Big South Conference Selects NewTek Tricaster and Vizrt

Sports at the Big South Conference looking toward streaming TV coverage on ESPN3 that gives their student producers as much semi-pro experience as the athletes

Originally published by Broadcast Bridge

Sports at the Big South Conference looking toward streaming TV coverage on ESPN3 that gives their student producers as much semi-pro experience as the athletes.

All the 10 member universities of the Big South Conference are having their TV production facilities upgraded to a fully integrated, professional level, switcher-replay-graphics workflow to get them ready to meet the high production standards of ESPN3 broadcasts and beyond.

"Our broadcast service, the Big South Network (BSN) has been the streaming site for live sporting events at all our member schools for a decade now," Mark Bryant, director of multimedia development at the Big South Conference told The Broadcast Bridge, "which amounts to over 900 live streamed events each year."

Starting as a subscription service, the BSN has grown to over 500,000 unique visits seen in 200 countries so Bryant convinced the group it was time for an equipment upgrade.

"We wanted to continue to progress in a way that major broadcasters like ESPN3 and similar platforms would consider carrying our games," he said. "That gives both our athletes as well as our students who work in the production vans exposure to the most demanding of professional environments."

So the Big South Network’s new workflow is based on NewTek’s flagship TriCaster 8000 multi-camera video production system equipped with TriCaster Advanced Edition software, and they are employing NewTek’s 3Play 440 sports production system for slo mo and instant replay.

"A great benefit of this combination is we can post right out of it to social media," Bryant added. "But so far we have been producing everything with a third party production partner, WebStream Sports. Now we want to evolve as much as possible into student-based production."

A key requirement of ESPN3 was to maintain compatibility with the online network’s own on-air graphics look, which took Bryant and the Big South Conference to the door of Vizrt.

"Vizrt graphics are central to the ‘look’ of ESPN’s popular streaming station," said Richard Einstein, head of sports, Americas, for Vizrt, "so having our graphics systems used at the university level not only gives us a bigger user base but also prepares the students for future jobs once they graduate."

Actually, the BSN is already using the same Vizrt graphics package favored by ESPN3 which will now be controlled through the Viz Trio c.g. and graphics controller.

"One important aspect is that the Viz Trio is IP only," Einstein said, "so it won’t take up any of the TriCaster 8000’s SDI channels."

IP gives the BSN production performance while still matching the requirements of ESPN3 and other streamcasters.

"NewTek has delivered BSN a tool that gives them a consistency of look across their production that approximates what’s seen on ESPN3," NewTek’s director of product marketing, Will Waters, told The Broadcast Bridge. "And thanks to our NDI (Network Device Interface) codec you can use the school’s existing IP infrastructure to move camera images from the field to our equipment in the production truck."

Pro-level broadcasting from student-run facilities is a new idea with a great deal of upside potential. "It’s intended to eventually attract advertising dollars," the Big South Conference’s multimedia director Bryant allowed, "and we want this to be something that brings in bigger and broader partnerships. We are, of course, a non-profit entity. But building out our production capabilities is good for our students, our athletes and our schools in general."

Read the full story, published by Broadcast Bridge.