British Open coverage features first “Segwaycam”

By Ken Kerschbaumer
This weekend s coverage of the British Open from Royal Liverpool in Liverpool, England, will feature a broadcast first: use of the Segway Human Transporter as a camera mount.

Everybody is fascinated by it, says Joe French, technical manager for UK outside broadcast vehicle provider Visions which is working with Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi. It can move quite fast and the operator can control the camera by shifting their way. I can see it as being useful for all sorts of events, like a marathon where the cameraperson needs to move fast.

BBC Resources Engineering Manager Peter Wright is in charge of the BBC s host broadcast operations and says the idea came out of a meeting with BBC cameramen. And not only the broadcasters are intrigued. It s managed to turn the heads of players like Vijay Singh as it follows them down the fairway.

It s easier for the cameraman to get around and they can use the Steadicam system a lot longer, says Wright.

The Segcam is one of 62 standard definition cameras that will grab widescreen images for the host broadcast feed that is sent out to broadcast partners like Turner Sports, ABC Sports, and TV Asaki. Wright says 48 of the Sony cameras are hooked up via fiber while six use RF. Miniature cameras are also located behind the par 3 holes and a single camera is provided in the press center for clubhouse interviews.

The four TV partners share that camera so there isn t a mad rush to get interviews, says Wright. The floor manager co-ordinates one-minute interviews that give each network some sound bites.

The biggest challenge for everyone is simply that the last time the British Open was held in Liverpool was during the hey-day of Beatlemania in 1967. It was a 12 camera, monochrome production and one that no one currently working on the broadcast was involved with first hand.

Experience with a venue always helps, especially when it comes to solving tricky problems like the location of the broadcast compound in relation to the course and practice area. For example, the course is surrounded by houses on two sides and the sea on a third, making it hard to expand the size of the broadcast compound. Additionally, the practice range is on the other side of a railway track, making it difficult to get cameras and cabling in position.
We have a mini RF receive point at the practice range and then fiber back the signals, says Wright.

Over the years the British Open has been known for camera positions located high above the course on camera towers and this year is no exception. Eight camera cranes and 30 camera towers will be on hand, some up to 72 meters high. A tethered blimp will also fly over the course at 200 meters in height.

And while the BBC recently began dabbling in HD there won t be any HD at this year s Open. The trouble is technology hasn t come up with a suitable RF HD camera system, says Wright. A lot of coverage relies on six or seven RF cameras.

The two Vision trucks on hand for the TV Asahi coverage are the HD2 unit, which houses the control room, and the DTR tape truck. French says a Grass Valley Kalypso will handle switching duty while an MST graphics system lays Japanese-language graphics into the production.

We take the clean BBC feed and most of their camera sources that are around the tees, fairways and greens, says French. Additional Grass Valley LDK Series cameras are being used to supplement the coverage along with a few Sony RF cameras and a six-channel EVS system.