CTV OB plays perfect host for HD Ryder Cup

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Europe continues to blaze its way into HD broadcasting with London-based CTV Outside Broadcasts stepping front and center this weekend with an all-HD broadcaster of the 2006 Ryder Cup from The K Club in County Kildare, Ireland.

“From an engineering point of view the system works,” says Hammish Greig, CTV Outside Broadcast technical director who oversaw the massive technology buildup. “We have confidence in the system because as a company we have the top people working on it.”

Greig says a mix of SD and HD was considered but not for long. “When we did a comparison of HD and upconverted SD there was no comparison,” he says. “We were the first to go on-air with full HD for Sky during beta tests of football matches and once you’ve seen HD you can’t go back.”

The final days of preparation leading up to the Ryder Cup weren’t the easiest as the tail end of Hurricane Gordon brought gale-force winds and heavy rains to the area. “The ground is waterlogged and green for a very good reason,” quips Greig. “The broadcast compound is 600 meters away from the course which makes it difficult and then there are a lot of big heavy trees and rivers. So we had to be careful about how we ran the fiber across the course as it also has a road running through it, grandstands at every green and hospitality tents everywhere.”

Not that the rain is dampening Greig’s spirit. The broadcast from The K Club will be entirely in HD thanks to five production trucks and more than 52 Sony HDC-1500 cameras and nine Link Systems wireless HD systems. CTV began testing HD for golf in June with a test broadcast from Celtic Manor Wales Open and in July from the Smurfit European Open, also at The K Club. They quickly learned some valuable lessons that will pay dividends this weekend.

“When we tested two cameras [at the Smurfit European Open] one of the cameras hooked up via fiber failed so we really don’t feel comfortable trusting fiber [for camera runs],” he says. In fact, that’s one of the reasons the Sony cameras were selected.

“Sony cameras have triax capability and we need the durability of triax to withstand the hardships of water, heat and 40,000 people trampling on it,” says Greig. CTV is also using a hub system, with the majority of camera feeds running 1,200 meters to a hub that, in turn, sends signals to the compound.

The main production vehicle is OB9, a truck that measures 16.5 meters and is a triple-expando unit. It has four distinct areas. The main production area has a Grass Valley Kalypso production switcher with an on-board transform engine, Calrec Alpha digital console, and Fast Forward Video upconverted recorders. It also has 112 monitors and Vutrix displays with a quad split in the back row for building highlights.

The second area is for scoring and VTR operation while a third area handles shading and a fourth has a 512×512 Probel Sirius router.

“We also have our OB1 truck, which is our standard golf truck, serving as the main sub-mix area,” says Greig. “It has two iso-shot directors and four EVS operators and a monitor wall with 104 monitors. There’s also a sub-mix audio console that follows the main EVS unit.

MVT1, which is the normal scoring truck, is being used for graphics with Vizrt and Quantel Paintbox systems and also the official film recording. A Soundcraft B800 submixer brings in field effects from 6 holes in stereo and 12 holes in mono. Sennheiser 416 and 816 shotgun mics capture the sounds of competition.

“Lastly, we have an RF truck with two receive sites that are linked by fiber and diversity receivers,” says Greig. As the host CTV is handling up to 96 sources and distributing them in HD, SDI, and PAL analog. Then there are the audio demands, calling for analog stereo and mono signal distribution. Five Telecast Fiber Python systems are in use and there is even a 20-camera rig on the 18th fairway that looks after 20 cameras located in six positions, sending cues, tallies, etc.

As always with golf the EVS units will play a crucial role. Every shot on the course will be recorded and available for playback and turn around in the main OB9 unit. “Part of the thing with golf is having people who are working the event that know the sport and the personalities,” says Greig.

More important, however, are clients who want to go HD. “Sky has two HD sports channels and I wouldn’t be surprised if the eight major events shown all over Europe go HD,” adds Greig.

For now, however, all eyes are on The K Club.