Patrick McEnroe in the booth of ESPN's broadcast suite during...

Patrick McEnroe in the booth of ESPN's broadcast suite during a fourth-round women's singles match at the U.S. Open on Sept. 1, 2019. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

With 136 hours of U.S. Open programming, Jamie Reynolds isn’t concerned about the quality of matches that ESPN will be broadcasting.   

Instead, the cable sports giant’s vice president of production along with his team is looking to provide a tactile, emotional experience in the absence of what is the driving force of the Open — the fans.  

“It’s all the amplification around the edges that when we devote 10 hours a day to programming as many matches as possible, all the ambiance of the fans, all the ambiance of the venue, all the electricity of the roar of the crowd, that’s been diluted significantly,” Reynolds said. “It’s gone.” So visually and audibly, Reynolds’ staff has worked amplify all aspects of the production.   

“During the course of play we are going to have the most genuine, most authentic robust sound delivery of the players and their tenacity on the court coming through,” said Reynolds. “We’ve got more microphones now on Ashe and Armstrong and outer courts than we’ve ever had.”  

Part of the noise you will hear will be added from soundtracks taken from the 2019 Open, the object being to build in the constant background white noise that emanates from Ashe and Armstrong stadiums.   

“We went through and catalogued all the non-playing noise, you aren’t hearing lines people or ball bounces or shouting from the arena for a specific player, but we’ve cleaned up audio tracks that will be blended in to audio mix of the actual telecast,” Reynolds said. “A little bit of a comfort blanket to wrap yourself up in.”   

Because there are no spectators, ESPN can also put cameras in positions they have never been able to.   

“We’ve been able to move our cameras around the geometry of the court, we’ve been able to bring them lower so we can try accentuate the speed and the physicality of the game,” Reynolds said.   

Like everyone else, ESPN will have to keep its social distance at the National Tennis Center, but Reynolds hope that players will buy in to being a part of the broadcast anyway they would like.   

“We’ve sent out links to the players and we expect a variety of guests coming on via Zoom and FaceTime, Skype,” Reynolds said. “Just call in and be part of the booth.”

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