Independent Production Company Produces Unique Live Coverage of Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals

When St. Louis-based independent video producer Bobby Sutherland met up with an old buddy during a trip to New Orleans earlier this year, he had no idea that he was stepping into a little bit of history.

The highlight of Get Funky's live production of the Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals was a wireless camera on board the main boat pulling the competitors.

The highlight of Get Funky’s live production of the Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals was a wireless camera aboard the main boat pulling the competitors.

The friends met in the Gulf to reconnect over one of their favorite pastimes: wakeboarding. Sutherland’s friend was working with USA Wakeboard to help arrange the Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals in Orange Beach, Al. The two got to talking and agreed on one thing: they needed to live-stream this thing, and not just for the sake of streaming it. They wanted to do it right.

For three days last month, Sutherland did just that, overseeing a production that leveraged some cutting-edge technology to provide complete coverage from the waters of the Gulf Shores, attracting more than 7,000 viewers over the course of the event.

“It was incredible to able to work with partners to put together something that’s really never been seen in the wakeboarding industry,” says Sutherland, whose company, Get Funky, produced the live show.

A crew of four — Sutherland and three students from Texas A&M — made it possible, with three cameras and a pop-up control room located inside a bar on the shore.

The three most critical facets of the production were a camera position on the boat pulling the wakeboarders, a LiveU LU500 backpack that made the transmission from the water possible, and a replay unit that allowed the hosts to provide robust analysis of the competition.

The on-board boat camera — a wireless unit provided by Wave Central — was Sutherland’s pride and joy.

“That’s the kind of angle you’ve maybe been able to get and take to a post house and see later,” he says, “but, in terms of a live show, no one has ever had a quality camera that’s been inside the boat.”

For LiveU, the event was another opportunity to flex its muscles by providing an ambitious producer with broadcasting capabilities from an untraditional location.

“I thought it was a very cool opportunity,” says Dave Belding, director, sports sales, LiveU. “It’s a unique application of the technology. LiveU has been used on the water before, We’ve used it for college rowing events, but, as you can imagine, that’s a very different animal: they are not going at quite the same speed as a wakeboarding boat.”

The replay server proved critical to making the production an enjoyable watch for the viewer at home. It gave the on-air talent hosting from the bar not only the ability to analyze the action but to fill lengthy breaks in the action.

“One of the biggest issues in our sport is downtime,” explains Sutherland. “Once a rider falls, it takes a couple of minutes for the boat to turn around. So adding replays to our show was one of the big things that I pushed for. The opportunity to review the previous run was a big part of our show and really helped fill that downtime with good content.”

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