CBS Sports PGA Coverage Sees Debut of BSI Ground-Based RF System

CBS Sports coverage of the 2014 PGA season is under way with the network’s West Coast swing, and this season promises to be a good one when it comes to technical innovation. Topping the list is a new ground-based wireless RF system from Broadcast Sports Inc. (BSI), wind meters, and a trial of POV cameras at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, when on-course reporter David Feherty will wear a Refcam to offer viewers a unique view for on-course interviews with pros and celebrities.

“We won’t need pointers, which will reduce the clutter [of people] on the golf course, and also the cameramen are untethered, so they can go anywhere and get to places more quickly and also to places they were unable to go to before,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, operations, engineering and production services, CBS Sports.

The new BSI 53-foot trailer will handle RF for CBS Sports.

The new BSI 53-ft. trailer will handle RF for CBS Sports.

This weekend’s action is taking place at the Farmers Insurance Open, held at Torrey Pines near San Diego, and CBS, NEP, and BSI worked hard to make sure the new ground-based antenna system was up and running. A new 53-ft. production unit from BSI dedicated to CBS golf coverage needed to be connected to NEP SS10’s A, B, and C unit, which also will be dedicated to CBS Sports golf coverage.

At the center of the unit is a Sony MVS-8000a production switcher, a Calrec Alpha audio console, Sony cameras, and EVS XT2 servers.

NEP SS10 is at the center of CBS Sports PGA coverage.

NEP SS10 is at the center of CBS Sports PGA coverage.

“For NEP, things are pretty much status quo for this season, but this is the first tournament where BSI has gone with ground-based transmission, and they have a new 53-ft. trailer,” says Bill Niehoff, engineering manager, NEP U.S. Mobile Units. “So we had to be ready for the new trailer, and we helped design new camera covers and also new plates that sit between the Sony camera quick-release plate and the tripod because the new systems make the cameras heavier.”

BSI founder/GM Peter Larsson says the new ground-based system makes financial sense, given the need to, on average, rent 1.8 200-ft. cranes per tournament. It also makes production sense: There will no longer be ugly cranes dotting the course, and, more important, camera operators will have more creative freedom to get better shots.

For example, with camera cranes, each operator needs a crew member dedicated to pointer duties, directing the transmitter towards the receive antenna on the crane. But the new system allows the signal to be transmitted to multiple receivers, which send it back to the new BSI trailer. Inside that trailer, a UHF switcher pulls in the signals and hands them over to a computer that passes the signals through a receiver, analyzes the signals, and selects which transmitter has the best-quality signal since the receiver closest to the transmitter may not be the best because of obstruction like a tree or stands.

Peter Larsson, BSI founder and GM

Peter Larsson, BSI founder and GM

“The cameraman has the choice to be totally ENG-style and go up to get a shot without anyone else being with him,” adds Larsson. “We did a cool test shot where we put a cup on a table and the cameraman could walk around the cup and get shots without a cable or pointer getting in the shot.”

The number of receive sites vary depending on the terrain; courses with valleys will need more receive sites. This week, BSI has deployed 18 receive sites across the course.

“I give credit to CBS for being forward-thinking and trying new technologies,” says Larsson, “and also to our crew who put in time during the holidays to make this possible.”

Niehoff says the season’s schedule doesn’t promise any big surprises. One exception may be the Accenture Match Play Championship from Marana, AZ, during the weekend of Feb. 22.

“The CBS golf tour is pretty much a dialed-in traveling circus so everything is second nature,” he says. “But, for the Accenture, we will need to figure out how to run the fiber there.”

Aagaard says another challenge of match play is that the format is so different, with players eliminated throughout the tourney, that all of the coverage is different. But that won’t stop the innovation. CBS will experiment with using a Grass Valley Dyno replay system to retrieve footage.

“We’re breaking out a ton of toys and testing during the whole West Coast swing,” he adds. “At the Phoenix Open, we will break out the Evertz Dreamcatcher and Mosaic and test that, as well as new high-speed cameras and 4K high-speed cameras.”

And this year’s innovation lays the groundwork for next season, when NEP will roll out a new truck for CBS that will be operational in summer 2015 and will be at the center of the 2016 Super Bowl broadcast.