Broadcasting Live Sports on a Budget

Get in the game of live streaming your sports.

There are few things more exciting than a full count in the bottom of the 9th, a last minute field goal or a 3-pointer to force overtime. Events like the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl all attract hundreds of millions of viewers. Pro sports are always a channel change or mouse-click away, but the less accessible amateur, high school and even little league sports can be just as suspenseful and exciting.

Live web streaming makes the ability to cost-consciously broadcast these exciting non-professional events, such as high school sports, a viable reality.

A couple of cameras (one for close ups and one for general action), capture cards to bring the camera feeds into your computer, tripods, audio equipment and a reliable connection to the internet are all you need to run a successful stream.

We have put together a guide to help you compile the tools and knowledge to begin broadcasting the sports that you love. Follow along with us as we explore the ins and outs of budget conscious, mobile sports broadcasting. Go team!

Things to consider: Sports Broadcasting Must Haves

Professional sports and their accompanying broadcasts have set the bar astronomically high. We have been trained to watch sports in a very distinctive and specific way. While a low budget broadcast may never be as glamorous and sparkly as a marquee NBC or FOX game, there are certain features that your broadcast should not be without.

The ability to broadcast to Mobile devices
The prolific rise of smartphones and tablets has opened up a new ways to connect with viewers. Many sports fans rely solely on new technologies to catch up on their favorite sports. Not offering a mobile viewing option cuts out a huge chunk of your viewing audience

The ability to broadcast at different qualities
Catering to mobile users can help to boost your viewership, but because of the limited streaming capabilities of mobile devices, those at home with powerful systems will become frustrated with low quality streams. Make sure you have the ability to stream in multiple formats to appease the high power Internet TV watchers as well as those on the move.

A good scoreboard
Who’s winning? Who’s losing? How much time is left? Watching sports without a scoreboard is impossible. We watch sports for the results. A playing field without an overlaid scoreboard will leave your viewers feeling lost and disconnected. Make sure you have a dedicated camera on the scoreboard. Your viewers will thank you.

Recorded version and highlight clips
Live streaming is amazingly convenient for those who cannot make it to the game. Keep in mind that for every person who cannot be there in person, there is someone who misses the live stream as well. Offering an on-demand viewing option after the game, as well as a highlight reel can help boost viewership even after the game has ended.

Hardware and software
Having the right tools is essential for a successful live stream. Quality equipment will need quality support as well, so including powerful hardware and software to your streaming setup will provide the necessary groundwork for a smooth and clear stream on a consistent basis.

An Apple or Windows-based laptop (for those exciting away games as well!), outfitted with streaming software can convert your raw camera footage into compact and streamlined content, ready for immediate upload.

Hardware
A computer to run the software and act as the main broadcast hub could be the most expensive part of setting up a live stream. If you already have a computer that can be spared for a couple hours, you may be in luck. Whether repurposing an existing computer or buying a new one, we recommend the following specs:

Mac or PC
High definition display: 1280x720
i7 Intel Processor
8GB RAM
1GB Video RAM
Price starting around $600

Software
Every computer needs software that emulates a live broadcast studio. Wirecast is a user friendly broadcast software that allows for multiple camera switching, adding in text, graphics and scoreboards as well as encoding your stream and sending it directly to the Internet.

Equipment
There are hundreds and hundreds of products out there that work wonderfully. Don’t forget this is your operation. What works best for some, may not be #1 for you. Do your research and find what equipment works best for you. Start with these suggestions and go from there!

Camcorder and capture card
The Canon Vixia HF R400 ($200) is a solid, budget-conscious HDMI option. On the lower end of the price range, the HF R400 is just the beginning of a great selection from Canon. Be sure to check out other Vixia line cameras if your budget can support them.

The Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle ($200-240) comes in both a PC and Mac version and is a great starting point, but by no means is the only option out there.

Tripod
Sports are all about movement. Following the action without compromising quality can be tricky, so investing in a dependable tripod is necessary. A fluid head tripod helps to eliminate friction, thereby alleviating any jerkiness and stutter when manipulating the camera angle. The Magnus VT-3000 ($140) is a solid, reliable option at a budget price.

Headset
When live streaming sports the venue is often rambunctious and loud. A freestanding microphone can be overwhelmed by the cacophony of supporters cheering. Utilizing a headset can help to capture your commentators voice at a professional level while minimizing outside sounds. The Stanton DJ Pro 500MC MKII ($60) is a great starting level headset with quality sound in a professional package.

CDNs – How will you reach your viewers?
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) play a vital role in live sports streaming. While it is possible to set up your own video-streaming server, a CDN lets you send your encoded stream to a dedicated account, and they take care of the rest. Many of the requirements from the “must have” section above can easily be met with the correct CDN provider. Thorough research will be beneficial to meet your specific needs, but here are a few options to get you started:

HighSchoolCube.com
If you’re mainly streaming local high school sports, HighSchoolCube.com is for you. With a focus on High School Sports and a resource for nationwide replays and highlights, HighSchoolCube.com is an unparalleled resource.

Ustream.tv
As one of the largest CDNs, UStream.tv allows access to millions of viewers across the world as well as free and paid options for live streaming.

YouTube.com
Everybody knows YouTube. The video hosting site also allows for live streaming. Your YouTube.com account must be in good standing to be allowed to live stream, but beyond that it is a great option.

Tips
1. Keep it simple
a. Use 2, maybe 3 cameras, maximum. For both budget and simplicity reasons, keeping the camera count down will help in the long run. Fewer hands are needed to run the operation and you will save money while encountering fewer problems

2. Have a checklist
a. Running through a checklist before every broadcast can help reduce the possible setbacks. Don’t be hesitant to add new items to your list. The more you stream, the more you learn!

3. Do a camera and sound check…every time.
a. It doesn’t matter how many times you have streamed with the same setup in the same location! A pre-stream run-through with a independent observer will highlight any potential problems before you go live

4. Bring extra cables
a. No equipment will last forever, but the abuse subjected to cables makes them susceptible to failure more often than your other equipment. Bring a couple backup cables to your broadcast. They are on relatively affordable and their value rises once something goes wrong!

5. Speaking of things going wrong…
a. It will happen! Be open with your viewers by communicating the problems to them. They will be grateful for the transparency, and every problem is an opportunity to improve.


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