Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
3-D technology, landscape architecture combine for accurate ball breaks on U.S. Open greens

Acanthus Studio's Green Grid animations gives an accurate picture of how a ball would break on the 10th and 15th holes at the U.S. Open last week in New York. Click on a picture to watch an animation.

A unique blend of 3-D computer animation technology, thousands of still photographs, precise surveying measurements and 25 years of landscape architectural experience was responsible for the Green-Grid animations that made their debut during NBC Universal Sports’ coverage of the 2004 U.S. Open last week from the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York.

The animations, designed to give golf fans an accurate picture of how a ball breaks and comes to rest on a green, illustrated the point by simulating what it would look like if 200 balls were dropped on the green.

Accurate survey work is the foundation of Green-Grid animations. Landscape architect Brent Thrams said several different methods - from aerial photography to ground survey work – were used to develop the animations.

Thrams, a principal at Acanthus Studio in Sacramento, CA, which created the animations, began a process six years ago to put his company at the avant-garde of 3-D technology to depict landform terrain modeling.

While the animation method is proprietary, according to Thrams, it is similar to animation applications in use at Pixar and DreamWorks. Thrams and his team began work on the animations for the U.S. Open in April. Seven holes were selected for Green Grid animations. Thrams said the animations predicted that Hole 7 and Hole 10 would be most problematic for golfers, which ended up being the case.

“On the tenth hole, an approach shot to the green with too much backspin resulted in the ball rolling back to the golfer, and our animation shows that,” he said. “I think Johnny Miller referred to it as marching ants rolling down the hill into a collection area at the base of the fairway.”

Acanthus Studio creates Green Grid animations exclusively for NBC Universal Sports. Thrams said the same technology and landscape architecture knowledge could benefit other broadcasters covering sports, such as downhill skiing and mountain biking.

Watch a Green Grid animation or visit Acanthus Studio for more information.

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