Irish Greens Come Into Focus


(click thumbnail)A satellite antenna from Advent Communications provided the uplink for the U.S. feed at the Ryder Cup.Covering a major golf tournament in Ireland is challenging in itself, given the unpredictable weather (rain, gale force winds), combination of vast terrain and limited access, and crowds of trampling fans. Going the distance with HD coverage is that much more of a challenge, but one that was taken up to cover this year's Ryder Cup at the K Club in County Kildare on Sept. 22-24.

"It was a question a year ago whether we could even do it in hi def--the tools weren't there," said Hamish Greig, technical director for CTV Outside Broadcast, the production company that provided coverage for Sky Sports and host feeds to the rest of the world.

Then, all of a sudden, this spring there was access to the requisite "fiber interfaces, numbers of Sony HD cameras, [and vast] amount of fiber cable," he said.

In addition, said Greig, there was "a great feat in code writing" by RF provider Link Research Ltd. Its processing and decoding of the ASI stream limited delay to 1-1.5 frames, he said.

Still, Greig admitted there were still equipment constraints, as the Ryder Cup took place "in the middle of high sports season," competing with soccer and cricket. CTV acquired 52 Sony HDC 1500s (including nine converted for remote coverage); Sky booked another eight HDC1500s for studio production, and Irish broadcaster RTE another six, said Greig.

There was also the challenge of interfacing all the components to satisfy the requirements expected from a host: covering every stroke of every match in HD, SDI and analog.


Previous tests indicated that the crew could not rely on fiber alone to relay signals from the remote HD cameras to the broadcast center. They needed a mix that "would give us the robustness of triax and the quality of fiber," said Greig. Luckily, the HDC1500s had TX100 and FX100 adapters to convert the signals passing from fiber to triaxial cable and vice versa.

"With Sony, we found we could run up to 800 meters on triax and another 800 meters on fiber," said Greig. "By having a satellite hub of cameras, we could have most of the cameras running on triax on manageable lengths, and then we fibered the signals back at a 20-camera flypack by the 18th."

Signals were relayed from the 18th hole "on heavy-cast Telecast Pythons," said Greig. Doing it this way, he explained, extended the transmission path to about 1,400 meters (approximately 4,593 feet).

Four 90-degree 18DB high gain antennas received the signals, which were converted, sent to splitters, and fed into receivers that produced the ASI streams, said Greig. These were then re-converted into HD signals.

(click thumbnail)CTV personnel used a fleet of golf buggies to move RF cameras around the course at the K Club.Greig was "happily surprised" by the way the Link Research technology handled delivery to receiver sites 2.5 kilometers (more than a mile and a half) away, given the weather as well as the trees, buildings and crowds in between. He was also impressed by the DV high gain antennas that came with the kit, which could be angled to increase sensitivity to certain areas.

CTV itself, developed "a lot of background glue," said Greig. Among the proprietary innovations were "multiplex systems" to speed the stroke tallies to the broadcast center, which included redundant paths of fiber interfaces. EVS XT2 (6-channel) servers were used to record the actual shots.


Stateside, NBC broadcast the event in HD, using a mixture of CTV's signal with its own coverage.

"We took CTV's clean [feed] and quite a few of their cameras and all of their audio-all of their effects mics individually," said Ken Carpenter, the onsite technical manager for NBC's Ryder Cup coverage.

In addition, NBC contracted an additional 22 Thomson LDK 6000s and five Sony BVP-550 PAL units from Charter Broadcast, a Hertfordshire, U.K.-based OB production company, which NBC has contracted to cover international golf events for at least eight years. Total RF of Carlisle, Pa., provided the infrastructure for the wireless transmissions, including 45,000 feet of fiber, RFX-PAINT camera controls, receivers, microphones, technicians, fan beam antennas (RFX-BEAM), and RF Central's RFX-CMTs (camera mount transmitter).

"We put some cameras in places [CTV] didn't have cameras," said Carpenter, recalling a particular set up near the 18th hole. "We had a camera on the 18th fairway-we used it like a speed shot: it could follow the drive from the first tee, then reverse follow from the 18th tee, and follow from the landing area to the green."

"Flanker cameras" were also laid low to focus on the American participants.

Despite cooperation toward a happy medium, Carpenter admitted there were technical differences between the host and NBC footage, due to creative license regarding color and other factors as much as the different camera models used. But, he noted, "you've got different angles, so you don't notice as much."

NBC's remote coverage was also different from the host feed: upconverted standard definition vs. high definition RF.

"When you're the host, you have a lot more control and capabilities," Carpenter said.