armchairquarterblog

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Lance Barrow has been working on CBS golf broadcasts since 1976 when he served as a spotter and researcher for play-by-play giant Pat Summerall.

He worked side-by-side in the production truck for many years with Frank Chirkinian, the network’s pioneering major domo of all things golf, and when The Ayatollah retired in 1996, Barrow replaced him as CBS’s coordinating producer for golf. He’s also the network’s main man on NFL production, but we asked him, in his own words, to pick out some of the most significant technological breakthroughs in the coverage of golf, a game he also plays to a single-digit handicap.

Swing Vision – This has been a great help in analyzing player’s swings in super slow motion. The technology had previously been used in more of a sterile, indoor environment, like showing crash testing in cars or commercials where they shot bullets through locks. We have great teachers on our staff and everyone who covers golf for us is a professional who knows an awful lot about the swing. Every golfer watching at home is looking for an edge, how to hit it better, and this is a great teaching tool. I believe some people watch it on our broadcast and then go out into the garage or the backyard and try to practice hitting that same shot they just saw.

The Blimp – We all take it for granted now at major sporting events, but in golf, it’s really become a valuable tool, especially in showing aerial shots of holes. From the ground, it’s tough to cover the flight of the ball, and the blimp lets you do that. Unlike football or baseball, with one field and one ball, golf has 18 different playing fields and lots of balls in the air. A camera up in the blimp gives us a chance to cover the whole area. From the ground, you might not be able to see that ball bounce on the bank next to a pond and go down to the water, but you see it all from the camera up in the air.

Mini-Cams – Frank Chirkinian was a big believer in having mini-cams, but when they first came out they were big and bulky and you needed a lot of cable to get around. Now, there’s no cable, they’re lighter and they’re wireless with RF (radio frequency) so they can literally be used all over the golf course. You can go anywhere with them, and it makes the whole process so much easier. We’re now on the air much longer than we used to be, and with the minis, you don’t miss anything.

RF Microphones – Again, because they’re wireless, you can take them everywhere and they give you sound that puts you right in the middle of the action. You can point the camera at someone and also hear what they’re saying—a player talking to his caddie, saying something to the gallery, a discussion with a rules official, that kind of thing. We try to get as close as possible without being intrusive, and it really adds to the quality of what you’re seeing at home.

High Definition – HD is one of the greatest things ever to happen to televised golf. It just brings out so much more of the beauty of the game as well as letting people watching actually see the contours of the course and especially the greens. It also lets you cover the ball and travel with the ball in the air so much better. We can now stand behind the golfer with a camera and show you the flight of the ball much longer than we ever could before. We used to cut away much sooner. Now we’ll stay with it and you can see how players actually work the ball right and left.

Color – We all take color television for granted, but going from black and white to color in golf changed the game forever. Think about watching those old re-runs of black and white golf, and it just isn’t the same. I can’t imagine watching Augusta National in black and white, or Pebble Beach or any of the places we go. I see pictures of old tournaments in black and white and I think to myself when they started saying “this show is in living color” it was like Dorothy getting to Oz. All of a sudden, everything becomes beautiful.

This list has been excerpted from my new book, Golf List Mania, available on Amazon.com and local bookstores.

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