Doppler Radar to track shot trajectory at British Open for ESPN on ABC’s coverage

By Ken Kerschbaumer

This year will mark the 46th anniversary of ABC Sports (or ESPN on ABC as it’s now known) coverage of the British Open and it’s come along way since that first telecast that was nothing more than a highlight package. Today ABC will find itself once again in the mix of a broadcast compound at Carnoustie Golf Links that Bob Toms, ESPN vice president, remote production, says is a “mini-city.”

ABC will complement the BBC host production (which has 52 cameras) with more than 20 of its own, making the broadcast arguably the single largest in terms of the sheer number of cameras. All will be operated in widescreen standard-definition mode.

“We’ll be taking feeds and supplementing with our own and it takes some coordination because you don’t want eight cameras following Tiger,” says Chris Ohlmeyer, ESPN producer. “The coordination effort is different from other golf tournaments.”

ESPN has tapped IMG’s TWI to handle production details including obtaining outside broadcast vehicles from CTV OB. “TWI will handle the below-the-line package,” adds Ohlmeyer. ABC is using OB4 plus MVT1 and two Avid suites while the ABC Late Night unit will be OB 6 with online edit, two EVS systems, and a Deko graphics unit.

While HD won’t be making an on-screen appearance that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of innovation. The Segway camera will once again make an appearance but the real innovation is TrackMan, a Doppler-based radar system that will track the flight of the ball on the 6th hole and the par-three 16th hole.

TrackMan uses Doppler radar to transmit radio signals and track changes in frequency caused by the ball so it can track velocity and location. By using multiple receivers the system measures the exact three-dimensional club movement and ball flight, and provides precise data on the ball launch, ball flight and ball landing (TrackMan is used for R&D and testing by all major golf equipment manufacturers in the U.S. and in Japan).

“It uses a number of receive sites around the teebox to take in the Doppler data and feed it back to our Golf Trak computer where a dotted line will show how the ball flew,” says Ohlmeyer. “We’ll be able to show any view we want as the operator is essentially playing a videogame. We can spin around the side to see how high it went or behind to see the trajectory.”

Golf Trak, created by New Zealand-based Animation Research, Ltd.’s Virtual Eye sports division, uses the latest aerial photogrammetry to build 3D real-time virtual animation of every hole at Carnoustie Golf Links. Along with animations it also displays the slope of the greens and on the 17th and 18th hole to show where every tee shot lands. “We’ll have color coded balls that will show which drives led to birdies, pars, bogies and whether chances improved on the left or right side,” adds Ohlmeyer. “We’ll also be able to show the slope on the greens.”