The 2015 U.S. Open Golf championship from Chambers Bay, WA was a uniquely gargantuan and challenging undertaking for broadcaster Fox Sports. Fox had never before covered the U.S. Open and wanted to ensure a successful event from pre-production to post. For Fox, the stakes had never been higher – with golf a new venture for their network, having spent $1 billion for United States Golf Association (USGA) television rights over twelve years, and with their inaugural event being the largest American event in the sport, everything needed to run at peak capacity.
Beyond the sheer scale – the production used 118 cameras, 202 microphones, and 29 EVS XT3 replay servers – the technical challenges were sizable. “Fox wanted to network all of the EVS servers in the compound,” said Noah Gusdorff, founder of Burbank, CA’s Creative Mobile Solutions, Inc. (CMSI). “Multiple networks needed to be built and bridged to combine multiple hardware and software combinations of servers.” Fortunately for Fox, CMSI stepped up to deliver what they needed to make the event’s post workflows run smoothly.
When it came time for Fox Sports to launch what Ken Kerschbaumer of Sports Video Group called “arguably the largest single-network golf production” in history, they knew exactly who to turn to for the post-production workflow needs. With a stellar track record covering golf for ESPN, CBS, NBC, the Golf Channel, and the BBC, no vendor was more qualified than CMSI. “Fox was putting together the largest golf broadcast ever,” said Gusdorff. “and CMSI has a long history of providing high quality large scale solutions.”
As with any CMSI production, the early preparations were key. CMSI needed to “[define] the requirements with Fox,” said Gusdorff – requirements including accommodation of “aerial drones, 4K cameras, virtual-reality cameras across the course, POV tee cams, and… microphones in all the holes,” according to Kerschbaumer. Incorporating all this technology exceeded manufacturer EVS’s specifications for the replay servers, and, in Gusdorff’s words, “building and assisting in the management of an EVS network that exceeds the manufacturer’s specifications is complicated.”
Further complicating the logistics was the physical environment itself. “Golf takes place in a hot, dusty environment,” said Gusdorff. It was key to ensure that environmental factors did not affect the functioning of the equipment.
However, by working closely with EVS and fellow Fox vendor Game Creek Video, the logistics of the project came together. The team at CMSI figured out what it needed to put together, physically and in regards to staffing, and it was off to the races. Once the physical and staffing logistics were planned out, CMSI’s technicians needed to prep the equipment at their headquarters in Burbank prior to shipping.
“Fox needed editing, color correction, and media management systems on location in Chambers Bay, WA for two weeks,” said Gusdorff. CMSI prepared and shipped the equipment out to Chambers Bay, where CMSI team members supervised the post-production workflow for the event.
In the end, Fox’s coverage of the U.S. Open turned into a major ratings success. With ratings up 46% over the previous year’s contest (a 4.2 rating versus 2014’s 3.0) and over 11 million viewers tuning in, Fox boasted the largest year-over-year gain in viewership in over two decades. Having experienced such success with the help of CMSI, Fox has remained in contact with CMSI and used their services again in the following months.
“This was a huge success for the entire CMSI team and we’re looking forward to next season,” said Gusdorff.