Live from the U.S. Open: Inside Look at Actioncam

Day two of the U.S. Open golf championship, held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD, was highlighted by the continued strong play of Irishman Rory McIlroy that had many in the crowd thinking back to the beginning of the Tiger Woods era. And day two also saw the continued dominance of the Actioncam aerial camera system as a new means of changing the way golf is broadcast.

P.J. Bennett, president and founder of Actioncam, spent a few minutes discussing the system and how it came to be used at this year’s U.S. Open exclusively by NBC Sports.

P.J. Bennett, president and founder of Actioncam

The Actioncam system is already used by NBC Sports for Notre Dame football and the question posed by the network was weather or not Actioncam could take a four-point aerial camera system and make it fly similarly to a two-point system. In a four-point system each “point” is a separate rigging tower and the camera can then fly within the area that exists between those four points via cables and lines controlled by motors and, typically, a joystick controller. A two-point system limits the amount of side-to-side movement but allows the camera to fly from point A to point B and also raise and lower over the landscape. The advantage is a smaller system with less gear and less cabling, important elements in ensuring the system does not interfere with golfers.

Actioncam is flying between the 10th and 18th holes at the U.S. Open this weekend.

Bennett says Actioncam set up a demo at the Patriot Golf Course in Tulsa, OK, to show NBC that a two-point system would work on a run of up to 1,000 feet.

“There was a huge ravine on one of the holes and we had the camera go down into the ravine and also get shots over the green,” says Bennett.

NBC was sold and for this weekend the system is getting dramatic shots on the par-three 10th hole and the closing 18th hole. Both greens have water has a major element in front of and behind the hole, allowing the Actioncam to get shots that would otherwise be impossible.

“It gets shows you can’t get from a camera crane and you can cover big areas and multiple holes,” says Bennett. The control system is located in a booth on the 10th hole, a few tee boxes in front of the actual tee location. The operator controls the Sony P1 cameras.

The use of a P1 system allows the rig to be smaller and lighter than other competing rigs. Also an important factor in lessening the footprint? Actioncam is fully wireless, allowing the camera head, focus, zoom, and even painting to be controlled without the need for additional cables.

A Sony P1 camera allows the Actioncam to weigh less and be less obtrusive during a golf broadcast.

“We’re getting the camera heads smaller and lighter and we continue to nail down wireless operations,” says Bennett.

Bennett says he would love to rig a system that could fly out over the green. But for now USGA guidelines remain conservative.

“We’re working with the USGA on when the camera can and can’t fly and we can’t move near the tee box when a player is teeing off or near the green when we are in the line of sight of a golfer,” says Bennett. “There is a USGA official who has their finger on a button and when it is being pressed the director knows Actioncam is being held.”