Masters Golf Tournament + 4K and Virtual Reality
The Masters tournament celebrated its 80th year anniversary when it teed off today at the Augusta National Golf Club. This also marked the first live 4k broadcast of a U.S. sporting event as it was covered for four rounds. Virtual reality is making its Augusta debut on the 6th and 16th holes. On top of that, ESPN and CBS are both broadcasting in HD and the Masters is being live streamed. There’s a lot of tech going on at the Masters.
CBS Sports Chairman, Sean McManus, said, “The [Masters was the] first tournament to be done in color, the first tournament to be done in HD, the first tournament to be done partially in 3D, and now the first tournament to be done in 4K. All of us have decided that there’s no better venue to showcase any kind of new technology in television than the beauty that you see at Augusta National. So, when we look at new technology and ways to showcase that new technology, The Masters is always right at the top of our list.”
CBS Sports produced live 4K coverage at Emen Corner which is holes 11, 12 and 13 from the time of 10:45 AM to 6 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 7th and April 8th and from 11:45 AM to 6 PM April 9th and April 10th. The 4K coverage is also able to be viewed as a downconverted feed at masters.com.
Ken Aagaard, EVP, engineering, operations and production services at CBS Sports, said, “4K is definitely a work in progress, but I think we are up to the challenge. We will learn a lot from this experience. It’s a lot like the SD-to-HD [transition]: not everything is necessarily 4K-ready. The cameras are way ahead, but the switchers and replay devices are limited. But we love launching new technology, and we love working with Augusta National because they are always looking to be on the leading edge of technology.”
CBS Sports is using Mobile TV Group’s 39FLEX 4K truck to help enable their production. It’s a truck that was created around several features including a 4K capable 7M/E Grass Valley Kayenne K Frame Switcher (192 inputs in HD, 48 in 4K), an Evertz hybrid SDI/IP router (that enables the truck to route 4K as a quad-HD signal), many 12 channel EVS XT3 replay systems, a Calrec Artemis audio console and ChyronHego 4K graphics as well. CBS has 12 Sony HDC4300 4K/HD/high speed cameras with a variety of 4K and HD lenses that it’s utilizing in Amen’s Corner at the Masters.
Lance Barrow, CBS Sports Coordinating/Lead Producer, thinks that 4K will have a positive impact on the way CBS broadcasts golf. He said, “when a player would hit a shot, you would have the camera behind the player, and you would have to cut to the ball in flight. With HD, you were able to stay with the player a little longer and watch the flight of the ball. With 4K, you’re going to be able to stay even longer to watch the flight of the ball on the shot. It will be clearer, and everything about it will be a better-looking shot. [4K] will make you feel like you are sitting right there on the golf course watching the action.”
To view the live 4K feed, you will need to be a DirecTV Ultimate or Premier member that has a 4K customer account that’s been authorized. You will also need a variety of other capabilities: the newest Genie HD DVR (HR54), a DirecTV 4K-ready TV or a compatible 4K/60-fps TV (4K/UHD content on a non-DirecTV 4K-ready TV demands a TV with a HDMI 2.0-compliant interface and HDCP 2.2 content security as well as a 4K Genie Mini) connected to the newest 4K Genie Mini. People can also view via supported web connected Samsung or Sony 4K smart TV’s that have a download speed of at least 25 Mbps.
The other new experience at the Masters is NextVR’s continuous live VR coverage of the 6th and 16th holes.
NextVR placed cameras on tee boxes and on the greens as well so that viewers can really get a front row experience. The company also produced a VR golf experience last summer at the U.S. Open; it was broadcast through Fox Sports.
CBS Sports Chairman, Sean McManus, said, “[Masters Live] is just one more example of trying to make The Masters available in as many formats as we possibly can,” says McManus. “As people continue to view content in different ways, … we are committed to making sure that that content is available on all the different platforms. [Linear-TV coverage] is still going to generate the largest audience, but we want to make sure that, if you want to watch the coverage on a different platform, it’s available. So we spend a lot of time, effort, and resources working with our partners at Augusta National making sure that content is available in as many forms as we possibly can.”
Masters Live will produce a lot of VOD content which will also include highlights at the end of each round.