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Sports Applications Technology

Coming Attractions: Live Streamed High School Sports

February 13, 2013


Sick and tired of single-camera coverage of high school sports on community access TV? What about your kids and relatives graduating with book smarts but without hands-on experience and skills that can lead to a broad range of job opportunities?

Enter live streaming of high school sports over the Web to the broadband masses, with the operation and production handled by actual high school students who get an early jump on the endless job opportunities in the widening world of video – before college or trade schools.

If you’re thinking this is too good to be true, you’re wrong. Plunging equipment and software prices combined with climbing capabilities (HD cameras and distribution) have already begun to drive live coverage of high school sports events – a different kind of must-see TV for parents, relatives, friends and alums – far forward from wouldn’t-that-be-great, to where-can-I-find-it?

Next stop: Ads and sponsorships from local business to create a new revenue stream for often cash-strapped school systems in a tough economy.

While revenue models are still TBD, the current focus is on capture and delivery of HD content to an anxious audience awaiting a change in the underwhelming community access cable (Wayne’s World) status quo.

Many newer high schools are already equipped with broadcast gear and production rooms, while others are adding these facilities to the delight of students. The actual capture of live sports action need not be invasive or expensive. The content already exists and distribution is increasingly cheaper.

Webster City Leads

Webster City High School in Webster City, Iowa, is using a video control center package to produce live coverage of its varsity athletics from its new competition gymnasium. The school covered all six of its home girls’ volleyball matches in late 2012, and is currently shooting home boys’ and girls’ basketball and wrestling contests.While many high schools produce a weekly newscast, live sports coverage is essentially a new challenge for student video production at the school. For example, the high school has long delivered a 10- to 15-minute SD (standard definition) newscast produced by students regularly distributed on an internal school cable system and a community access channel, as well as iTunes and other Internet sites.Webster City was faced with replacing production gear. It decided to upgrade to HD production. With this move came the decision to expand the video production program by integrating video cameras into the facility’s new gym, which provided students with the opportunity to produce live sports coverage.

Sports, Live!

The road to live-streamed HD high school sports began much earlier for the visionary Webster City. As the story goes, the first phase of the process included the purchase of the Granite system, three Canon (News - Alert) HD studio cameras, and other equipment for the 2010 school year – followed by the addition of cameras to the gym, which connected the control room to the new facility via fiber in time for the 2012 volleyball season.

The Webster City Community School system’s IT director, Mark Murphy, is planning what could be called bonus footage and features, as the system will also be used to produce commencement, concert and special event coverage as well.

Enabling Infrastructure

The high-school’s control room is about 1,100 feet away from the gym, located next to the school’s 400-square-foot studio. The gym is equipped with three ceiling-mounted Panasonic (News - Alert) HD cameras and four wall-mounted cameras. All cameras are controlled robotically by students in the control room, explained Murphy.

The permanently installed cameras and fiber infrastructure that connects to gym to the control room saves hours of setup and strike time for every event, he added.Webster City uses a number of the built-in workflow tools that enable some events to capture and display action on three mats simultaneously. With a camera covering each mat, a macro creates a split screen to provide footage from each match.

The system comprises a control room package – and more – from Broadcast Pix of Billerica, MA. This and the new cameras were integrated by Alpha Video of Edina, MN.

By building an advanced and flexible system to enable live streaming sports, the Webster City High School is providing more than coveted content; it’s providing a steady stream of students the skills needed to fuel the advance of the video industry.

Edited by Braden Becker