NewTek - Request More Info

YouTube tackles sports


#

YouTube Sports sets its sights on live streaming sports, every sort of sport imaginable.

Every minute, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; more than one billion unique users visit the website each month; watching 6 billion hours of video. And, if YouTube were a cable TV channel, it could boast that it reaches more 18 to 34 year olds in the United States than any other cable network.

It’s no secret YouTube is transforming how people watch and distribute video. The facts speak for themselves.

What may be a bit more surprising is the growing role YouTube is playing as an online distributor of live sports coverage. It seems every sport imaginable is getting in on the action. Whether it’s a local bowling league, high school football team, collegiate athletics program or even major professional sports leagues and TV sports networks, YouTube is giving sports enterprises a way to reach audiences, extend their brands and drive revenue.

Doing so, however, hasn’t been without its hurdles. Perhaps the most challenging has been making it easy for those with no particular technical training to distribute their sports online. After all, while large TV sports networks are important users of the service, they aren’t representative of the majority of organizations YouTube is working to enlist as providers of live sports content. Who could even approach these TV stalwarts when it comes to video production background and overall technical expertise? “Some folks are just getting started,” says Perry Tobin, Technology Manager for YouTube Sports. “Some know what it takes to produce a live event; some have never done it at all.”

To make things simpler, YouTube has spent the past couple of years putting in place the technology needed to deliver high-quality live sports action, via the Internet. They’ve also developed the cloud-based transcoding software needed to make it simple and fast for users to distribute their live sports content to devices, ranging from desktop and laptop computers, to media tablets and smartphones.

VansTaking the plunge
The origins of YouTube’s accelerated involvement in the delivery of live sports over the Internet, stem from two sporting spectaculars: the 2012 London Olympics and Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s historic space leap from a pressurized capsule hoisted 24 miles above the earth’s surface by a helium balloon.

For the Olympics, NBC partnered with YouTube, which provided its Internet video player and live-streaming infrastructure to support worldwide distribution of more than 3,000 hours of live event coverage, interviews, and other exclusives on NBCOlympics.com. Likewise, Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos live supersonic jump into the history books in October 2012, drew intense public interest. And, while the event itself took less than three hours from balloon liftoff, to the safe touchdown of Baumgartner on terra firma, the spectacle garnered more than 8 million YouTube views – a record for the most concurrent live streaming views ever.

“What these two big projects did for YouTube was to help us make the platform very robust,” says Tobin. The events and the public’s reaction to them also brought immediate credibility and visibility to YouTube as a legitimate platform for the delivery of live sporting events.

“Both the NBC Olympics and the Stratos Jump streaming coverage were nominated for outstanding, innovative sports coverage,” says Tobin. “While NBC Olympics did not win that Emmy, the YouTube Stratos Jump did.”

Recognizing this opportunity to tap into a previously underserved vertical market with a proven Internet delivery infrastructure, YouTube assembled a team of people, including Tobin, who were focused on securing partnerships with leagues, teams and universities –basically, any entity that had a sports event people wanted to watch online.

The result has been a steady progression of successes securing partnerships with those wishing to live stream sports, starting with premium partners such as MLB, the NBA-D League, Major League Lacrosse and the National Women’s Soccer League, and progressing to any sports entity with 1,000 YouTube channel subscribers, such as collegiate athletic teams and leagues. And most recently, to any entity with barely more than 100 channel subscribers, such as high school sports and even bowling leagues.

Video production & streaming
With such a diverse base of new sports partners, YouTube understood there exists a wide range of video production experience and goals. “It might be completely sufficient having a single camera on the sidelines for a local soccer league,” explains Tobin. “That league is just trying to address fans and parents who want to watch a game online, and that setup may be a perfectly good production environment for that audience.”

Other sports organizations, however, wish to replicate with their YouTube Sports presence the video production value people are accustomed to seeing on television. For this group of YouTube Sports partners, multi-camera live game coverage with TV-style switcher effects and transitions, graphics, lower-thirds, slow-motion replay and other higher-end production elements is necessary. In some instances, Tobin says, these sports organizations want to step up their production quality to attract viewers. In others, they simply are trying to match the production quality already being achieved by broadcasters producing some of their games for TV.

“The ACC Digital Network, and a lot of our partners who put half of their games on TV and half on YouTube, are good examples of cases where having production value that is equivalent to TV is a must,” explains Tobin.

Another example is Major League Lacrosse. “They have quality standards that they live by,” explains Tobin. “They can’t really reduce the quality just to put it on YouTube. They want their product seen in the best possible light and in the best possible way.”

However, these sorts of TV productions traditionally come with high price tags. It’s not uncommon for a multi-camera TV production truck packed with all of the high-definition technology needed to present top-notch live television sports productions to cost tens of thousands of dollars to rent for a single game.

“In the past, that has been prohibitive,” says Tobin. “Fortunately, products like NewTek TriCaster and 3Play have lowered the barrier of entry into this space. Where you used to have to pull in a satellite truck, now all you need is an Internet drop, a TriCaster and 3Play, and you are good to go to have instant replays, green screens, and all of the things you’ve come to expect with cable TV-produced content.”

TriCaster allows sports entities to enhance the production quality of their shows, whether they are being live streamed or broadcast, without requiring the capital outlay needed to buy traditional video gear, or incurring the operating expense necessary to roll in a TV production truck.

Vans“While YouTube has a policy of remaining ‘platform agnostic, and not recommending technology’ in an effort to ‘play fair,’ says Tobin, “we do acknowledge the platforms that are working well for us,” adding that “we work with companies like NewTek to ensure compatibility with our network.”

Beyond production technology, for YouTube Sports to reach its full potential, there is a need to make the transcoding process required to live stream content to multiple types of platforms “as frictionless and as low-cost as possible,” explains Tobin.

“One of the key features we rolled out this year was the ability to transcode in the cloud. In the past, if folks wanted to get their content online, they would have to create multiple bit rates – perhaps 1080p if they wanted to do something really high quality, but also 360p for mobile,” he says.

To simplify the process, YouTube developed its cloud transcoding in a way that lets users submit one high-resolution stream that is transcoded into all of the other bit rates needed to distribute to the various viewing options consumers use today, and thus guarantee compatibility and reach.

“We realize the YouTube generation wants its content on the closest device at hand. That might be a cell phone; that might be a tablet; that might be a laptop computer,” says Tobin.

Game changer
While sports organizations setting up their own YouTube channels to stream live events benefit from building their brand, extending their reach and better serving the needs of their fans, there’s also a financial component to YouTube Sports that can make the effort a revenue generator that helps to defray production costs or even produce profits.

“It is a revenue-share deal that is supported by ads, and those ads can come from a lot of different places,” explains Tobin. “In general, Google sells ads on YouTube. So any YouTube partner who signs up, Google sells ads on their behalf. There is a revenue split that typically is 55 percent to the partner and 45 percent to YouTube.” There are also provisions for YouTube Sports partners who sell their own commercials, he adds.

Tobin acknowledges the non-financial benefits of partnering with YouTube Sports can be just as important, if not more important, than revenue to a sports organization, depending on its goals. For instance, greater visibility for a collegiate athletic program – particularly at small schools or for sports not typically televised - can pay handsome rewards when it comes to player recruitment. Another benefit, Tobin says, is deepening the bonds sports programs or teams have with their fans by giving those fans a way to watch games not scheduled to air on TV. Streaming also gives fans a way to keep up with the latest team developments during streamed coach interview shows and feature reports.

Connecting on this level, via YouTube Sports, with fans and recruits can be game-changing events for teams and athletic programs looking to achieve a higher level of success. Not only does the YouTube Sports offer these organizations a way to bypass traditional television gatekeepers, but it also gives them an avenue to reach their fans consistently over the long haul.

Fade to black
For Tobin, who has spent most of his career as a software developer and designer, his involvement with YouTube Sports has surprised him by what he describes as “the art form of doing a good broadcast.”

“Whether it’s the announcing, the technical aspects or instant replays – all things that make a production engaging - there is a big difference in the sort of entertainment value that is delivered, if it is done right,” he says.

Granted, YouTube Sports appeals to a broad group of audiences, so it depends on what the expectations are for any given group of viewers. But having access to powerful, yet affordable television production technology, like TriCaster, that is simple to learn and use, means even those involved in live streaming sporting events to YouTube channels with only hundreds of viewers can produce an end product that is engaging and better informs the audience.

“I have learned that a lot of folks think they can become the next broadcaster and bring that level of quality they are used to seeing on television,” says Tobin. With tools like TriCaster, they can satisfy those ambitions.

In Tobin’s view, the availability of powerful production tools like TriCaster and 3Play, that are affordable, could not have come at a better time for YouTube Sports. He says, “I think we have hit that interesting sweet spot in time where bandwidth is coming down in price and becoming more accessible, and the cost of doing a decent production and the skill level needed to do that is also coming down.”

He adds, “I believe sports is the next big, untapped video frontier on the Internet. As we keep pushing down costs and increasing quality, I think we will see more, and more, interesting times.


To read more studies on how end users are taking the television industry by storm with NewTek products, check out NewTek Customer Stories.

Off the wall action


Vans

All the young dudes were out in force one sunny August weekend, when the Vans Downtown Showdown skateboard event rolled into Paris.

With €50,000 prize money at stake for the twelve teams in competition, the event promised to be serious fun. The live streaming specialists, 3XScreen Media, captured it all using NewTek TriCasters, 3Play instant replay and LiveText graphics.

Van’s designs and distributes a wide range of specialist shoes and apparel targeted at the skateboarding community, both skaters and fans. The brand is promoted using a packed calendar of sponsored global events and a constantly updated Web and social media presence. Vans’ brand strap line is “off the wall” and the coverage for the event, just like their in-house VOD channel at www.offthewall.tv, needs to promote the brand as young and exciting, urban and immediate.

“We’ve done BMX and skateboard events for Vans before, but Downtown Showdown is by far the biggest event of any kind for Vans in Europe, and the biggest skateboard event in Europe,” says Scott Robinson, Managing Director, 3XScreen Media, which produced the event with Factory Media.

No-barriers outreach
The Vans marketing team had two objectives: Get customers to Paris and immerse them in the event, and engage with the community digitally in other parts of the world.

Nick Street, Senior Marketing Manager, Vans EMEA, explains: “Only so many people can actually come to the event, so live streaming is a way of making a wider audience part of the experience. VANS consumers engage on multiple social platforms, and they consume media a lot quicker; they want to go and get things instantly, and they want to be part of it. That’s really a great opportunity for us.”

“These events are great for promoting our brand”, Nick continued, “The style of production aligns with our brand values. Skateboarders are a global community that want immediate access to, and involvement with the events.”

VansThe skateboard competition saw twelve teams skating four obstacles, each one representing a Parisian icon; from the Eiffel Tower, to a designer suitcase obstacle representing Parisian chic! The skaters, as well as peripheral art and music events, were filmed and streamed live to screens around the venue, as well as to various Web platforms, and the footage was recorded for later use.

Multi-camera, multi-action
“Vans’ brief was that the production needed to be cost-effective; to be broadcast-quality; and to be innovative,” says Scott. “Those things are really what the NewTek kit brings to our workflow.”

3XScreen Media has been using NewTek TriCasters for three years, producing around 60 productions each year. “TriCaster and 3Play are a fundamental part of our live production workflow,” says Scott. “Without them we couldn’t do the kind of productions our customers expect.”

VansThe workflow for the Downtown Showdown consisted of 12 cameras, all feeding back to an on-site production studio which housed a TriCaster 850 and a TriCaster 855, plus a NewTek 3Play system for instant slo-mo’s, replays and highlights, plus NewTek LiveText for graphics. The 850 was used to feed the local screens, principally the programme output that was also streaming to the Vans website, while the 855 was the principal production machine for both the sport side of the event and the interviews, and reporting during the competition.

The camera set-up included a number of innovations to keep the content fresh and exciting. “We had Go Pro Hero 3 cameras on small travel jibs for capturing the action from above. We can use those with the TriCaster as we can input almost any signal.” says James Peilow, Online Video Producer and Engineer, 3XScreen Media. “We also used the Teradek Bolt wireless system which allowed us to use our overhead camera without cables, and the camera team had some handheld wireless cameras to get around the venue easily without worrying about being tethered or getting in the way of the skaters.”

TV-quality highlights

Instant replay is a huge part of any sporting event, and the slow motion element provided by 3Play instant replay system beautifully highlighted the movement of the skaters. The system also brought other benefits to the production, as Scott explains.

“Being able to link 3Play into our live sports productions like Downtown Showdown, makes a huge difference to the production values of the event. Traditional replay machines are out of our league in terms of hire and operator costs, but 3Play allows us to bring in cost-effective instant replays and highlights packages,” he says. “In addition, using 3Play in conjunction with TriCaster on this event meant that we could take eight cameras into the TriCasters and a further four into the 3Play over the network. On an event like this, camera sources are gold! So being able to bring in network sources is very beneficial, and the two systems work together very well. Our team is also multi-disciplinary, and everyone is familiar with all of the NewTek kit, which means that the same guys who do live switching can also do replay.”
Vans

The slow motion element provided viewers with multiple angles of the same action, and gave the production team some breathing space, since they could create a playlist to play out between events while they were preparing for the next lot of live footage.

Gleaming the production cube
The team also used NewTek LiveText for its dynamic graphics. James recalls, “As we were interviewing people, we were adding in lower thirds on the fly and animating them in and out. There was no pre-rendering, so we could adapt to any changes or create new name straps for surprise guests; Live Text allowed us to be prepared for the unexpected.”

The live stream programme output was sent back, via LiveU to 3XScreen Media’s master control room in London where it was recorded through another TriCaster. Some additional graphics were added and then it was published through Elemental encoders to eight different platforms and around 100 different websites. Various versions of the programme output – dirty, clean, with and without commentary – were also recorded for the later creation of a TV programme. 

Scott credits the NewTek equipment as a major factor in the creation of a high quality yet cost-effective production. “For this kind of production, if we didn’t have TriCasters and 3Play, we’d need an OB truck five times bigger than the one we had, we’d need a huge production crew plus drivers, riggers and the like. Today, thanks to NewTek, we are able to do a 12-camera, broadcast-quality production with 15 people.”


To read more studies on how end users are taking the television industry by storm with NewTek products, check out NewTek Customer Stories.

Putting it all on the line

Discovery Channel turns to Mobile Studios and NewTek TriCaster to deliver live coverage of Nik Wallenda’s death-defying walk. Viewers throughout Latin America had a front row seat to watch the tightrope legend walk 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River.

Nik Wallenda’s walk across the Little Colorado River gorge near the Grand Canyon on June 23 not only was a major first for the high-wire artist, but also a significant ratings coup for Discovery, which ranks the event as one of its most highly watched special events ever.

Some 13 million people tuned in to see Wallenda, a seventh generation member of the world-famous Flying Wallenda Family, walk and pray his way across the 1,400-foot expanse, overcoming the high winds gusting across the canyon and averting certain death should he have fallen to the bottom of the gorge 1,500 feet below.

The event also drew significant international attention – Discovery Brazil, Discovery Latin America, and Discovery Mexico broadcast the spectacle live to viewers.

Together with Spanish-language Discovery en Español, which serves Spanish-speaking residents across the United States, these channels played an important role in helping Discovery maximize its revenue opportunities by expanding its audience for the event, and delivering commercials in Spanish and Portuguese.

From a business standpoint, Discovery counted on what it calls its “money reels,” that is commercial run lists customized for each international channel, as well as Discovery en Español − to give advertisers more options to reach their desired audiences and to drive greater revenue opportunities for the network.

Production workflow
While the tightrope walk over the Little Colorado River happened on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon, the feeds for Discovery’s Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels were produced some 2,300 miles away in Miami at the Discovery Latin America headquarters. Primarily a post-production center, the headquarters isn’t typically equipped for live production, especially not one requiring simulcasts of the same event, with narration in two different languages and custom commercial run lists for multiple markets.

To handle the challenge, Discovery contracted with Mobile Studios, a Boca Raton, Florida-based systems integrator and manufacturer, to provide six TriCaster live production systems, ancillary production equipment, and the crew needed to pull off the feat. The TriCaster switchers at the heart of the market customization needed to be able to roll in commercials for the right international Discovery channel and key the correct animated Discovery bug over each program feed.

From a workflow standpoint, a clean feed of the Wallenda tightrope walk in Arizona was uplinked live from the event, to Discovery’s main headquarters in Sterling, Va., which distributes the main Discovery Channel feed. At the same time, the Virginia facility transported the signal via fiber optic link to the Discovery Latin America headquarters in Miami.

There, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking narrators translated the English commentary on the fly for each of the Latin American feeds. Unique money reels for each market were integrated into the productions, as were the appropriate Discovery logos for each channel, using TriCaster. Then each market-specific, customized channel was uplinked for distribution throughout Latin America and Mexico, as well as to Spanish-speaking residents in the US.

Inside the setup
Despite the company’s name, Mobile Studios is not primarily a provider of outside broadcast facilities and crew, says company president Rich Rubin. Rather, it develops a unique production flypack called the PortaCast®, a TriCaster-based console that provides essential video production tools for switching, graphics and monitoring, in order to produce live television from remote locations, particularly venues where space is at a premium.

“We manufacture a very unique console, which was one of the reasons Discovery went with us,” says Rubin. “They liked the way we package our systems, how portable they are and the fact that we can provide production staff when required.”

For the Wallenda event, Discovery set aside four adjacent 10-by-15-foot rooms for Mobile Studios. Rubin stationed himself in one of the rooms with a TriCaster 855 used for the Discovery Brazil feed and the other four Technical Directors set up shop in the three remaining rooms. On the Friday before the Sunday event, Mobile Studios wired the rooms and essentially set up five television studios in four small rooms.

In total, Mobile Studios employed six TriCaster production switchers for the event, including two TriCaster 855 and four TriCaster 455 units. Five of the six were each assigned to a specific feed, while the remaining TriCaster 855 was held in reserve, pre-configured for each feed, to serve as a backup.

TriCaster 855 is a full, HD resolution, 24-channel switcher with support for eight live camera inputs, an eight-source ISO recorder, integrated media recorder and eight M/E style virtual inputs. TriCaster 455, also an integrated production solution, is equipped with 14-channel switching, four-camera inputs, four-track ISO recorder, integrated media recorder and four M/E style virtual inputs.

Rubin and the crew from Mobile Studios leveraged two TriCaster features in particular to make the international feeds of the Wallenda tightrope walk a success. First, they used the integrated digital disk recorders (DDRs) of the switchers to store and playback commercials for each scheduled break. Used in tandem with the powerful tab feature of TriCaster, Rubin and the other technical directors accessed the preset playlists of commercials stored in the DDRs to make adjustments to the run list simply by dragging and dropping thumbnail frames representing each commercial spot into its proper place in the rundown.

Second, using a TriCaster virtual input, Rubin and his fellow TDs were able to apply a DDR in each TriCaster to playback the animated Discovery bug and overlay the logos onto the program content, using TriCaster’s downstream keyer (DSK) function. This configuration made it an automatic process to insert the bugs for each international feed, only on live program content, not commercials or promos, one of Discovery’s important production requirements. “It was very nice having that particular feature,” says Rubin, “because we didn’t have to call ‘Bug on’ and ‘Bug off’ when we went to commercial.”

Similarly, Rubin and the other TDs used the TriCaster DSK function to insert a graphic displaying an audience rating of the program for some of the international feeds.
“That was a manual operation, and it had to stay on for the first 15 seconds for some of the networks,” says Rubin.

Being prepared
To ensure things went smoothly for the Mobile Studios team on the day of the event, Rubin spent the day before Wallenda crossed the gorge checking and rechecking all of the media that would be played out of the TriCaster. “We found some of the media didn’t play, so we had to re-encode it,” he recalls. But by the time of the event, Rubin estimates 99 percent of what needed to be done was complete. “By the time we got to air, the only real problems were a couple of commercial breaks that needed some on-the-fly adjustments.”

The problems related to commercial playlists and some discrepancies between the scheduled and actual lengths of a couple of spots, says Rubin. “There were mistakes on the playlist on two occasions,” explains Rubin, “and we didn’t find out about them till we were going to the segment.”

Prior to going to each commercial segment, Rubin would ask the other TDs over the intercom to verify the length of the segment. “I would say I am looking at 3:15 for this segment, and one of the TD’s replied, saying, ‘I’ve got 2:45.” A quick check with Discovery revealed an error on that TD’s playlist, with a 1:30 spot recorded on the list as a minute.”

“So, on the fly we had to cut a commercial and put it in on the next segment and remove a promo for Discovery,” says Rubin. “We were able to make those changes on the fly very easily with TriCaster by doing a simple cut and paste.” A similar error involving the playlist on another TriCaster was also easily resolved in the same way, he adds.

From Rubin’s perspective, the ability to assign an IP address to every TriCaster in use, combined with the network availability of all the commercials to be used, was very helpful. While each TriCaster was live with the Wallenda event, Rubin and the other TDs could actually go to a folder and access the commercials for a particular commercial segment.

That IP connectivity and folder access allowed Discovery to push spots to TriCaster folders so changes could be made live. “I’ll tell you, without that we would have been dead in the water,” says Rubin. “If we had to physically take a jump drive and plug it in, I don’t think we could have made the changes we needed to make. I don’t think we could have accessed the jump drive out of the presentation.”

In other words, he adds, the TriCaster allowed all of the Mobile Studios technical directors to manage media without breaking out of the project, which would mean going off-air, something that was utterly unacceptable for such a major television event.

Everything on the line
While it’s impossible to argue that anyone had more on the line than Nik Wallenda, that doesn’t mean the stakes weren’t high for Discovery and Mobile Studios. With so much revenue on the line, slip-ups that possibly could be compounded across multiple networks were simply unacceptable.

“This is a live event, and there is a tremendous amount of pressure to ensure that everything is going to perform as advertised,” says Rubin. “The key to it is to make sure every commercial runs at the break and runs correctly and the revenue side is met.”

“There were times that I actually felt like I was on the wire with Nik Wallenda. Until he crossed the gorge, and the show was over. Until the end, I felt like I was on the wire right there with him,” says Rubin. “Obviously, he had a lot more to lose than I did.”

However, Rubin notes that as the president of Mobile Studios he was constantly aware of the amount of potential liability his company might face in the event of a catastrophic problem. The Wallenda crossing of the gorge was a worldwide event with a lot of revenue at stake if the commercials didn’t run, if one of the systems went off the air. “We are talking about five systems supplying all of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in South America, and millions of dollars of revenue on the line,” he says.

As a technical director, however, Rubin says he was able to remove himself from worrying about the potential for problems and focus on operating TriCaster.

On Monday morning after the event, Rubin says he received a congratulatory letter from the Discovery vice president of engineering, commending Mobile Studios on the quality job they did producing the international feeds.

While Rubin is understandably proud of the Mobile Studios performance, he is quick to attribute the success to three elements: the right equipment, a good crew and great support.

“When I say great support, I mean great support from NewTek, which provided someone who actually lived with us for the three days leading up to and including the event. Having him there was indispensable. That level of support was particularly key to the success of the project,” he says.

The TriCaster, too, performed flawlessly, he adds. “It was the perfect choice, and the crew that I selected performed perfectly. The combination made for a successful event,” he says.


To read more studies on how end users are taking the television industry by storm with NewTek products, check out NewTek Customer Stories.

Taking a new direction.


IMG 0136-cTheStreet’s new TriCaster control rooms are helping the financial news outlet enhance its brand and work more efficiently.

Traders, investors and just about anyone else who likes their financial news with equal measures of “booyah” and bravado are bound to know Jim Cramer and his popular nightly “Mad Money” show on CNBC.

His legendary rants, frenetic caller lightning rounds, as well as his copious use of props and sound effects, coupled with a quick wit and unique financial insight have made his show popular with a legion of fans.

With an on-air presence like that, Cramer has set the bar pretty high in the minds of viewers who regularly visit TheStreet, a popular financial Web destination he co-founded with Martin Peretz in 1996. While satisfying those expectations isn’t particularly easy, doing so is essential.

For Elisabeth DeMarse, who took over as president, chairman and CEO of TheStreet in March 2012, delivering engaging and informative financial news that’s fresh and on-target is imperative. DeMarse likens people seeking financial news to sports fans who are passionate about their favorite sport. They want to be up to date on the latest developments, and they don’t have much interest in anything less.

TheStreet, however, wasn’t set up to produce timely video reports when DeMarse arrived. Things had to change. That’s why she contacted former colleague, Brooke McDonald from her days at Bloomberg, who now runs Houpla, Inc., a Baltimore-based media consulting and content creation company.

McDonald and her partner at Houpla, Michael Brassert, knew when taking on the assignment that the goal of transforming TheStreet’s video operations was to put in place a modern HD television infrastructure focused on producing timely, high-quality financial video news reports that leveraged technology to make the production workflow highly efficient.

TriCaster 8000 group“We had to find a way to upgrade the video product in TheStreet’s business in a manner that increased brand awareness, upgraded the brand image and also drove business,” says Brassert.

“In the case of TheStreet, the video products they had were being plagued by lack of vision, lack of branding and lack of a goal to move forward with a video product that was integrated as a viable part of their operation to drive business.”

While McDonald, who has a long list of journalism credits, including positions with CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters and Maryland Public Television, worked with TheStreet’s journalists to replace their print-like workflow with something more akin to a TV newsroom workflow, Brassert focused on video production workflow.

“The first thing I noticed was the workflow was hindering the video product,” says Brassert. “They were in a traditional post-production workflow. They were trying to do multi-camera work. This is a news organization mind you.”

Out with the old

TheStreet was using a three-camera setup for interviews. Video was recorded to removable memory cards, ingested into a nonlinear editing station and cut together along with graphics and titles. “Because of this workflow, they weren’t getting their videos out for sometimes days or even weeks,” he says.

“The solution was to put in place a live, switched video production workflow,” says Brassert. “This would allow TheStreet to post reports to their websites within minutes, not days or weeks.”

Brassert began looking for technology that would allow TheStreet to produce video in a way that would remove the post-production element. “By doing that, it forced journalists when preparing their stories to have all of the information they needed. They weren’t going to be fixing it in post,” he says.

At the center of this new live production workflow is a pair of NewTek TriCaster 8000 broadcast-integrated production platforms, used for 1080i HD production of all video shows produced for distribution on TheStreet’s websites, and via partners like Roku. One is used in TheStreet’s main control room; the other serves the dual roles of switching shows produced in a secondary control room and being a backup.

Brassert chose TriCaster 8000 for TheStreet because it allows the company to compete at the same level, in terms of video and production quality, as bigger media companies with deeper pockets.

TriCaster 8000 is a video content publishing hub with eight simultaneous live HD and/or SD video inputs; five integrated digital media players, including two digital disk recorders; eight fully configurable M/E channels with re-entry, real-time motion tracking and effects support; four downstream keyer channels, and four additional key layers per M/E bus; plus 3-D and TransWarp effects support.

Additionally, it provides access to control of up to eight live, pan-tilt-zoom cameras; offers more than 30 live, HD virtual studios; supports direct content upload to YouTube and other social media sites; streams live, HD video content, and comes with an integrated multi-channel audio mixer.

“With TriCaster, we have taken TheStreet to the level you would find in many network news control rooms and studios,” says Brassert. Using TriCaster, a single operator can output broadcast-quality video over fiber to other news organizations, record it for possible post production if needed, stream shows live via the Internet, and create video-on-demand clips that can be posted online in a really short amount of time,” he says.

Brassert selected TriCaster 8000 after investigating other traditional video production switchers and digital disk recorders. “We found that putting all of those components together would have been one way to go, but it would be much more expensive than using the TriCaster,” he says.

DeMarse, too, welcomes the benefit of powerful production capabilities at an affordable price. “Over the past 10 years, the cost of production technology has diminished, while the quality has improved immeasurably,” she says.

“Nowadays, viewers expect the same quality on their smartphone or tablet that they would get on their television, and with technology like Tricaster 8000, we can produce HD quality video at a fraction of what it would’ve cost a decade ago.”

Taking it to TheStreet

story-image-2TriCaster offers TheStreet another important benefit. With its location in the heart of the financial district of New York City, space is at a premium. There was only 600 square feet available for the new control rooms and studios.

Without space to build multiple sets, Brassert relied on TriCaster’s virtual sets and green-screen functionality to give the appearance of more spacious studios overlooking Wall Street. Many of these sets include virtual windows into which TriCaster keys shots of the skyline of the financial district, further reinforcing the fact that TheStreet is located on Wall Street.

For the past seven months, Ruben Ramirez, head of video for TheStreet, has been responsible for implementing the new production workflow envisioned by Brassert. Initially, productions were done with one technical director who operated TriCaster and an outboard audio mixer. However, as the sophistication of the productions has increased, says Ramirez, two people run most shows. One is assigned to TriCaster and the other runs the Chyron IP character generator, adds other graphics, and rides audio.

All of TheStreet productions done since Ramirez’ arrival have prepared the production staff for its next challenge: live production. “We are launching nine live shows a day—each between five and 10 minutes in length—starting at 7 a.m. and going through 5 p.m.,” says Ramirez. “TriCaster is definitely giving us the opportunity to do live programming, and it is also giving us the chance to interact with our viewers in real time.”

“A big part of what TheStreet is doing is social media-related, and TriCaster is providing the backbone to a system developed at TheStreet to integrate Tweets into the shows,” says Ramirez. “One example is integrating Tweets from thought leaders into a show focused on commodities.”

“The anchor of that show can have a list up of those thought leaders on an iPad,” explains Ramirez. “We pump that output into one of the plasmas in the studio. That gets routed into the TriCaster as an input and then we can put it anywhere we want. Another example is a show Jim Cramer does every Monday morning that takes Tweets from viewers asking questions about the economy,” he adds.

The closing bell

While TriCaster 8000 provides all of the production capability TheStreet needs to compete with other financial media, perhaps its biggest contribution to the company’s success is helping TheStreet build its brand and promote its subscription products.

“This was all designed to improve the business of TheStreet,” explains Brassert. “The video content is basically financial news, and is a free service provided to the public. The whole video element of TheStreet is a bit of a marketing tool to drive its subscription business and to help visitors make informed financial decisions. So the quality of that product is really core to the success of all of TheStreet’s businesses.”

With a production platform as powerful as TriCaster, TheStreet can be confident it is well equipped to compete and continue building a top-notch brand that is widely recognized and respected. And that’s enough to make anyone exclaim: “Booyah!”


To read more studies on how end users are taking the television industry by storm with NewTek products, check out NewTek Customer Stories.

TD Garden Delivers More Action for Less Money with NewTek Solutions


td-garden

TD Garden credits NewTek solutions for fan-focused experience

With on-ice action as compelling as it’s been, the hurdle for TD Garden’s audio-video department is to deliver something extraordinary that makes actually being at the arena for a game, even more special.

“The top challenge we face at the Garden is how do we enhance the experience of the fans who attend a game, so that they not only see all of the game action live, but also the highlights and key plays on video. We want to create an overall experience that makes the price of their ticket a great value and leaves them wanting to return again,” says John Mitchell, director of audio-video at TD Garden.

td-garden-shots-jumbotronFortunately for Mitchell and the 35-person staff he manages, this task is made much easier thanks to an impressive, multimillion dollar scoreboard with giant, integrated HD LED displays and a bevy of high-tech, HD video production gear that make it possible for fans to view slow-motion replays, regardless of where they are sitting.

For this season’s play, TD Garden added two NewTek 3Play replay systems, taking the number of different camera shots available for instant replay to 11. With so many angles covered, the LED screen coverage has never been better. “Thanks to the 3Play systems, close overhead goal cameras - which we’ve never before had- and in-net cameras, we are able to bring up multiple replays from various angles that give fans in the Garden an incredible view of the action.”

NewTek 3Play, a professional slow motion instant replay system, delivers network-quality, multi-camera ISO recording and playback with pristine slow-motion replay. Priced far lower than legacy alternatives, 3Play makes it possible for any video operation, from high school to major league teams, to add slow-motion instant replay to game coverage. For TD Garden, the low cost means Mitchell has more channels of instant replay available for arena coverage of the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics NBA franchise, and any entertainment act or special event held at the facility.

Before adding the two NewTek 3Play systems, Mitchell’s department relied on a more-expensive legacy device that only allowed his productions to integrate replays of three camera angles into the scoreboard presentation.

td-garden-shots-multiscreensThe additional eight replay angles have a direct impact on the quality of Mitchell’s productions. “It might be that during one portion of a play one angle is better, and during another portion another is better,” explains Mitchell. “So, it really enhances our presentation of the action. It really takes the value of our control room and our investment and enhances it.”

Beyond production quality, having so many new replay angles means fans directly benefit from a perspective on the game that can exceed even that of game officials. “We actually had a game that went to overtime,” recalls Mitchell. “With one of these new looks, we showed on replay from an overhead camera that the puck clearly went in the net by the time the ref had gone to the penalty box to review the shot. The game was over, and the fans were able to see it. If it was last year, and we didn’t have the 3Plays, they wouldn’t have been able to see that it was a game-winning goal.”

It’s more than the game

While TD Garden’s new NewTek 3Play replay systems have expanded an important element of the Bruins scoreboard coverage, their value extends to well beyond game night. Even while the 3Play systems are recording and playing back different angles for fans in attendance, Mitchell is laying the groundwork for the next day’s production of promos and other video projects based on that night’s action.

td-garden-shots-multiscreens-2Between periods, the audio-video department tags all shots being recorded with a special naming convention that identifies team, player involved, what the player did to make the shot worth recording in the first place, the camera angle used to record the action, the opposing team played and the date of the game. With such an extensive metadata collection, doing queries of recorded angles that turn up the desired shot is quick and easy.

At the end of the game, the 3Play allows Mitchell to begin moving all of the recorded angles with their associated metadata across his computer network to be downloaded to video servers for easy access the next day. “It literally takes five minutes after the game, and I am done,” he says.

“I come in in the morning, and it is just sitting there on the network,” explains Mitchell. “We just put them in individual directories. We’ll have 11 looks at every goal, maybe eight, if three didn’t have it. And we are putting that in the directory devoted to that player who made the goal.” With every shot organized and stored, Mitchell’s Final Cut Pro editors can easily find the clips they need, download them and begin editing.

To Mitchell, this approach to recording, tagging, storing and ultimately editing clips demonstrates a fundamental requirement for any video production today, namely workflow efficiency.

“Remember, the big cost is labor, not equipment,” counsels Mitchell. “Because labor is so expensive, doing as much as you can live makes a lot of sense. You can do something live in one-thirtieth of the time it would take to post.”

To illustrate his point, Mitchell says it takes about 30 hours of source video to post one hour of finished, professional video. “But if you do it live with an hour or two of pre-prep and are able to do all the CGs and graphics and cut everything live, do double-box effects and do it all live and record everything in HD with ISO channels, it’s like showing up at nine, and you’re done at 9:30, instead of working till five, and you did the same amount of work.”

“With labor, health care and 401k retirement plan costs associated with each hour needed to post a project, anything that can be done to save time saves lots of money in the long run,” he adds.

New technology, new opportunities

TD Garden, like other video operations, is benefiting from a revolution in video production technology that’s radically improving performance while cutting costs. According to Mitchell, it is now possible to outfit a video production control room like the one in use at TD Garden with high-quality, HD production technology at “a very affordable price.”

Production technologies such as NewTek 3Play replay systems and TriCaster video production systems produce dramatic savings up front. “The equipment we use is one-fifth to one-eighth of the cost of what was spent before,” explains Mitchell, which he adds is having a ripple effect beyond TD Garden. “This kind of affordability is even allowing colleges and high schools to deploy the same exact workflow that we are using at the major league level.”

What this means for video operations with regular, recurring events to cover is unprecedented in terms of what they can afford and how they operate, especially when considered on a longer time frame.

“We are going to use the equipment over the next decade. If we amortize that over 10 years, the cost is miniscule compared to the value of the assets we will be capturing and producing,” he says.

“Whereas before it was a quarter million, that’s tough for many organizations to handle. But if it’s $20,000, it’s a lot easier to get by. If you amortize that, after the tax write-off and the 10-year amortization, you are looking at a thousand or two a year, which is ridiculous for the benefit you are getting out of it,” explains Mitchell.
td-garden-shots-3play

At the same time, the cost of equipment has been falling and production power has increased, another important technological development is favorably impacting operating expenses. According to Mitchell, developments like the NewTek TriCaster video production solution and its professional control surface, as well as the easy-to-use 3Play and controller, are two clear examples of how technology can simplify operations.

Simpler operation means video operations like the one at TD Garden don’t need a video engineer or seasoned technical director to understand and operate traditionally complex pieces of gear that are the focal point of live video production.

“In addition to being cost-effective overall, you don’t need a guy like me, an engineer, to make it all work,” Mitchell says of today’s easy-to-use technology. “You don’t have to worry about sync and genlock with all of these cameras. You don’t need a six-figure engineer on staff.”

It’s the same thing

Not too many years ago, there was a clear line of demarcation between the video production capabilities of in-house facilities, like those at TD Garden, and those of the mobile video production trucks that roll in to cover games for a television audience. The line separating the two was largely defined by the cost of the technology used and the size of budget of each.

However, that’s all changing thanks to video production equipment like NewTek 3Play and TriCaster. “This new technology has allowed us to do what is being done in the big trucks, whereas before we couldn’t,” says Mitchell. By giving TD Garden access to the same production functionality that was once unreachable for video operations with limited budgets, the end result is indistinguishable from broadcast coverage.

That’s particularly important in an era when high-definition television displays game action at home, as clearly as anything a fan would see in person at the arena. By enhancing the in-arena fan experience with the same sorts of replays and other production effects fans see on their HDTV sets, Mitchell’s operation gives them an added incentive to keep coming back to TD Garden for the in-person game experience.

Elevating TD Garden’s video production quality to the same level delivered by a professional production truck also opens up new revenue opportunities.

DSCN0354-copy-1For example, Mitchell see’s the combination of high-quality video production and Internet streaming as a potentially sizable revenue source growing out of entertainment acts visiting TD Garden.

“Entertainment acts offer a new revenue source for us,” says Mitchell. “KISS 108, the Clear Channel station out here, is doing Web shows before the concerts they are promoting. They make money selling sponsorships for the Web show. We can also generate revenue during bumper graphics, just like on TV.”

Fade to black

Every year, some 1.5 million Bruins and Celtics fans passing through the gates of TD Garden have a chance to take a second or even third look at critical game action thanks to Mitchell and his NewTek 3Play slow-motion, instant replay systems.

While the impact those replay angles have on the overall fan experience is significant, it may actually be dwarfed by the effect this technology has at TD Garden as it ripples out to touch overall video production workflow, budgets, staffing requirements and even available business opportunities.

Video production technology like NewTek 3Play and TriCaster helps video operations like Mitchell’s to operate more efficiently, while producing a video product that is every bit as compelling and engaging as anything produced by a broadcast production truck. What’s remarkable is now non-broadcast video operations can actually afford to take on this level of production and succeed.

“You can get the same workflow with NewTek TriCaster and 3Play and Black Magic Design routers and DAs that only a few years ago cost $2 million to $4 million for about $100,000 to $150,000,” says Mitchell.

“There is really a paradigm shift that’s happening. You no longer need the TV truck to do a broadcast. A major broadcast normally costs between $20,000 and $30,000 to put on, and a big chunk of that is the high-definition truck that can cost $10,000 to $12,000 per night,” he explains. “The TriCaster and 3Play combination means you don’t have to rent that truck, and together they are bringing down the cost of doing that broadcast to 20 percent of what it was before.”


To read more studies on how end users are taking the television industry by storm with NewTek products, check out NewTek Magazine.