Live from the U.S. Open: ESPN Interactive Team Finds New Home in Game Creek’s Pride and Glory

Inside Game Creek's Pride production truck, where ESPN's interactive team is creating three channels of programming.

Inside Game Creek’s Pride production truck, where ESPN’s interactive team is creating three channels of programming.

Every year the importance of interactive and personalized TV services, whether delivered via satellite and cable operators or on the Web via over-the-top devices, continues to become more important. For nine years now, ESPN’s team at the U.S. Open has served the demands of those viewers and also seen not only how viewers are increasingly taking advantage of it but how the comfort level of rights holders has allowed it to expand.

ESPN Creative Services Group’s Don Colantonio, senior director, production enhancements and interactive TV, says that viewer engagement with the interactive services via DirecTV continue to grow. And for those without DirecTV, the ESPN3 service — available through a wide variety of cable operators as well as the Xbox video game system — provides another outlet.

“Our challenge is coming up with applications that make it a unique experience and something people want to watch so they can go deeper,” he adds of a project that began nine years ago creating highlights for Verizon’s Vcast mobile video service. Since then, it has evolved from highlights to live shows at the driving range to today’s live coverage in HD. Look for it during the final two days of the tournament from noon to 7 pm on both days.

This year the production team has had to get used to some new digs: Game Creek Video’s Pride and Glory units. ESPN’s interactive production work can be seen on DirecTV’s interactive channel, ESPN3, and the USGA Website and includes two featured groups as well as coverage of the 11th and 18th holes. The use of Pride and Glory gives the team expanded physical space as they cut shows that tap into the EVS network and its wealth of camera feeds and also integrate two unilateral RF cameras covering each the featured groups and additional hard cameras on holes 11 and 18. Two Vizrt graphics engines and a scorebug system also play major parts in productions and new this year is the use of Pinpoint shot tracking.

Historically, commentary has been done from a set somewhere on the course but the grounds at Merion are about half the size of the usual course that hosts a U.S. Open. As a result, a really suitable location was not available (look for a stage set to make a return for the British Open next month in Muirfield, Scotland) and the commentary teams are working out of three announce booths in a production trailer next to the production units.

ESPN’s Trey Wingo is hosting the 11th and 18th hole coverage, with analysis from veteran PGA TOUR player David Duval. ESPN golf announcers Curtis Strange and Bill Kratzert also are joining the coverage at various times, as is SportsCenter anchor John Anderson. Jim Kelly is hosting the featured group coverage with former major winner Tom Weiskopf as analyst and on-course reporter Mark Donaldson.