Northeastern University Boosts Olympic-Sports Streaming to HD With TriCaster 40

When NewTek announced the budget-friendly TriCaster 40 last month just in time for the start of the fall college sports season, Northeastern University’s Imry Halevi was one of many college video professionals salivating at the notion of streaming live, multicamera HD sports productions using a desktop production unit that costs less than $5,000.

Although Northeastern began streaming its premier sports at Matthews Arena (men’s and women’s hockey and men’s basketball) in HD last year using a TriCaster 850 Extreme, all Olympic sports remained stuck in the depths of standard definition with an aging TriCaster Broadcast. That was until Halevi, Northeastern’s associate director of video production, secured a TriCaster 40 just weeks before the fall sports season kicked off.

“We were excited to see NewTek come out with this new TriCaster,” he says. “It was the perfect fit for us and changed everything we do. We weren’t really planning on having so many changes to our production this fall, but here we are.”

A Welcome Surprise

The NewTek TriCaster 40 in action at a women’s soccer game at Parson’s Field

Halevi had considered purchasing an additional TriCaster 850 Extreme to cover Olympic sports at Parsons Field (baseball and men’s and women’s soccer), the Cabot Center (women’s basketball and volleyball), and other campus venues. However, the price tag of more than $30,000 was not in the budget and difficult to justify to university athletics administration. In addition, the use of an 850 Extreme at venues aside from Mathews Arena would have required Halevi and company to replace a large chunk of their production gear.

“We would have had to replace pretty much everything else, too,” says Halevi. “We have Sony HDR-FX7 cameras for the Olympic sports, which have composite in and composite out, and they’re all HD, but there is no SDI output. And if you are looking at working with the newer TriCasters, SDI is really the way to go.”

Halevi had resigned himself to another year of SD streaming for Husky Olympic sports, when NewTek announced the release of the TriCaster 40 at the end of August. Needless to say, the $4,995 price point was a much easier sell to administrators.

“I talked to our senior associate AD, and he thought it was a great idea, but I still needed to make a case for it [to the administration],” says Halevi. “So I took screenshots of our HD men’s basketball production from last year and a screenshot of our SD women’s basketball stream, and then I told them the price. And that was basically all they needed; we didn’t even need the pitch. They said, ‘Let’s do it, it’s a no-brainer.’”

From Zero to 110 in One Year
The women’s soccer team’s game at Parsons Field on Sept. 9 marked the first of what Northeastern plans to be 110 live HD athletics events streamed on the GoNUxstream portal this year, with only five remaining in SD because of a handful of scheduling conflicts.

As has been the case since 2009, all live streams are produced in-house by an all-student crew. The average TriCaster 40 production is a three-camera show with a nine- to 10-person crew: three camera operators, two commentators, graphics, replay, a TD switching, and a director.

All-student Northeastern video team using the TriCaster 40

For those without a high-speed broadband connection (games are streamed at 2 Mbps, and NU recommends that viewers have a speed of at least 2.5 Mbps), GoNUxstream also provides an SD stream.

“The response we have gotten from our fans is amazing,” says Halevi. “When people watch the HD and SD streams side-by-side, they are blown away because they never expected that kind of quality for an event like soccer.”

The Power of the New Husky Workflow
The TriCaster 40 integrates video switching, graphics, titles, effects, media playback, virtual sets, keying, recording, and streaming in one portable, compact system. The production team can use multiple cameras, video inputs, stored clips, graphics, laptops, and iOS devices in real time at video sources’ native resolution.

The system features a 14-channel switcher, with four live camera inputs, multiview monitor, digital disc recorder, program-record storage, network inputs, streaming encoder, downstream keyer, graphics, titles and effects, virtual sets, and chroma key.

The TriCaster 40 features component video out, allowing NU to upgrade to HD without having to purchase new cameras.

“We have spent the last few weeks playing around with this new TriCaster, and it’s amazing for what we need,” says Halevi. “It doesn’t have everything [that the 850 Extreme has] for sure, but it does have component HD, and it’s perfect for us because we have all these cameras with component-HD output. We just connected the cameras, and everything worked perfectly.”

The Husky production crew is also using NewTek LiveText software to wirelessly input scoreboard data from every venue into its custom scorebug.

“We could not do that before [with the NewTek Broadcast],” says Halevi. “This new TriCaster allows us to have two layers of graphic overlay, so we can now have a scorebug and a lower-third up or a full-screen graphic at the same time. We can do all these things that we are used to with the bigger TriCasters that weren’t an option for our Olympic sports before.”

GoNUxstream runs on a Stretch Video Flash-based video player and allows real-time scorebugs and other graphics.

Using the TriCaster 40, Northeastern can stream directly to the Stretch Internet Adobe Flash-based video player on GoNUxstream, which can be accessed via computer, iOS, and Android devices.

“When you consider that we purchased our TriCaster Broadcast three years ago for $10,000,” says Halevi, “and then consider that this cost $5,000 and blows it away, you can see just how excited we are about this.”

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