NBC’s production truck during the U.S. Women’s Open is a sight to behold
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It’s dark when you enter the room, but your eyes adjust quickly. There are two long rows of desk, and eight people — some sitting, others standing — occupy the space. All eyes are fixed on the 20-plus TV screens at the front of the room. There’s chatter, but most of it sounds like they’re speaking in code.
Costello real speed! Platinum next!
This is NBC’s production truck, parked among dozens of trailers about a mile from the Pebble Beach clubhouse, and it’s where the broadcast of the 78th U.S. Women’s Open is being pieced together in real time.
“It’s a bit like an orchestra,” says Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon. “And Tommy is the conductor.”
“Tommy” is Tommy Roy, NBC Sports’ lead golf producer. The 29-time Emmy winner has been producing golf for the network for more than 35 years, and on this Friday, he’s consumed by the shots on the screens before him; a red outline dances from shot to shot indicating which camera feed is being used at any given time. The most important screen sits front and center, with the label “PROGRAM” above it. This is what viewers see at home.
Get the Rolex tracer ready!
Moments after Roy barks the orders, surprise contender Áine Donegan appears on the screen and swings. A shot tracer appears and tracks her ball at its ascends. Someone in the room shouts that a commercial break is coming, and Roy relays the information to play-by-play man Dan Hicks.
Music now! Bring up the leaderboard … anddd fade out.
“In Celebration of Man,” the theme of USGA events on NBC properties, begins playing as a leaderboard flashes on the screen. A countdown starts backward from five. At zero, the screen cuts to black.
Clear for one minute!
The pace is frenetic, and the room is buzzing. Roy is flanked by a production assistant and a director. Standing behind him is his co-producer. When Roy gives an order, buttons are pushed that bring his vision to life.
“They’re the best-in-class at their craft in television,” Solomon says. “It’s this elixir of skill in television and understanding of golf. You bring it all together and it’s magic on the screen.”
Forty-five seconds after the commercial break begins, assistant director Brandon Murphy indicates they’ll be back on the air in 15 seconds. When they return from break, Roy wants a shot of Annika Sorenstam’s birdie putt.
If she makes this putt, show the leaderboard with the cutline. She’ll be right on the number.
Sorenstam’s try slides past the cup and there’s a groan in the room. Roy calls for a cut to Nasa Hataoka as she plays the 12th hole. He wants on-course reporter John Wood to chime in from the grounds. When Wood finishes, Roy cuts to Tom Abbott, who’s calling holes for the broadcast.
“I don’t think unless you’ve come into a television truck you can understand the complexity,” Solomon says. “We have so many balls in play, and we have to make sure we’re telling the story as it’s happening. It’s very complex, but it’s also really fun to try to orchestrate all of that.”
“Fun” might be a stretch. But it’s a sight to behold.