VEX Robotics Nationals uses BirdDog for Live Event

Building robots, programming them, and then competing in tournaments. Could education be more fun?

VEX Robotics is all about creating tools for today's educators, mentors, and parents to inspire tomorrow's problem solvers. With over 1,000,000 students in more than 50 countries actively using the VEX Robotics platform it truly is a global movement in STEM education.

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STEM education is the learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary or integrated approach. Robotics addresses all of this in the most engaging way possible.

Lael Headshot 175As a teacher at Barker College, Lael Grant has been involved with teaching Robotics for the past four years, and producing VEX Robotics events for the last 2 years.

For the Australian VEX Nationals, Lael was charged with creating a compelling live production. When planning the live video production the challenge faced by Lael and his production team was the need to create a high quality livestream, an engaging in venue experience, all within a reasonably tight budget.

Lael said, “we started investing in live production equipment two years ago and considered the option of traditional SDI workflows, but quickly realised it couldn’t provide the flexibility or the power that a full NDI based solution offers.”

It was here Lael turned to BirdDog and the power of NDI.

BirdDog Studios and NDI have provided us with enormous flexibility,” Lael continued. “When running productions at Barker we can leverage the College’s existing IT network, with the ability to run cameras, production and real-time display in different areas of the College very easily. When producing on-location, it is simple and easy to lay out a few switches with inexpensive and robust ethernet cable for even very large productions.”

 DSC7687 400 BirdDog Studio NDI in action with customisable tally display

VEX Nationals live event

The requirement for the VEX Nationals was:

• Six robot fields all needing to be live streamed
• Onstage presentations to be live streamed
• Delivery of all live content to by two projectors to large screens in-venue

Traditionally the level of production required for this kind of event was the domain of OB Trucks and specialist production teams. BirdDog hardware enabled the entire production at a fraction of the cost and complexity.

“Kids love seeing themselves and their robots live on the big screen,” said Lael. “It takes a fun activity and turns it into a sporting event, ramping up the motivation and engagement students get from robotics. By creating a high quality event we reflect back to them that the endeavour they are engaged in is valuable and important. When students talk about Nationals with their friends and families with excitement and passion, motivated about their learning – we know we have achieved our goal.”

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The Gear

BirdDog Studio NDI provided the ultimate flexibility for the entire production by both encoding and decoding NDI streams.

In total there were 8 cameras attached to BirdDog Studio NDI to encode into the revolutionary NDI format created by NewTek, and then fed into 2 computers running vMix production software. vMix allowed all the switching between camera sources, graphic overlays, and live streaming to the web.

The two projectors were driven from the output of one of the vMix machines via NDI over Ethernet, to the BirdDog Studio NDI which decoded the NDI stream and input into the projectors. The whole set up performed flawlessly for the entire weekend.

 DSC7672 400Large in-venue screens had content delivered using BirdDog’s NDI Decode function

“Every BirdDog unit was left on for the entire production with rock solid stability for the entire event and we couldn't be more happy with how the event ran,” concluded Lael. “Thanks to BirdDog for making such an amazing piece of kit, it is revolutionising and simplifying our workflows no end.”

BirdDog Studio NDI also has a large and customisable Tally display which made setting up all the camera feeds super easy.

The LED displays were assigned to have their ID’s on their display, making for easy identification when adding to vMix or when locating the IP for each unit using the client list on the controller software.

In addition to this, each BirdDog Studio NDI was attached to the tripod with tally pointed at the associated vMix operator. The tally lights provided a sanity check & confidence to the operators that they were selecting the correct field (all three fields looks virtually the same on camera feed).

Events such as VEX Robotics Nationals truly highlight the future of live video production is IP based and BirdDog is at the forefront of that movement.

For more information on BirdDog please visit www.bird-dog.tv

For more information on VEX Robotics please visit www.vexrobotics.com