“Chess on Ice”: Telestream Wirecast Pro and Matrox VS4 Live Stream Curling Championship
Town of Mount Royal (TMR) Curling Club broadcasts 2013 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship live over the internet
Curling, a sport where players throw heavy granite stones also known as “rocks “across sheets of ice towards a painted target, is widely recognized as being one of the world’s oldest team sports. Originating in medieval Scotland, where it was played on frozen ponds during cold winters, the sport was later brought to other parts of Europe and North America by Scottish emigrants. Curling requires a lot of strategy, skill, and teamwork to ensure that the rocks reach their optimal positions on the ice. This gives the sport its nickname, “Chess on Ice”.
When the Town of Mount Royal (TMR) Curling Club (QC, Canada) was given the honor of hosting the 2013 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship, organizers recognized that including as many spectators as possible was essential to ensure the tournament’s success. Fourteen curling teams from every Canadian province and territory would be descending upon Montreal for the weeklong competition. Although early reservations showed that a large contingent of family members and friends would be at the rink to support the fifty-six players, there were many others who could not make the trip. How would they follow the action? Despite the fact that this was the largest sanctioned curling event to be played in a club setting, it would not be broadcast on any television network. Instead, the competition would be streamed live over the internet to curling clubs, homes, and offices across the country.
Michael McAteer, past president of the TMR Curling Club, was responsible for media production. He explains, “We selected Livestream recognizing that it is the preeminent video streaming service and that the pricing of their service package suited our budget. Plus, it’s easy to embed their streaming video player in the event splash page hosted by Hashcaster.com.” Hashcaster provides a unique service to event planners by posting moderated Twitter feeds on a well-designed web page. This was the first time that a live video feed would also appear on a Hashcaster page. “Although we maintained a website for the event, Hashcaster proved to be a far easier platform to update and provide timely information to spectators. In fact, it was not unusual to see spectators at the club referring to their tablets loaded with the event Hashcaster page.”
Publishing live video and Twitter feeds to an event web page would be remarkably easy for McAteer, but how would he produce the actual content? He explains, “We needed a solution that would let us connect cameras, offer live switching capabilities, and allow for a live scoreboard and titles. It would also need to offer virtual sets and keying, which would be used when we interviewed the participants in front of a green screen, and play pre-recorded clips. We found everything we were looking for within the Telestream Wirecast/Matrox solution.”
This solution also allowed the Matrox VS4 capture card to really show its worth, adding ISO recording and multi-camera production to the Wirecast environment. And with four independent video inputs on the card, McAteer was able to connect two Panasonic AG DVC 200 ENG cameras. Originally bought by the club for training purposes, they proved to be great game broadcast cameras with their bright Canon optics. Although they are not HD cameras, McAteer was mindful of the internet bandwidth being used and the resulting image quality was more than adequate. In fact, a number of people mentioned that it was the best streaming video they have ever seen coming from a curling club.
Sixty feet of BNC cable ran from the two Panasonic cameras mounted behind the rink viewing glass to a makeshift studio where a PC, containing the Matrox VS4 card, was running Telestream Wirecast Pro live streaming production software. “The fact that Matrox VS4 was mated perfectly with Wirecast Pro meant that the learning curve to get broadcasting live was incredibly short,” explains McAteer, “The hardware immediately detected the two Panasonics on deck and the third Sony HD camera set up in the studio for interviews.” Because Matrox VS4 has no difficulties acquiring SD and HD signals simultaneously, switching between cameras was instantaneous and the Wirecast/Matrox VS4 solution worked together flawlessly during the entire seven-day event.
The curling club’s original intention was to only broadcast one game a day, but the Matrox/Telestream solution proved so efficient that, with two cameramen and a third person switching the gear, they decided to shoot three games a day. The only hitch they encountered was when a remote viewer of the live feed called and asked for the “lady with the big hat” to be moved away from one of the cameras – she was blocking the view of the game! “We knew then that we had an audience,” laughs McAteer. By the end of the week, the competition was pulling in more than 300 viewers per game – very good numbers for an amateur sports event. The biggest impact of live streaming the tournament however came from the reactions the friends and family of players who were able to watch the event from locations across Canada. Tournament organizers received a wave of comments expressing their appreciation.
After the event finished, another of the Matrox VS4 features was appreciated. While the cameras were providing a live feed for Wirecast Pro to stream, the ISO recording feature of Matrox VS4 was continuously recording the output from all cameras to hard disk. Adobe Premiere Pro was able to natively read the video files into the editing suite. Once the live event concluded, the ISO files were immediately accessible for editing. “It’s a great timesaver when software and hardware are closely integrated as they are with the Wirecast/Matrox solution,” says McAteer, “Scrubbing through the 500 gigabytes of video from the camera feeds that we collected in a week is challenging enough without having to jump through hoops to properly read the files.”
“The Wirecast/Matrox VS4 solution exceeded our expectations during the tournament and proved to us that you don’t have to spend a fortune these days to get into the broadcast game,” comments McAteer.