Switch on the television this weekend and the sports channels will show the South African Open Championship. The images coming to you from Glendower Golf Club are being broadcast from Australia to America and all around the world are viewers witnessing the same exciting imagery. It’s a global product that comes direct from local soil.
For European Tour Productions to create this show takes 82 crew members, 16 cameras and 42 kilometres of cable. At the centre of it all is the outside broadcast (OB) van – a nexus that combines all of these elements and sends out a world feed that reaches a potential 395 million homes per day.
Communication is the key for live broadcast and the master crafters who oversee the show are the producer and director. Together they instruct the crew and mould the story for each day based on the 35 monitors in front of them.
Feeding video to the OB van are the cameramen. There are 13 fixed and three roaming cameras on the course throughout the day. There are a total of six commentators, three of which add voice coverage for the world feed.
The focus for the first two days will be the featured groups at each tournament, but after the cut the focus shifts to the leaders.
Adding on-screen information is the next step in the process. Separate booths within the OB van house a statistics team and an audio team. The statistics crew includes an analyst and a designer, who together create the infographics that appear on the bottom of the screen. The audio crew ensures that the sound for each shot correlates with the video.
The leaderboards that appear on screen are provided by a company called MST Systems. Live scoring feeds deliver data that is converted into an attractive visual.
Running parallel to all of this is the submix crew, who record special moments of the round to tape. If there is a hole in one or a rare moment outside of the regular broadcast then this crew will inform the producer and get the shot added to the live stream of video.
The production crew at the South African Open Championship sends constant material on its world feed. In South Africa the broadcasters will use the sound along with the video. Non-English broadcasters will voice over the feed in their own language, for example in France the broadcaster will insert French commentary.
The feed is constant, but to ensure a smooth flow is a producer’s assistant who tells the broadcasters when to take advertisement breaks. This person is aware of how many breaks each channel takes per hour and streamlines the process so that crucial shots are not missed.
Each unit of the production team is grouped together by purpose. Every one of these units provides a piece of the puzzle that combines to make a golf broadcast. The art of the process is to deliver a smooth and consistent viewing experience, which is what you’ll get when you flick on the television this weekend.