We're spending the week embedded with NBC/Golf Channel at the Players. Here's Part 2 in our series.
We're on a trek across TPC Sawgrass to the NBC/Golf Channel TV compound. It's hard to miss once you find it, but it's off the beaten path and tough to find -- even for employees. It's also a moving target, changing location from week to week depending on the tournament.
Over the river and through the woods to the NBC/GolfChannel TV compound we go.
We finally find it and it is massive. There are trucks.
And more trucks.
The area has its own dining tent and its own facilities. The mini-town might have its own zip code.
We venture in the main production truck where coordinating producer Tommy Roy runs what is essentially the brain that controls everything you see on TV. The other key trucks (graphics, audio, replays, etc.) as well as all of the announcers in the booth, towers or on the course, get their marching orders from Roy or producer Tom Randolph in the main production truck that snuggly fits about 10 people at any given time.
At about 10 a.m. on Thursday, the tournament is underway, but not on the air for another hour. This is the calm before the storm. In fact, music plays softly that those not wearing a headset can hear. Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden" comes on. How appropriate considering the truck's isolated spot on the grounds.
Of course, the vibe inside isn't usually so mellow as indicated by the dizzying number of screens showing every almost every angle of TPC Sawgrass. And yes, there's one spot of the course in particular that Roy and his crew concentrate on most.
"I can always go to the 17th tee," said Roy of the hole that has nine of the network's 55 cameras on the course. "It doesn't matter who's standing on that tee, even if it's the guy in dead last place, it's interesting to sit there and watch him grind over that shot. . . . it's fantastic television. And that's the great added beneficiary of that hole."
Technology wise, Roy's team has plenty of bells and whistles at it's disposal from cable cams to robo cams to super slow-mo to Protracer. But letting the audience know what's happening in the tournament and making sure they know all about the key players is the most important job.
"Our technology enhances the story telling. And then we go for the cool stuff on top of that, like the action cam, the jib cam," Roy said. "So that's sort of the priority of the order there."
With limited commercial breaks (Just three 80-second breaks per hour) and expanded coverage, Roy's team is tasked with doing even more storytelling than usual at the Players. Let the soothing tones of "The Boss" wash over you while you can, Tommy. It's going to be a busy week.