Starting from scratch two years ago, Cardiff Metropolitan had no media facilities at all for the upcoming Sport Broadcasting Masters Course. Joe Towns, Senior Lecturer of Sports Broadcasting, and Lukas Burks,Technical Demonstrator of the Sports Broadcast Master’s Degree, had a big challenge; to source equipment that was cost effective, versatile, offered a complete production workflow, and overall, was student friendly.
“We have partners in America at Ball State University in Indiana. They run one of the top sports broadcasting programmes and have been consistently giving us help and advice regarding the implementation of our sports programme. Ball State has a TriCaster, and a mobile TriCaster. We did some online research as well, and the TriCaster stood out from day one,” explained Joe Towns.
“What we are doing is fairly unique in Britain, and the fairly obvious place to look was the American colleges. I was looking around for courses similar to what we were trying to create, a live sports broadcast production degree, and there are not many in Britain, those are more journalism based. That is how our relationship started with Ball State. Now we do virtual lectures back and forth, their students watch our live streams, and our students watch theirs and they give feedback to each other and collaborate globally,” added Towns.
Both Ball State and Cardiff Metropolitan University use NewTek TriCaster technology to serve as the centre of production for their sports broadcasting courses.
“Using the TriCaster, and other NewTek products has been such a joy for us. We use a TriCaster 8000 Advanced Edition in our studio to broadcast a weekly sports roundup and entertainment show, as well as live sports from around campus. Everything comes naturally using the TriCaster. As someone who comes from a background involving camera operating, and editing, more than live broadcasting, it has been extremely easy for me to pick up and pass that knowledge onto our students,” remarked Lukas Burks.
In order to produce industry-ready students, Joe and Lukas designed the Sports Broadcasting course after speaking with industry leaders from sports broadcasting including: Sky Sports, BBC Sport and BT Sport. They asked them, ‘What sort of students do you need?’. Some of their biggest requests were prospects with studio experience and discipline, an understanding on how to work timings, the ability to work under pressure, and know-how to work and adapt in live environments.
“Our Sports Broadcast course hashtag is #IndustryReady. We want to expose students to as many real-world, authentic scenarios as possible. When our students finish the course we want them to step straight into entry level media production jobs. To do this, we give them industry tasks, using industry tools. We try to create situations where we can replicate industry scenarios and workflows. TriCaster allows us to do this perfectly, in a live, authentic real-world environment,” explained Towns.
“We created a weekly sports show called ‘Up The Archer’ which we stream live on Facebook through the TriCaster. TriCaster gives our students the full live hands-on broadcast experience. We have a director live-cutting three studio cameras and rolling VTs, a producer in charge of the running order, a graphics operator running in social media details and pre-designed lower thirds, someone monitoring sound, presenters, guests, floor managers, camera operators. It’s a full production. The TriCaster allows us to do all this and more. It’s been a game-changer for us,” he added.
The students love creating these productions as well. The Cardiff Metropolitan Sports Broadcast students behind the ‘Up The Archer’ weekly sports show took home the Best Video of 2019 in the NewTek UK Education Awards. The annual awards recognise excellence in creating engaging videos or live streams with NewTek technology from students and staff at colleges and universities across the country.
“The students particularly like using the powerful media and entertainment features, and virtual sets. It allows them to compile professional and realistic-looking sets for news segments using only a green screen and the chroma keying within the software. They also comment about how great it is to use the control surface, getting hands on, professional grade vision mixing hardware, preparing them for their future careers,” added Burks.
Cardiff Metropolitan University students do not just use the TriCaster for their weekly sports show and assignments, they do weekly press conferences with whichever University team has had the biggest results that week, or weekend, and have recently been approached by semi-professional and professional sports teams to stream their press conferences.
“The Cardiff Devils got in touch and asked if they could send a few players and a coach up every week to do a press conference. We have also done the same for the Celtic Dragons, a local semi-pro netball team, who play in the British national league,” remarked Towns.
“They are asking us because we can stream live to their platforms, and we have found, especially through Facebook, that the algorithm loves live mode. They get much more engagement using us, than filming a press conference on a regular camera, editing it, and uploading it that way. Professional organisations are coming to us for help, and in turn our students are getting jobs out of it,” revealed Towns.
80% of students from the first graduating class of the Sports Broadcasting course at Cardiff Met went directly to work in sports broadcasting, securing jobs at companies including Vinco, Sky Sports and BT. The 15 students from this year’s class are just finishing and reviewing their prospects. Three of them have already accepted positions for full-time jobs.
Although the Sports Broadcasting course at Cardiff Metropolitan University is in its early stages, they are very ambitious, with plans for exponential growth - much of it includes integrating more NewTek technology including affordable instant replay and NDI® , NewTek’s industry-standard protocol for sharing live video, audio, and metadata over standard 1 Gb Ethernet networks
“Our main goal in the near future is to add the ability for us to do proper replays with the purchase of a NewTek 3Play system. In the sport broadcasting industry this is a vital part of the broadcast, and we want our students to get hands on with the appropriate hardware and software,” said Burks.
“Secondly we want to push our NDI capabilities even further. I plan to build a ‘Spark Box’, which would consist of over four NewTek Connect Spark converters (to convert HDMI or SDI camera signals into NDI signals), a network switch, and power supply, in a small portable flight case. This would streamline our set up times on-location and allow the students to worry more about the production than routing cables,” he continued. “Lastly, further down the line, we would love to install remote PTZ cameras with NDI control on most of our football and rugby pitches. This would give us even more flexibility in production, allowing our students to produce a live sports broadcast with less crew members. In theory our students could create a whole live sports production without even leaving the studio!” Burks concludes.
“We have loads of potential growth, due to how many different feeds can go into the TriCaster, to grow our shows. Instead of our shows being 15 minutes every week, we want to be live, all day. On any average Wednesday there are 20 different matches going on from 15 different sports, just on the campus and we want students on-location, pitch side, giving exposure to our University athletics, and gaining that invaluable real-life experience,” said Towns.
When embarking on a journey to create a Sports Broadcasting Master’s Course at Cardiff Metropolitan University two years ago, Joe Towns and Lukas Burks, had no idea the capabilities advancements, and advantages that would become available to them through using NewTek production solutions.
“The industry is moving so quickly that we have to try and invest in the latest technology so we are properly preparing these students for the future. We strive to be ahead of the game, and we truly think NewTek technology is going to put us, and our students, at the forefront of this rapidly changing industry,” concluded Towns.