Big Ten Network Supplements Coverage With Panasonic P2 Cameras

It is a daunting task to cover  25 sports at 11 schools throughout the Midwest on a single network. The Big Ten Network, however, seems to have figured it out, boosting its manpower by sending out students equipped with Panasonic P2 HD camcorders at each school to cover a batch of sporting events.

“We use the P2s for press conferences during the week; we use them during events that aren’t covered [by the network]; we use them for just about everything you can think of,” says Mike Wilken, chief engineer for the Big Ten Network. “Students go out and use the P2 cameras and get highlights for us and send them back, so we can put them in our wrap-up shows in the evening or for any of the other shows that we do.”

Based in Chicago, the Big Ten Network is available in 75 million homes and covers approximately 350 live sports events each year, nearly all of them in HD. However, there are simply too many Big Ten sporting events to cover every one with a full crew. That’s where the students and their Panasonic P2s come in.

When the Big Ten Network launched in August 2007, it supplied Panasonic HVX200A camcorders to each school for students and staffers to use in gathering HD footage. Today, students continue to use these HVX200As to shoot B roll and press conferences from each campus. After the video is captured, students can quickly send it to the network via high-speed WAN.

“All the universities are connected to the high-speed WAN that we’re connected into,” says Wilken. “We just FTP the P2 footage back to our server here, and it’s usually faster than real time.”

In addition to the on-campus work, the Big Ten uses six flypack systems, which are dispatched to conference campuses to capture many events that the network streams on BigTenNetwork.com but would previously not have been televised. Each flypack consists of three HPX170 P2 HD handhelds, a computer-based switcher, and Panasonic AJ-HPM 110 Mobile HD field recorder/player. If needed, HPX2000 ⅔-in. 3-CCD camcorders (which are also used at Big Ten Network headquarters) can be taken along for telephoto work.

“Once we create a setup for students, it’s pretty easy for a them to recall that setup if it’s been changed at all. So we can keep a very consistent look across our flypack events,” says Wilken. “We white-balance the cameras before every event, and you don’t need a video guy; they’re just ready to go. We have three cameras in each flypack, and the 170s work very well with them. Plus, the 170s have an HD-SDI out, which is great.”

By using P2s with an on-campus crew, the Big Ten Network is able to give the conference’s non-revenue sports a great deal more exposure than most conferences can. Panasonic P2s cover everything from men’s and women’s basketball to wrestling to rowing and is a chief reason the Big Ten Network televises more women’s sports than any other network.

“Non-revenue sports get a lot more coverage now because we can just send the students out there with P2 cameras to shoot them,” says Wilken. “They’ve been used for pretty much every sport possible. Anything that a university does, we can shoot it.”

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