Entering the world of multicamera sports production can be very intimidating.
However, it may be easier to create a high end broadcast than you think. Just a few short years ago, it was a novelty to have a high school broadcasting program that produced and streamed live athletic events. Today it’s commonplace for schools across the country to share their events with students’ families and communities live on the web.
With this in mind, broadcast advisers are constantly trying to figure out ways to enhance their productions to stand out from the “competition”. One of the quickest methods is by adding more cameras to your setup. This can be done rather inexpensively with a setup like Teradek’s Live:Air which can bring mobile devices into a live switch environment. Another option is a more traditional switcher setup like a Tricaster or Blackmagic Design Atem live production switcher. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to start small and slowly work into a larger setup. What follows is a short case study of what we use with CHSLive at Cleveland High School. It has taken several years to get to where we are today, but it all began with one camera.
For a typical home football game, we begin setting up about 6 hours prior to game start time. The 20’ Production Trailer is positioned on the home side of the stadium. This allows us to to be close enough to place our cameras on the same side of the field. The trailer is outfitted with everything we need to produce an event.
The core of the trailer is a Blackmagic Design ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K switcher. This is an amazing switcher that is very cost effective while being extremely versatile and large enough to handle any size of production. It has up to 20 inputs and dual multiview outputs which allow us to use regular HD TV’s for monitoring. We are also using the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel so our students have a hard surface to switch cameras.
Another important aspect of live production is graphics. There are many options available, however one of the most powerful and affordable is ScoreHD from Graphics Outfitters. The software can be run on a laptop and only takes up one input on the ATEM. These graphics are the high end, network quality that you expect to see on television. We also use another application with ScoreHD called ScoreOCR which takes the visual data from any scoreboard and interprets it into our graphics info automatically. This has made the difficult task of running a graphic clock during the game completely automated.
Our most recent upgrade is a new HD 4 channel replay system, also made by Graphics Outfitters. It uses a PlayStation controller and offers some great features as one of the lowest prices in the industry.
The trailer has various BlackMagic Design converters, monitors, and multiview screens for director and producer monitoring. Everything is recorded on a BlackMagic Hyperdeck Studio which utilizes SSD’s to capture high quality HD video.
There are many cameras available that range in price from $500-$50,000. We decided to go with the small form factor Canon XF105’s. We have 6 of these cameras which allow us to place cameras throughout the home side of the stadium. To get the video signal back to the trailer from each camera, we are using a variety of wired and wireless options. Three of the cameras located near the top of the press box are hard wired using HD-SDI cables. The sideline cameras and cable camera use wireless systems. We are using both the Radian Pro wireless system from Camera Motion Research and the Bolt 300 by Teradek.
Another vital part of multicamera production is good communication. One of the best purchases we made was of an 8 unit wireless headset system by Eartec. Each camera operator along with the Director and Technical Director can hear each other and receive instructions. The system works about 500’ in each direction from the base station, so it easily covers our entire stadium and allows the crew to move freely while staying connected.
Our play-by-play and color commentators are located in the press box. They have a small mixer that allows them to control their audio and mix in the wireless microphone from the sideline reporter. A single audio line sends their mix back to the trailer. The producer has a wireless connection to an earpiece for both the color commentary and sideline reporter. This is used to cue them and provide information during the game.
We broadcast all of our events through the NFHS Network. There are several different companies that are available for streaming. We chose NFHS due to their infrastructure and business model that is setup for long term success. Their customer support has been outstanding and it’s a great way to enter the streaming world. The NFHS motto, that we have also adopted for ourselves is “Do Simple Well”. While it’s nice to have all of the technical toys and unique camera angles, none of that matters if mistakes detract from the overall broadcast. Start small with a single camera and do everything you can with that. Then slowly upgrade by adding cameras, graphics, replay, and whatever else you can dream up. Students love to have a challenge and use new technology, however they have a greater desire to be successful. By starting small you can build a program based on quality and attract an audience and crew that will provide support as you grow.