Behind the scenes at DGN.
February 24, 2022 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with comments
The Media Director of the Disc Golf Pro Tour and lead producer for the Disc Golf Network, Mahmoud Bahrani, answered questions from Reddit r/discgolf subscribers yesterday. Here’s a selection of interesting questions and answers from the Ask Me Anything. And don’t miss Bahrani’s recent interview on The Upshot podcast.
What is being done or can be done to maintain quality broadcast signal during coverage? This is one of the biggest issues I’ve seen compared to watching post production coverage.
We use these little backpacks called LiveU units to send the signal from the camera to our control room in Milwaukee. This past offseason we upgraded all our LiveUs and also added extra modems to hopefully alleviate signal issues. There will always be hiccups – it’s live sports, it’s never going to be perfect – but hopefully what we’re doing, coupled with natural increases in 4g and 5g service, will help improve signal quality over time.
What improvement or feature are you most excited about for this season?
A lot of what we’re doing this year is taking the best parts of last year and making them more consistent week-to-week. We’re adding a drone to most broadcasts (only had it at a select few last year) and this year we’ll be having split broadcasts for all the Elite Series events, so we’ll be able to cover more cards in both FPO and MPO. If you remember how exciting GMC or Worlds were, we’re hoping that that can be every weekend, for every Elite Series event.
It feels like we’ve reached some sort of stagnation with announcers where it’s become a sort of “this is who always does it so get used to it” type of deal. I have love for Terry and Nate and Val for all that they’ve done for the sport but they are below average commentary. Can you please talk about your plans for the future in this area?
I personally really enjoy all of our commentary teams, but we’ll always incorporating new people and voices as much as we can. Hopefully as the Silver Series continues to grow and become more flushed out, that’ll be a great place for us to develop new commentators that we can rotate into Elite Series events. Eventually, there will be so many events and feeds that even if you don’t like a certain commentator, they won’t be on all the time.
What are some “simple” suggestions that people often have for DGN, that are actually 20000x more complicated than they probably think?
Show every shot! Players don’t wait for each other across the course, and they’re often throwing shots at exactly the same time across three cards. Almost every shot you’re seeing during the live broadcast is in replay, and we do our best to fit in as much golf as we can, but it’s not as simple as, “show every shot from every player.” It’s almost always a juggling act in terms of which shots we want to show, and we’re trying to balance showing as many shots as we can while being more deliberate with shots that matter, and trying to give context to those shots. That’s a big part of what I’m trying to figure out in real time. It’s just a constant decision making process throughout the entire 3.5 hour broadcast, and it is mentally exhausting, but it’s also super fun when you catch an awesome shot and you’re excited to figure out how to show it to people!
How’s the growth been in your subscriber base over the last few years? And how much growth are you anticipating?
The growth has been absolutely incredible, and we’ve been blown away by the support coming to us from everyone in the disc golf world. I’m personally just so thankful that people enjoy what we’re doing – I know there are a lot of people who hate on live and leave mean comments, but there are also a ton of people that genuinely really enjoy what we’re doing. That really fires me up, and no matter how hard or how stressful doing live broadcasts can be, that gets me through it.
How many employees are there in the filming and production of a live broadcast? And what training or skills should be developed for someone aspiring to work with the DGN in the future?
Right now we have 7 camera operators, a producer, a director, a replay operator, and a graphics operator. This year we’ve added an AP/AD who will be doubling as an A1. So 12 total, not including talent. It’s a pretty tight production.
Training depends on what role you’re trying to fill, whether you want to be a camera op in the field or a producer/director whatever. I always recommend that folks, if they’re interested, go to broadcasting school, or write for their local newspaper, or go volunteer for their local TV station.
Have you considered additional fixed camera feeds where we can have a second window open to watch particularly good ace run holes?
Yes of course! We had that during USDGC/Throw Pink (Hole 1, 7, and 17) and those cameras caught quite a few aces. It requires a bit of infrastructure, but it’s definitely something I’d like to do at every tournament, not just USDGC. It might be a little ways off, but believe me, we’re thinking about it.
What is your perception of the public’s view of the broadcasts? Seems some love it, some hate it. Would love to hear the network’s take. Thanks!
Yea it’s definitely interesting! Disc Golf lives in this unique space where there was no live coverage for a really long time, and post production is all that anyone consumed – so a lot of people see what we’re doing and don’t like it because it’s not post production. What we’re attempting to offer is a more wholistic view of the tournament and the storylines that are building all over the course. A lot of disc golfers aren’t necessarily looking for that though – they just want to enjoy the shots from the lead card with laid back commentary. They’re really different products, so when people say they don’t like live and prefer post, we really don’t take it personally.
What do you miss about Connecticut disc golf?
Oh gosh, so much. Mostly my friends. In terms of the golf itself, I miss how quiet the courses in Connecticut are. My favorite thing in disc golf is playing alone and having the course to myself and just really enjoying having a quiet mind while I focus on this singular repetitive task, and that’s not exactly possible in a lot of places in the country like it is in CT. I really miss my daybreak rounds at Page and Rockwell, and I miss playing Thorn on the weekends. They’ve built so many new courses since I left, I’m excited to go back and try them out someday.
What efforts are being made to sway the average viewer away from post production? Seems the disc golf community tends to move away from live coverage.
We’re not actively trying to get people to stop watching post at all! In my mind they’re complements, not substitutes. It’s not really an either/or kinda thing, it’s more like, sweet, now you have lots of different ways to consume this awesome disc golf action. Some people prefer post and some people prefer live, but honestly so as long as people are excited about professional disc golf I don’t really care too much how they watch.
Is the network financially solvent yet?
We were not the last couple years, but if we break even this year it’ll be really exciting!