CSVS 2012: Colleges, Conferences Look To Take Production Facilities on the Road

Remote production trucks are popping up all over the college-sports market in a variety of shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a 53-ft. HD unit or a simple sprinter van, college athletics departments are finding new, affordable ways to produce and distribute their content both on television and online. An afternoon panel at SVG’s College Sports Video Summit in Atlanta last week offered a series of first-hand success stories as well as the latest trends in the evolving college remote-production landscape.

Joel Kitay of Productions (left), John Servizzi of Webstream Productions (center), and Nigel Spratling of Ross Video discuss products for streaming HD.

“In terms of [streaming video] and remote production, if you’re not doing anything at this point, please just start,” said John Servizzi, president/CEO, WebStream Productions, which produces hundreds of college events each year. “There are good available products at the $2,000 price-point … that allow you to stream HD video. It doesn’t always have to be a $300,000 sprinter or $500,000 remote truck. It can absolutely be done at any level, with the understanding that you have to take that first step, even if it is just a game camera with an announcer.”

College of Charleston Sets the Bar

Josh Bryson of the College of Charleston describes his school's new mobile unit, used to broadcast men’s basketball games this past season.

In an effort to provide more exposure for its athletics programs this past season, the Southern Conference’s College of Charleston (SC) turned a 170-in. WB EXT sprinter van into a fully functional HD production unit. The van, which features a NewTek TriCaster 850 Xtreme and a NewTek 3Play 820 replay system, allows the school to stream hundreds of events on its Website (through technology partner NeuLion), as well as deliver dozens of games on ESPN3 and local TV affiliates WMMP and WTAT-TV.

“We tried to be as smart as we could with the money we had,” said Josh Bryson, director of operations, College of Charleston. “We knew what our budget was, and we looked in a lot of different areas to find ways to make that go as far as it could. We also made the case to our university that this is more than just a financial benefit. We’ve gotten a lot of additional exposure this year from streaming broadcasts.”

Kitay, D2 Productions Target Cost-Efficiency
While College of Charleston is a prime example of doing more with less, it is not just the schools that are creating affordable solutions for live production. D2 Productions partnered with Kitay Productions to build and integrate Genesis, a compact 24-ft. HD built around a core of NewTek gear (TriCaster 850 Extreme, 3Play 425 replay system).

“For pro sports, the 53-ft. expando is the staple, but, at the levels we are talking about here — mid majors and Olympic sports — there is a tremendous opportunity to use new technology to drive down the cost without sacrificing the quality of your shows,” said Kitay Productions President Joel Kitay. “You can deliver the things viewers are expecting to see — scorebox, statistics, and replays — while bringing down the cost.”

Upping the Exposure for C-USA

As Joel Kitay of Kitay Productions (center) and John Servizzi of Webstream Productions (right) look on, Conference USA’s Nicole Cartier (left) describes efforts to extend HD production across the conference.

Prior to the 2011-12 academic year, Conference USA demanded that each of its institutions meet a certain level of HD production capability and stream a large number of games on their respective Websites. In order to accomplish this, C-USA delivered to each school an equipment complement that included a TriCaster and two cameras.

“All 12 of our member institutions now have HD-ready productions for their Websites,” says Nicole Cartier, director of new media, Conference USA. “That was a big thing for us because, as a smaller conference with smaller schools, a lot of games may not be on television. But now, fans, parents, and everybody can now go online and watch Memphis soccer or Rice men’s basketball. That is now readily available to them.”

Ross Goes Back to School
Although NewTek and its flagship TriCaster have taken the college sports-production community by storm, several other manufacturers are making plenty of headway in the rapidly growing market. Ross Video is chief among those vendors, boasting not only an affordable switcher with its Carbonite series but also the ability to offer technology throughout the production chain from switchers to graphics to routers.

“We’re at a unique position for college [sports] because of our [wide variety of products],” said Nigel Spratling, marketing product manager, communications, for production switchers at Ross Video. “We’ve tried to make it so students can operate something that looks like an ESPN [production]. We want you to be able to produce a show that you would do in a 53-ft. truck but [do it] in a sprinter van. We’ve been working very hard to find those kinds of solutions for those on a small budget.”

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