FOX Sports continues its leadership role in the use of production technology with a cutting-edge approach to its inaugural coverage of the prestigious U.S. Open Championship, beginning Sunday, June 14 from the Pacific Northwest’s Chambers Bay links course.
Among the technologies in play, VIRTUAL REALITY, AERIAL DRONES, 4K CAMERAS and a gyro-stabilized, 20-mph RC CAMERA CAR, FOX Sports also delivers major coverage enhancements through multiple point-of-view (POV) cameras and VIRTUAL IMMERSIVE GRAPHICS, displaying yardage, green shadows and wind. There will even be tiny “HOLE MIC” microphones in the bottom of every hole of the 250-acre, Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course.
All of the initiatives fall under the newly created banner of FOX LAB, a designed approach to exploring technical partnerships that give viewers a fresh perspective and ad sales teams more targeted sports integrations.
FOX Lab at the U.S. OPEN: http://bit.ly/1QphQnn
“FOX Sports has a long tradition of aggressively exploring and implementing next-generation technical innovations,” said John Entz, FOX Sports President, Production. “With the U.S. Open, we have the opportunity to deliver golf coverage in new and exciting ways … viewers expect it from us, and we are committed to doing just that.”
Used first at last year’s Franklin Templeton Shootout, FOX Sports’ AERIAL DRONE cameras are being used for early morning course flyovers, scenic shots and hole mapping. In addition, a remote-control, camera-equipped car walks viewers along the links course, offering ground-level perspective.
Graphic overlays of green (preferred zones) and red (zones to avoid) zones are added to drone video, giving the viewer a clear picture of the optimum way to play each hole.
With FOX Sports’ proven leadership in the use of both high frame rate and high-resolution cameras, the “4K FLEX” is in play at the U.S. Open, with full 4K resolution and frame rates of more than 1,000 per second.
“What this achieves is crisp, clear, almost cinematic video which can then be magnified many times to highlight an area of interest,” said Michael Davies, FOX Sports SVP of Field Operations. “The spin of the ball landing on the green, the nudge of a putted ball and the tight reaction of a golfer are all things captured with this important camera.”
Continuing its ongoing exploration of VIRTUAL REALITY, FOX Sports plans to use multiple VR cameras on the course, with viewership available in select hospitality areas. FOX Sports once again partners with NEXTVR, in what is believed to be the first live multi-camera VR broadcast experience in history, after teams worked together earlier this year on a VR test at a NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES race in California.
The FOX Sports Rangefinder consists of a TOWER CAM rig with the ability to extend from eight to 21 feet, delivering a unique perspective from the fairway. The camera is equipped with augmented reality graphics, along with a ball tracer to give the ultimate look at what each golfer is facing. Drop-down robotic cameras controlled from the FOX Sports television compound, bring viewers closer to the golfers than ever before.
Multiple TOUCHSCREENS are on location, providing in-depth analysis with announcers or players – one in the booth, one on the practice range and one in the player interview area. The two that are outdoors are equipped with ultra-bright monitors so video is easily visible even in bright sunlight.
The FOXBOX delivers a constant on-screen score, with the ability to provide individual player and tournament statistics.
FOX Sports also plans multiple visual enhancements, including 3D immersive graphics, allowing 3D elements like distance markers, hole highlights and wind indicators to be placed in space. The patent-pending SHADED GREEN technology tracks existing and dedicated cameras to project an artificial light source, creating virtual shadows – giving the viewer a much clearer look at subtle variances in the greens.
Multiple TEE CAMS, a selection of small POV cameras placed around tee boxes to deliver multiple angles, including head-on as players tee off, also are part of the camera arsenal.
All of this new technology is handled through a new truck built and owned by Game Creek Video, one of the largest mobile units ever built in terms of internal space and technical capacity. Rolling as a three-truck unit, it debuted during FOX Sports coverage of the BIG EAST men’s basketball championship, and includes the world’s first rolling IP router, needed to handle the sheer signal volume in and out of the facility. Adding to this core unit, several trucks have been added to accomplish the pre-match shows, digital offerings and to house the technology operations.