CTV Feeds the World the Ryder Cup

By Carolyn Braff

On the green at Kentucky’s Valhalla Golf Club, the Americans are facing off against the Europeans in their quest for the Ryder Cup. In the broadcast compound, the two sides must work together to ensure that the rest of the world can tune into the international action. European Tour Productions, under the watchful eye of CTV Outside Broadcasts, is combining NBC’s American coverage with 35 cameras of its own to create a unique world feed, distributed to 30 countries across the world, excluding North America. With upwards of one billion potential viewers, this compound production is no small operation.

“We are here providing pictures to the world, excluding America,” explains Barry Johnstone, managing director of CTV Outside Broadcasts. “Basically it’s a dual feed. We take all 60 cameras that NBC has, add them to 35 Sony HDC-1500 cameras of our own, and with some Sky cameras this gives us effectively 100 cameras to play with. We mix them all up, so our show looks completely different from the Americans’.”

All told, CTV is providing the world feed, European coverage for Sky, and a feed for the BBC, which offers a highlights package of the Ryder Cup.

To support the production, CTV is relying on the trucks formerly belonging to NMT, now NEP’s SS10 A, B, and C units. CTV OB’s had previously considered bringing its own production trucks from England, but that plan proved cost-prohibitive, so they chose to use units already on the left side of the pond. A guaranteed crew came along with the trucks, but CTV brought its own arsenal of personnel from England, to the tune of 100 technical crew and 35 additional production crew.

CTV’s 35 proprietary cameras include 6 RF and 29 cabled cameras, supported by six 6-channel EVSs and 5 HDCAM VTRs. The entire feed is captured in 1080i and passes through a Sony MVS8000A switcher.

“Everything is sourced in 1080i 59.94, but we have a 50 hz island, a 1080i 50 island in the middle where we do clean and dirty master recordings,” explains Hamish Greig, technical director for CTV Outside Broadcasts. “We have the ability to up-convert, down-convert, and frame convert, so all possible dubs are covered.”

Sorting through those 100 available camera feeds is a daunting task for CTV’s production team, and requires an experienced set of eyes to determine which angles are the best.

“The mixer has 80 inputs,” Greig explains. “From that, we’re using 35 of our own cameras. What we term the most important cameras from NBC and Sky are also direct off the mixer, plus obviously our own graphics. Then we have two sub-switched inputs for all the auxiliary feeds that we don’t want as direct feeds. We monitor everything, the production gallery can see everything, and everything’s available on the router.”

In addition to three channels of scoring are two channels of Vizrt graphics. CTV is also taking a feed from Sky that utilizes an Arri 300 PE hi-motion camera and three feeds from NBC’s 3300 super slo mo cameras, which CTV takes in and switches on its own EVS systems. CTV also has access to NBC’s Protracer feed and utilizes two sets of Pinpoint.

“Pinpoint is like a virtual course,” Greig explains, “so you can see exactly where the players are on the course in a virtual world. They’re set up in relation to how they have to play on the topography of the course.”

The tee and green cabled mics are enhanced with high-power on-course effects microphones, and sound is embedded as stereo mix commentary and stereo mix effects for transmission purposes.

“The 1080i 59.94 HD feed is downlinked back in Europe, cross-converted to 1080i 50, and retransmitted for HD European customers,” Greig says. “An SDI 65 version is also sent up for customers taking SDI.”

As daunting as this 100-camera operation may seem, being on foreign soil significantly lessens the pressure on the Europeans.

“It’s a simpler operation than when we host,” Greig says. “When we were hosting at the K Club two years ago, we had 55 cameras and at the same time took in a certain number of other feeds to feed the rest of the world. One of our strengths is we’ve been doing golf for so long that our engineering team is used to these big challenges.”

The Ryder Cup continues through Sunday, September 21.