Portable Video Production Systems
The Patriot League - One Year Later
Kimberton, PA - The 2013-14 academic year saw big changes in how the Patriot League’s schools produce and stream games on the Patriot League Network – www.patriotleague.tv – as well as what is required of fans to watch online. To attract larger online audiences, Patriot League schools significantly revamped their video production and Internet streaming technology, expanded coverage from 150 to nearly 800 live events in addition to more than 300 video on demand pieces, and distributed all of their game coverage for free. Students, parents, alumni and prospective athletic recruits can now watch more live games in high definition resolution than ever before. The decision had the desired effect, more than doubling viewership since upgrading the network. The league’s member schools are also using the digital network to reengage alumni with their programs. While the 2013-14 school year marked a significant milestone in the Patriot League’s approach to live video streaming, the league is not content to stand still. With the start of the 2014-15 season, the League plans to roll out a major sponsorship push, aggressively selling available commercial spots into the streaming coverage of games.
“We wanted to make sure we had a high-quality product before launching a coordinated sales effort,” says Richard Wanninger, Patriot League senior associate executive director for External Relations. “We didn’t know what the viewership was going to be, but we knew that if we were to be successful selling spots, we had to produce a high-quality product for both the viewer and prospective corporate partners.”
Unlike any sponsorships that individual Patriot League schools happened to sell last year, this year’s approach will be a unified effort with Campus Insiders and Learfield Sports, the League’s marketing partners, along with the member schools. Previously, the League’s schools produced hundreds of live events on their own separate platforms and the majority of schools were on the pay subscription model.
The TriCaster Touch
To tackle deciding what best fit the schools’ needs, the league turned to technology consultant Applied Video Technology of Kimberton, PA. “We went with our wish list of what we wanted to accomplish, and they helped us navigate through all of the equipment to find what was going to be the best fit within our budget,” says Wanninger.
NewTek TriCaster multi-camera live production systems were selected to serve as the nerve center of the Patriot League’s production and streaming setup. Besides providing traditional live video switching of 720p HD source video from the three JVC cameras deployed by each school, TriCaster plays back previously recorded player and coach interviews, highlight packages, school promos and even a limited number of commercials from its integrated DDRs (digital disk recorders) during game introductions, half-time breaks and other pauses in the action. For Patriot League productions, TriCaster also drives source video previews used to make switching decisions from its built-in Multiview output, keys in titles created with NewTek’s LiveText character generator software running on Dell laptops and seamlessly feeds program switcher output to the Internet to support live game streaming.
Doug Birdsong, radio/TV coordinator at Bucknell University, says an important aspect of TriCaster for Patriot League schools needing to meet a commitment to produce substantially more games than in the past is its relatively small, portable form factor.
“We might have to do a women’s lacrosse game, scheduled for about two hours in length, and then have to pack everything up and cover a men’s lacrosse game at another facility across the road,” says Birdsong. “Even if there is only an hour window between games, we will do both with the same equipment.”
When Applied Video Technology put together all of the equipment for the league, mobility was an important consideration, says Birdsong. “Everything from TriCaster to the distribution amp to the Shure mixer –all the pieces of the puzzle- are in self-contained racks on wheels,” he explains. “We have been able to roll the VidCaster to a van, drive it across campus and be ready to produce another game from another location within an hour.”
Fade to Black
As pleased as Wanninger is with the growing number of Patriot League fans watching streaming live game coverage, he is gratified by the support the upgrade and business model evolution have received from member college administrators.
“We have had the full backing and support of our Council of (university) Presidents and athletic directors every step of the way,” says Wanninger. “They really are the ones who have enabled us to move forward with this project. In addition, the multimedia staffs at each of our member schools did a tremendous job all year long with the level of the live event productions. Finally, Campus Insiders has done a tremendous job as a partner for one of the most significant initiatives in the history of the Patriot League.”
For Birdsong, that backing has translated into remarkable support and encouragement from everyone involved with Patriot League athletics. “Everybody from coaches to administrators, fans to other league schools that I have heard from has been blown away by the production quality and the high definition resolution of our productions –every aspect,” says Birdsong.