FOX Sports is once again tapping new technology to enhance its golf broadcast.
The company’s coverage of the 117th U.S. Open, one of four annual major championships on the PGA Tour, kicks off next week. FOX will use everything from augmented reality and drones as it tries to provide a better viewing experience for fans watching at home.
Zac Fields, senior vice president of graphic tech and integration at FOX Sports, explained that there will be two versions of augmented reality used for the broadcast next week.
The first is during live action. Every tee shot will be highlighted by some sort of ball-tracing technology — nine tee boxes are equipped with Toptracer for live real-time video overlay, while the other nine have Trackman radar devices that provide enhanced data and are used for FOX FlightTrack, a live trace over a graphic representation of the hole.
The Toptracer technology lets viewers see ball direction and shot shape via animations overlaid on the live video:
“The information is important and informative to heighten the viewing experience and we view it as a necessity much like the yellow line in football,” Fields said.
Augmented reality will also be used for graphics in the studio, like virtual leaderboards and virtual holes, which “allow our analysts to break down every hole on the golf course in unique fashion,” Fields noted. FOX is using a 75-foot crane that captures overhead views to make this graphics feature possible.
FOX did something similar for last year’s coverage:
Drones will also be flying around before the tournament starts as FOX captures aerial video to show during its coverage. FOX is also using 4K cameras on three holes.
All in all, FOX will use 110 total cameras, 216 microphones, 36 miles of fiber optic cabling, and more than 62,000 man hours to put the broadcast together.
This is FOX’s third U.S. Open; it inked a 12-year deal with the USGA in 2015 to broadcast the tournament until 2027. Some of the tech that FOX tested in 2015, like virtual reality, won’t be used this time around.
“We’ve continued to improve our technology a great deal each year,” Fields noted. “It’s essential that we provide our production teams elements that not only make an impact for the viewer, but are also easy to use in their environment.”
You can stream the U.S. Open with FOX’s streaming app, FOX Sports GO (requires authentication).