but now, when we have big events, everybody’s [scattered] across the globe. Yet we’re still figuring out ways to raise the bar with every show.”
Between game coverage and studio shows, Fox Sports deployed a total of 36 cameras (up from 33 in 2017) at Nationals Park, highlighted by its largest high-speed–camera complement yet for an All-Star Game. Building on the efforts of Fox-owned RSN YES Network, all 12 of Fox’s Sony HDC-4300 primary game cameras were licensed for high-speed: six at 6X slo-mo, six at 2X slo-mo. This was made possible by the ultra-robust infrastructure of Game Creek Video’s Encore mobile unit.
Fox also had two Phantom cameras running at roughly 2,000 fps (at low first and low third) provided by Inertia Unlimited and a pair of Sony P43 6X-slo-mo robos at low-home left and low-home right provided by Fletcher. Fletcher provided nine robos in all — including low-home Pan Bar robo systems that debuted at the 2017 World Series — and Inertia Unlimited provided a Marshall POV in both teams’ bullpen and batting cage.
CP Communications supplied a pair of wireless RF cameras: a Sony P1r mounted on a MōVI three-axis gimbal and a Sony HDC-2500 handheld. An aerial camera provided by AVS was used for beauty shots — no easy task in security-conscious Washington.
Inside the compound, a reshuffling of USGA golf events allowed Game Creek Video’s Encore mobile unit (A, B, and C units), home to Fox’s U.S. Open and NFL A-game productions, to make its first All-Star appearance.
The primary control room inside the Encore B unit handled the game production, and a second production area was created in the B unit to serve the onsite studio shows. — JD
The Open Championship
Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus, UK
Sky Sports used its Open Zone in new ways to get closer to both players and the public in its role as the UK live broadcaster from Carnoustie. On Thursday and Friday, Sky Sports The Open channel was on the air from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Featured Group coverage of the 147th Championships was available each day via the red button and on the Sky Sports website. Viewers could also track players’ progress in Featured Hole coverage on the red button, with cameras focusing on the 8th, 9th, and 10th holes. Sky Sports had a team of 186 people onsite in Carnoustie for The Open, which included Sky production and technical staff and the team from OB provider Telegenic. — Fergal Ringrose
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon, UK
At 11:30 a.m. on Monday, July 2, coverage of the Wimbledon Championships went live from the AELTC, produced for the first time by a new host broadcaster. After more than 80 years under the BBC’s expert guidance, the host baton was passed to Wimbledon Broadcast Services (WBS), bringing production of the Championships in-house. Going live on that Monday was the culmination of two years of planning, preparation, and testing: a process that has allowed the AELTC to “take control” of the event coverage and provide international rightsholders with a better service as well as add some new twists, such as Ultra High Definition (UHD), a NetCam on both Centre Court and No.1 Court, and multicamera coverage of all 18 courts. — Will Strauss
Stade Roland-Garros, Paris
May 27–June 10
Tennis Channel was once again on hand in a big way at the French Open. The expanded coverage this year meant more than 300 hours of televised coverage for fans in the U.S. as well as 700 hours of court coverage via Tennis Channel Plus. The Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) increased overall court coverage this year, and Tennis Channel made sure all of that additional coverage made it to viewers. Tennis Channel had approximately 175 crew members onsite, working across the grounds as well as in a main production-control room, an asset-management area, six announce booths, and a main set on Place des Mousquetaires. The production facilities were provided by VER for the fifth year. Centurylink provided fiber transport to the U.S. via 10-Gbps circuits. — KK