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Upcoming Industry Conferences
Streaming Media West [19-20 Nov 2019]
Esport & Sports Streaming Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [19 Nov 2019]
Streaming Media East [5-6 May 2020]
Past Conferences
Streaming Media East [7-8 May 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [7-8 May 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Content Delivery Summit [6 May 2019]
Streaming Forum [26 February 2019]

How to Live Stream Local Sports Events

This article will highlight the equipment and services required to set up deliver live streams for local sports and walk through the best practices to offer a premium experience.

Audio Considerations

Often overlooked, audio is a vital part of the film and television we watch. Cameras should be equipped with shotgun microphones that help follow distant action and announcers or hosts should be armed with either handheld mics or wearable lavalieres to capture their dialogue.

Remember that audio will likely be mixed separately from the video (announcers’ audio overlaying the action on the field), which would be handled by the person operating the video switcher on-site prior to encoding the “broadcast” feed.

What You Need On-Site

Somewhere between planning and production, you need to verify that you have enough bandwidth to deliver the event. You’ll want access to a dedicated network connection (you do not want to find yourself sharing your bandwidth with your fans checking email and sharing photos). Everyone has different methods for calculating bandwidth needs, but ideally, your total deliverable bandwidth be twice your overall throughput. In other words, if you were planning on delivering a total of 3 Mbps of content, a 6 Mbps upload should suffice. Backup bandwidth, in the form of bonded wireless data access points (such as Teradek’s Bond product) are also useful, as network connections have a way of failing at the least opportune time.

Once you get on-site, much of the work is familiar to any live video production. All the camera feeds and audio, along with graphics, are fed to a switcher that creates a master stream or feed that will be the finished, ready-for-delivery stream. The stream is then fed to the onsite video encoder to create the streams that will be delivered to the video platform.

There are a variety of encoder lines than have a number of options available to meet your needs. With single- to multichannel-input appliances that accept analog, SDI, HDMI, or even IP-based inputs, there is an appliance that meets your needs and price point. For encoding and streaming onsite, an analog, HDMI, or SDI-based input for either one or two channels will most likely meet your needs.

Delivering a Personal Experience

What formats and qualities you offer will impact who will view your event and how they will connect. Unlike a traditional broadcast where a single feed is delivered, streaming events offer a highly personalized viewing experience by allowing you to customize the resolutions your viewers will use to connect to your content.

The types of devices you expect them to use will also impact what formats you choose to create. Targeting highly popular devices such as iPhones and iPads, along with some streams targeted towards desktop or laptop viewers will give your fans a wide range of viewing experiences to experiment with to find what is right for them. Be prepared to experiment, tweaking the data rates, resolutions, and streaming formats you offer in the early events you produce until you find the best offering for your viewers.

Knowing your audience is a must. Who are they and how or where will they be viewing? Content is king, but delivery is the castle.

What You Need Off-Site

As with on-site elements, what you choose to use off-site will enable you to provide a variety of different viewing experiences to the viewers. At minimum, you’ll want to have a streaming service available that can act as a relay of the published stream to end-users. By using a streaming service, less bandwidth and activity between the on-site location and your viewers will ensure a more stable connection and provide an overall better viewing experience.

Depending on which service you implement, you can also provide a wider variety of resolutions and formats than you are creating onsite with your encoder. Platforms like Ustream offer the ability to transcode the existing streams into other formats used by iPhones and tablets. While using a video platform can be relatively inexpensive, this route leaves lots of possibilities to your project. For example, how would you monetize the streaming (either through a pay wall or advertising)? How do you customize a player and landing page for the users to interact with the content?

Encoding Best Practices

In the early days, there were only a couple of codecs in general use, and live and real-time encoding was difficult. We could add filters, but more importantly, they gave us control of contrast. There are some basic tricks everyone should know.

When doing sports, you’ll need to bump up your bitrates significantly over the standard talking-head shots. If you were typically doing a talking head or 2-shot at 720p/2.5Mbps, you’ll probably want to double that to 5Mbps. That will give a very clean and crisp look. However, depending on the type of sports and the speed of play you can get that down to 3.5Mbps. This is, of course, using H.264 compression.

A couple of other options that help video look better are encoding it in high complexity and increasing your contrast. Using high complexity gives the encoder more information to work with. It’s like shooting the same content at the same angle with both HD and SD cameras.

As for raising the contrast--a lot of people are still compressing video for analog televisions and monitors and don’t realize it. For an extra clean and high-quality image, raising contrast and complexity will help give that extra pop.

Conclusion

There are a plethora of ways to pull off a live stream of sports events. The only two real variables are how much money you wish to spend and how in-depth with the technology you wish to be. If desired, the entire event could be farmed out to a third-party company who could handle everything from the filming and streaming onsite to the hosting and monetization services delivering content to your viewers. But this can be a costly approach as well, leading many to attempt to take on as much of the process as possible. The reality is that as you start a new live streaming event, it may be easier to have someone familiar with the pitfalls on-hand, so establishing a relationship with professionals familiar with streaming media is vital.

In this day and age, anyone can take advantage of affordable, high-quality streaming to deliver their live sporting events to a worldwide audience. By following the suggestions outlined above, you can offer a highly professional extension of your live event, creating a way for it to live outside the one-time local event. You are left with a digital extension of your sports franchise, a way for fans to connect online and to enjoy the events, even from afar. By combining such interactions with social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, you can provide an even deeper experience to your audience.