NBC Sports Gives Players Championship the Major Treatment

The PGA’s Players championship has often been referred to as the “fifth major,” and NBC Sports plans to treat it accordingly. Veteran NBC Sports producer Tommy Roy says he will produce NBC’s Saturday-Sunday coverage from TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, FL, as he would any major.

“This is an extraordinarily unique golf course with a storied hole that really gives players fits,” says producer Tommy Roy. “We really enjoy ourselves covering [the Players], and an event like this is why you get into this business.”

It will be a quick turnaround for NEP’s ND-3 truck, which was used for NBC’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby last weekend and will be deployed at the Players. The unit, which is also NBC’s Sunday Night Football truck, is stocked with a Sony MVS8000A switcher, a Calrec Alpha audio console, and eight six-channel EVS live-slow-motion systems.

Roy will also have a total of 42 cameras and a blimp at his disposal. In addition, NBC Sports has laid down 1.26 million ft. of fiber cable and shipped out 203 staffers to TPC Sawgrass.

“I feel quite blessed to have the opportunity to televise this championship,” says Roy. “It is the most important event that’s actually run by the PGA tour. The other four majors are run by their respective golf organizations and by Augusta National.”

Surprises on the 17th
NBC will lend the royal treatment to the infamous 17th hole and its nightmarish island green. Roy plans to roll out eight Sony HDC1500 and HDC1000 cameras on the 17th, including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny front bunker. Also located at 17 will be a manned crane lifted 150 ft. high on the right of the 16th fairway, where the camera will have a clear view of 16, 17, and 18. In addition, a super-slo-mo camera will be placed on the island just right of the 17th green.

“We have pretty much the same camera setup that we’ve had in the past, but we are adding a couple new toys that I can’t talk about yet because I haven’t actually seen them in action,” says Roy. “But suffice to say that we’re going to have a couple new camera angles you haven’t seen before and I need to see them at work before I can hype them.”

Much of the interest surrounding the 132-yard par-3 centers on the notorious meltdowns that have taken place over the years courtesy of the daunting island green.

“It’s almost like a NASCAR-type setting where [viewers] are looking for that accident to happen,” says NBC commentator Gary Koch, who will be located in the tower at 17 all weekend. “They’re looking for these guys to plop a couple in [the water] and really struggle. It really is just fun to watch.”

Pinpoint 3D Graphics and Protracer
NBC will once again use its Pinpoint 3D graphics platform. Pinpoint uses real-time graphics to show 3D models of each hole as well as undulations of the greens.

“We’re very excited about the pinpoint animation, but we will not overuse it,” says Roy. “We’ll only use it on putts that have a significant amount of break or have to traverse significant undulations in the greens. There’s some pretty wacky putts out here, and it’s quite effective.”

Also on hand at the Players will be the Protracer system, which displays virtual graphics tracking the flight and trajectory of the ball. Protracer uses a combination of CMOS sensor and advanced software analysis to allow the viewer at home to see exactly how the ball flies.

“It tracks the ball as it leaves the tee and leaves a trail so you can see if they are trying to hit a right-to-left shot or left-to-right,” says Roy. “It’s extremely valuable.”

Super duper slo-mo
Roy’s greatest weapon this weekend may be the 7,000-frames-per-second super-slo-mo camera, which allows NBC Sports to capture every nuance of a player’s swing.

“It has brought a whole new look to the game of golf,” says Roy. “You just can’t see what is actually happening to the club and the ball with the naked eye at full speed. And even slowing it down with a regular replay at 30 frames per second, you just can’t see it. But when you take it up to 7,000 frames per second, some remarkable things are happening with that club and ball, especially when you get into trouble, and, on this golf course, there’s all kinds of trouble to get in.”

In addition to the super-slo-mo located at 17, another will be assigned to one pairing throughout their round at Sawgrass each day.

“It will follow a group early and then another group later on down the board,” says Roy. “It depends on the type of player. If it’s a marquee player, first of all, they will have one following them. If it’s a power hitter like Bubba Watson, where you can see the flex in the shaft, we will follow them. And then eventually, towards the end of each day’s telecast, it would join the leaders coming down the stretch.”