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Approaching the “Open” with an Open Mind

British Open Golf 2014 Broadcast RF

Approaching the “Open” with an Open Mind

 

The Open Golf Championship 2014 – Royal Liverpool, Hoylake.

Unlike many other golf events the Open Golf Championship places restrictions on the number of TV crew that can be deployed on certain areas of the course, with the aim of keeping the broadcast personnel away from the tees and greens, and out of the picture as far as possible. This year’s “Open” is being delivered by a new OB company, and a new RF facilities provider: Broadcast RF.

Broadcast RF were chosen by the host broadcaster OB Company, CTV Outside Broadcasts, to provide the RF camera solution for both the BBC and TV Asahi roving cameras, and discussions commenced at an early stage to formulate the engineering systems required to fit with the above restrictions.

Broadcast RF brought experience from the Ryder Cup and other golf tournaments, looked at the Open with fresh eyes and an open mind, and worked with the organisers to design a new RF solution to cover the course.

The limitations on people around the greens mean that all hand-held radio-cameras must be done as one-man i.e. with no assistant holding a pole with the Transmitter, Power Amplifier and Antenna. This inevitably requires a smaller and lighter transmission system as it needs to fit on the camera and be carried by the camera operator. These roving cameras provide essential, close-up, pictures and are able to follow particular groups of players through the course. They have become a standard tool for all TV Broadcasters.

Broadcast RF designed and developed a bespoke mounting arrangement, to fit the particular camcorders deployed by CTV OB’s, for the transmitter, power amplifier and antenna plus the rac’s data receiver (providing camera control) and GPS unit (providing positional tracking). This bespoke solution provides a small and neat package on the camera with the flexibility to adjust the position of the antennas to suit the operator.

Because of the transmit power limitations of the above Transmission system, and the subsequent reduced signal range, the 18 hole course coverage requires a significant number of receive locations, placed at strategic positions over the course. A site survey determined that 8 different receive positions would be needed at Hoylake to cover the entire course and practice range.
These receive positions are designed to be wide-band, receiving all 10 of the mobile cameras that Broadcast RF were providing, and each receive antenna is connected back to the TV Compound using an RF-over-fibre system installed on the existing permanent fibre cable infrastructure.

In order to minimise the quantity of fibre cores required it was important to ensure that all the Broadcast RF radio-cameras were in the same frequency sub-band enabling one antenna (as each antenna needs its own fibre core) to receive all 10 of the cameras. This required careful frequency band planning at an early stage to ensure that the Broadcast RF operation would fit alongside the other radio-cameras being provided for other broadcasters whilst still leaving some frequency spectrum available for News Broadcasters and roving commentator RF monitors.

Broadcast RF set up a central control point in the TV Compound to take in all the antenna feeds and switch the appropriate antennas to the receiver/decoder for each camera. This requires knowing the exact whereabouts of each roving camera, in order to select the best antennas for each. An in-house designed GPS tracking and mapping system is employed to display the location of each camera on the course, and this, combined with an overlay of the receive antenna positions, enables the RF engineers to select the appropriate receive antennas for each camera.
A comprehensive, computer based, monitoring system, also designed in-house, allows the RF engineers to know the signal strength and quality received by each receiver/decoder thus ensuring the continuity of coverage demanded by the Broadcasters.

The Open Golf Championship falls directly after both the Scottish Open and Women’s British Open, events which have broadcast facilities provided by CTV OB’s and Broadcast RF. This means that some technical vehicles and equipment need to travel straight from the preceding event to the Open with a short re-rig time span. The logistics of this operation required careful planning to ensure that all facilities required at the Open would be available on time.

The 143rd Open Championship was won by Rory McIlroy, who dedicated his victory to his mother, Rosie, after claiming the Claret Jug by two shots at Hoylake.

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