NBC Sports Group, NEP Back in the U.S. Open Groove at Olympic

The U.S. Open returns to Olympic Club in San Francisco this week for the first time since 1998. Olympic, site of golf’s own version of the Heidi Bowl more than a half century ago, holds both glorious and haunting memories for NBC Sports. At the 1955 U.S. Open, NBC signed off early from its live coverage with Ben Hogan seemingly assured to win his fifth Open. That was until little-known Jack Fleck rallied to force a playoff and win the tournament — events that never made NBC’s air.

Nearly 60 years after golf’s most legendary television faux pas, NBC has more than learned its lesson and won’t miss a second of this year’s Open. In all, NBC and Golf Channel will deliver more than 60 hours of coverage from Olympic (not to mention the coverage NBC is producing for ESPN and the world feed), with much of the focus centering on the course itself.

“This course is stunningly beautiful,” says NBC golf producer Tommy Roy. “Compared to ’98, we now have far fewer trees, so there’s pretty incredible vistas where we can see the iconic city from the course. Our cameras are accordingly placed to show off all this beauty and also give the viewers at home a sense of what each one of these holes not only looks like but how they play for these golfers.”

One Big Family at the Compound
NBC has rolled out NEP ND3’s A, B, C, and D units to support its Open production this year, while Golf Channel’s operations are housed in NEP SS16 and ST10 scoring/graphics trailer. Also on hand at the compound are IMS HD2 (for extra camera support, EFX, and audio), NEP ESU truck, and CP Communications RF6 and RF8 units.

“This is certainly one of the top three or four biggest shows of the year for NEP in terms of the compound,” says NEP Tech Manager Ken Carpenter. “We’re all in one place, sharing everything. The connectivity of the Golf Channel is ramped up a little bit. We’re starting to interface back and forth with talent, and they’re using some [NBC] set locations for shows and vice versa. But it is very similar to last year in terms of [layout].”

NEP has also supplied four 600-kW generators to power the entire compound, with all on-site broadcasters located at the central compound for the second consecutive year.

Actioncam and Plenty More
A total of 55 cameras have been deployed throughout the course, including Actioncam, which is making its second U.S. Open appearance. The cable-suspended aerial camera system will track between the eighth green, the clubhouse, and the 18th green throughout the tournament. The three-axis system is powered by four motors, which allow the camera to fly on a straight line and to move up and down.

“Actioncam was rather interesting this year because we had to set the towers with a helicopter,” says Carpenter. “We’ve done it with forklifts in the past, but, with the location of the towers at Olympic, it was determined at a fairly late date that we would not be able to get the forklift over there. So we used a helicopter to get them in place.”

Alongside Actioncam, 54 other cameras are in use, including two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo ultra-high-speed cameras, four Sony super-slo-mos, two cue-ball cameras, a Steadicam, and a small army of wireless RF units. Golf Channel has deployed about 15 cameras for its Live From the U.S. Open and Morning Drive telecasts.

We have 2 Inertia and 4 Sony

2 Robo cams mounted on the player walk off bridge from 18 Green to Scoring

To tie all these cameras back to the central compound, NEP has laid nearly 200,000 ft. of TAC-12 fiber cable, meaning that there is currently more than 2 million ft. of single-strand fiber out on the course.

“This is not so much about fancy camera angles as it is the correct camera angles to show these holes,” says Roy. “We have got a couple reverse follows, like at the par-3 third, which is way up on the hill, so you can actually see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background on that shot up there. But the majority of our stuff is pretty standard — not high-tech cameras but just the regular hi-def cameras.”

NBC Sports Group at Olympic: From Tee to Green
“Golf Channel on NBC” will present 16 hours of live tournament coverage: 3-5 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday and 4-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For the first time, NBC will also carry an hour-long Live From the U.S. Open preview show (produced by Golf Channel) at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, NBC will present 1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major, a documentary by NBC Executive Producer and multiple Emmy Award-winner Ross Greenburg, at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Golf Channel has planned 45 hours of wraparound news coverage, including daily installments of Morning Drive and Live From the U.S. Open throughout the week. That is in addition to the network’s unprecedented live coverage of U.S. Open Qualifying from around the country on June 4.

With potential Cinderella stories in play along with Tiger Woods coming off a dramatic victory at the Memorial Tournament and paired with two of the most popular players in the game — Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson — on Thursday, Roy and company don’t need to look far for compelling storylines this week.

“The storylines for all of the qualifiers are front and center much more than they have been in the past, and that’s going to be a focus for us on Thursday and Friday as well,” says Roy. “With the history here at Olympic, it doesn’t get much better than this.”