Oregon, Wowza Media Systems Team Up To Offer Multi-Court Tennis Streaming
As college athletic departments and conferences expand their live sports programming for the Web and digital platforms, content creators still face challenges presented by some of the tougher sports to produce. Neither concurrent-participant events like gymnastics and wrestling nor geographically demanding sports like golf and cross-country have yet benefited from the growth of live event production at the college level.
Tennis has been a hot topic of conversation as producers on campuses strive to bring the popular sport to fans in a technologically efficient and cost-effective way. This past academic year, the University of Oregon met this challenge head-on.
With action on as many as six courts at the same time, the Oregon video team wanted to offer fans around the world the opportunity to tune in and catch any matches they wanted in full and in HD. With that came obvious hurdles, however.
“We were looking to figure out how [to] broadcast six cameras from six courts and do it all at the same time,” says Scott LaBounty, director of video production, University of Oregon Athletics. “We could have used our regular equipment, but then you are talking about six full cameras with six camera operators and six computers. That’s just not possible with our workload when we are also trying to cover things other than tennis.”
Oregon worked with Wowza Media Systems, a provider of cloud-based streaming video, to help turn what could have been a massive project into one that could be operated by only one producer.
“The schools want to provide a great experience, breadth of access, and cool factor for recruiting,” explains Carlos Perez, chief revenue officer, Wowza Media Systems. “Outside of sports like football and basketball, there is a challenge in producing those events in a high-quality way and how do you do that in an inexpensive way in a fairly low-touch, not highly technical way.”
Six fixed PTZ HD cameras — one per court — were installed at Oregon’s tennis facility. Those camera feeds were encoded into a computer that featured Wowza software. From there, the signal was able to be transmitted to a player on Oregon’s Website and to the Pac-12 app for mobile distribution.
The final product offered no replay or graphics (the scoreboard at each court is visible in the stationary shot), but the solution quickly met the demands of the Oregon coaching staff and offered families — especially those overseas — the opportunity to watch their loved ones play live.
The production is pretty raw and guerrilla, but LaBounty, who ascribes to the crawl/walk/run world that live-content creators live in, is pleased to have the project rolling and hopes to expand the show’s features in the coming years.
“Being able to put in graphics would be nice,” he says. “Also, eventually trying to put in announcers would be great. Right now, we just have mics on each court to give you the nat sound. There’s lots of room for growth here.”