More Golf Coverage 'Tricks of the Trade'

April 1, 2011

LOS ANGELES—The "wow factor" is particularly suitable to coverage of golf, a sport that offers instruction as well as entertainment, according to Lance Barrow, Coordinating Producer for CBS Sports, who oversees golf coverage.

"People can go out and try it—it's not like [watching NFL quarterback] Tom Brady throw a pass or [MLB Albert Pujols] hitting a home run," said Barrow.

As such, he favors views captured by handheld mini camcorders and high-speed cameras.


This slo-mo video clip from CBS’s Swingvision shows a golf swing shot at 1500 fps.
CBS' signature "Konica Minolta bizhub SwingVision" high speed coverage is facilitated by Salem, Mass.-based Tech Imaging Services, custom engineers. This year's equipment is completely redesigned.

For starters, it utilizes Vision Research Phantom's v640 high speed camera, which captures the action at about 6,000 frames per second versus the 1,000 fps provided last year by its predecessor, the Phantom v10. It's also twice as light sensitive, said TIS consultant Justin Hall.

But, said Hall, the handiest upgrades for camera ops may be the equipment's ability to record and play back at the same time, and the crew's ability to control playback, iris and video paint controls from a truck (versus at the camera). Due to the first, the camera operator no longer has to wait until footage is played back to go on to the next shot. And, thanks to the second feature, the untethered camera op is freer to move around for the best angles.

"Before I could only do one shot on a fairway or tee," said camera operator Rudy Niedermeyer. In addition, he said, better and more flexible iris control optimizes the focus and depth of field.

This slo-mo video clip from CBS’s Swingvision shows a golf swing shot at 5800 fps, offering 5 times as much information as the video shot at 1500 fps. This makes fast action images appear crisper than ever before.
TIS' Hall said the next model—a customized Phantom v641 due to debut at the Masters—will feature on board control (versus the remote control unit that hooks up via cable): a nice touch that will also cut the size and weight of the camera.


This year CBS has also secured more RF access for its gold coverage. "In certain cities—L.A., Washington, New York—it was always a challenge getting enough frequencies to have eight cameras on the course," said CBS Sports engineer Steve Gorsuch. This forced the network to rely on affiliates' microwave frequencies, which were sometimes reassigned to a car chase or other unscheduled event.

Vision Research’s Phantom v640 high speed camera has been upgraded to capture action at about 6,000 frames per second.
That's not a problem anymore, thanks to a solution provided by BSI (Broadcast Sports Inc.).

"All the frequencies we now use are STA [Special Temporary Authority] authorized frequencies from AFTRCC [Aerospace and Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council]. Some are in the 2.3 gigahertz range, some 1.4 GHz," said BSI engineer Earl Freeman. "We don't have to worry about interference with these frequencies because the AFTRCC doesn't allow interference."

BSI acquired the relatively easier-to-get 2.3 GHz equipment, and contracted or built the 1.4 GHz gear in house. It has an exclusive deal with Link Research for L1400 microwave camera transmitters, designed the BSI 1500 wireless mics, and used off-the-shelf Sennheiser receivers at the Northern Trust Open.

CBS Sports is also compiling, cataloguing and digitizing features and clips into a Harris Invenio-driven digital archive management system. It is expected to greatly boost efficiency and cut expense throughout sports production; special benefit will accrue to golf coverage, which now relies on a sizable library haul.

"[The tapes are] on skids of boxes that they move from place to place," said Bruce Goldfeder, Director of Engineering, in describing the logistics of having access to footage of the one player among many who might have a hot streak . "I want to reduce what's traveling on the remote—I'm trying to get them to leave as much as possible back in New York."

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